No, green buildings will not harm your health
Tuesday, Julian Pecquet published a howler of a story on The Hill's energy and environment blog, E2 Wire. The headline says it all:
The piece is based on a lengthy report from the National Academy of Sciences, so it must be accurate, right?
Yeah, well, don't start ripping out your double-pane windows and attic insulation just yet. The original report was actually on the negative effects that climate change will have on health in indoor environments — not green buildings. In fact, the title of the report is, helpfully, Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health.
The overwhelming majority of its 320 pages are about what happens in a hotter, moister world with more extreme weather. In search of a story, Pecquet pulled out the one passage that said that green retrofits — if improperly installed — could harm the health of a building and its occupants.
When a house is sealed up to prevent air leaks, all responsible builders — hell, even do-it-yourselfers like me — know that you have to install an air exchanger somewhere in the house in order to draw in an adequate supply of fresh outside air. If you didn't, the interior of the building would quickly become humid to the point that you'd have mold collecting in the crevices.
So: will an irresponsibly constructed passive house make you ill? Yeah, totally — but air exchangers are built in to the passive house standard, and are such staples of home retrofits that you can buy them at Home Depot.
Next week, maybe The Hill will run a piece about how hiring a non-union electrician will increase the risk of fire in your home. Service journalism: it's what they do best.