Indoor air quality in Passivhaus dwellings: an approach with low-cost monitors

In his PhD, Dr Alejandro Moreno-Rangel studied the indoor environment, with emphasis on indoor air quality (IAQ), of Passivhaus homes and relation to occupant’s comfort and overall health using a low-cost IAQ monitor, the Foobot. Alejandro collaborated with Prof Tim Sharpe (primary supervisor), Dr Filbert Musau and Dr Grainne McGill (co-supervisors) at the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit in this project. Alejandro is currently writing peer-reviewed publications about his PhD research.

Between 2000 and 2020, the way we build homes has evolved drastically. As explained by Wolfgang Feist, we have improved building components (airtightness, insulation, windows), incorporated renewable energy and ventilation systems, reduced the heat [or cooling] demand and reduced the infiltration exchanges to buildings to reduce their energy consumption. Yet, we have focused very little on the unintended consequences to our health and the indoor environment. It is said that Passivhaus homes offer the best of both low-energy consumption and high indoor environmental quality. So, this research project founded its hypothesis on this premise looking at how Passivhaus indoor environment performed in three different countries Scotland, the US and Mexico.

Alejandro developed an innovative approach to perform indoor air quality monitoring and conduct occupant surveys remotely. This way, Alejandro collected data and compared the performance of the Passivhaus dwellings to others with standard practices in these countries. In overall, Passivhaus dwellings showed a better indoor environment performance in normal conditions. Still, additional care is needed during pollution peaks and other specific cases.

The case of Mexico is an interesting one. It is predicted that housing demand, as energy demand, will grow in the coming years in developing countries. Such will be the case of Latin American countries and with it, the need for low-energy homes such as Passivhaus. Alejandro’s research interest algin’s with this momentum and welcomes research collaborations related to the development of the Passivhaus in Latin American countries, especially in topics related to occupant’s health, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, buildings science, energy performance, and building performance evaluation.