Do LEED Standards Neglect Indoor Air Quality?

When it comes to building, what does “green” really mean?

According to a recent report from Connecticut-based Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI), LEED standards are being adopted by many levels of government as law but are not sufficient to protect human health. The LEED rating system was developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) – a trade association for the building industry. According to the EHHI report, there is no federal regulation standard for what makes a building “green” and the USGBC has little expertise in environmental health.

LEED standards place an emphasis on energy efficiency (35 possible points) over indoor air quality and its effects on health (8 possible points). Since LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” this comes as no surprise. Regardless, people should know what they are really getting with a LEED certification, and according to EHHI, it’s not a healthier indoor environment.

In order to increase energy efficiency and lessen negative environmental impact, buildings are being constructed in such a way as to decrease the flow of air between the inside and outside. Tighter buildings increase human exposure to harmful chemicals and contaminants that become concentrated indoors over time. Building materials, furnishings and cleaning products often contain toxic chemicals, as LEED standards do not require otherwise. These chemicals are released into indoor environments and may be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. LEED also neglects drinking water quality. Pesticides may be used in buildings and on grounds, with no regard to groundwater contamination.

Green building is a growing trend, and many commercial and residential environments are jumping on board the eco-friendly train. However, since humans today spend most of their time indoors, indoor air quality is just as important as energy efficiency, and any green lifestyle should have human health as a top priority. Your home or office building may be LEED certified, but is it truly “green”? Take our IAQ quiz and find out!