Last edited 26 Dec 2020

BREEAM Indoor pollutants VOCs


[edit] Aim and benefits

The aim of this issue is to improve indoor air quality for building occupants through the specification of materials to internal spaces with low VOC content.

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are substances that have a high vapour pressure at room temperature. In effect, this means they are released in to the air from materials without having to heat them.

VOCs can be human made, or naturally occuring and not all VOCs are harmful to human health. Most smells/odours are VOCs including smells from plants used to communicate. However, many VOCs are harmful to human health, and while typically not imminently toxic in the concentrations likely come across, there is significant evidence that they have a compound effect over time on human health. Issues can range from experiencing sick building syndrome, to increases in chances of leukemia.

VOC concentrations can be up to 1000 times higher indoors than outdoors (although likely five times higher), and with significant time being spent indoors by a large proportion of the population, this presents a problem. The concentrations of VOCs are frequently higher in new build/refurbishments.

By reducing VOC content in materials used in the building, the benefit to occupants of the building is a more pleasant working environment (VOCs smell!), and reduced impact on their health.

[edit] When to consider

It is important for the success of the credit to ensure early engagement is undertaken by the Design Team. The Assessor should ideally get the architect to complete a specification document confirming that the initially specified finishes (i.e. paints, varnishes, wood panels) meet the BREEAM compliance in line with Table 20.

In addition, where "Equal and approved" products are acceptable, the specific standards required by the product should be included in the architectural specification.

The second point at which this credit need be considered is when letting packages to sub contractors. The requirements of the credit need to be clearly stated in the sub contractors tender pack and then contract so that they are fully aware of the products that need to be used. There is frequently (although not always) a small cost uplift in using low VOC products.

[edit] Step by step guidance

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[edit] Questions to ask while seeking compliance

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[edit] Tools and resources

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[edit] Tips and best practice

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[edit] Typical evidence

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[edit] Applicable Schemes

The guidelines collated in this ISD aim to support sustainable best practice in the topic described. This issue may apply in multiple BREEAM schemes covering different stages in the life of a building, different building types and different year versions. Some content may be generic but scheme nuances should also be taken into account. Refer to the comments below and related articles to this one to understand these nuances. See this document for further guidelines.

  • List applicable schemes here

BRE Global does not endorse any of the content posted and use of the content will not guarantee the meeting of certification criteria.

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