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WHY INDOOR AND OUTDOOR AIR QUALITY IS IMPORTANT TO ALL OF US




By Edwin Cordero Mercurio
Alabang-Muntinlupa
March 23, 2018


 
 


Alabang, Muntinlupa - According to the World Health Organization (WHO) an estimated 60 percent of the buildings in North America are affected by indoor air pollution. Occupants of these mostly glass enclosed buildings and establishments often complain of headaches, eye irritation, coughing, runny and itchy nose, fatigue and allergies.


Squeezed in  tight building spaces, and  enclosed in permanent  glass window these buildings depend on Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units to filter air pollutants and toxins. In all of these modern buildings lining the North American cities and landscapes, the structures are built with permanently sealed glass windows which do not allow fresh air naturally to get in.



These modern structures have brought the prevalence of the phenomenon of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). The problem has been aggravated by the emergence of modern technology. Photocopies, fax machines, chemicals used for cleaning and sanitation, cramped office spaces, toxic fumes are making workers sick.

Cost saving measures adopted by companies who refused to regularly change the filters or clean the HVAC units are adding more health hazards and long term health problems.

The Sick Building Syndrome or the Legionnaires disease was first discovered when dozens  of Legionnaires died after attending a convention with doctors unable to pinpoint the cause of their deaths. An extensive autopsy report finally pinpointed to what is now known as the legionnaires’ disease.

The phenomenon has been characterized by breathing difficulties, chronic fatigue, headaches, nausea and allergies. Unfortunately, SBS is not only confined in North America, the Philippines have similar buildings enclosed by permanently sealed glass windows.



Indoor Air Quality is the an important thing when building or buying your new home. I was in a relative’s home the other day whose house is being sold in  Alabang, Muntinlupa market for P25M. Out of three potential buyers, I overheard a conversation from one of the buyers, where the real estate agent and her clients exclaimed that air conditioning is not needed in this well-designed and spaciously ventilated five bedroom home. Without doubt air quality played a major part in the buyer’s decision to offer the highest bid, this without any prodding from the home owner.

I was also fortunate to visit a house made of stone in Bacolod’s Marapara Heights Subdivision called “Balay Bato”owned by Rusty and Beverly Binas. Balay Bato is a new concept in housing, according to my tour guide and family friend Edwin Tan.



Balay Bato, explains Edwin, is not just a house but a new design which integrates the owner’s advocacy for sustainable and green environment. Its design features a natural ventilation where mosquitoes and pesky pests are held at bay by the interplay of water, fish, frogs, screened windows and burning of dry leaves to drive away insects that can bite you during the day and night.

While the former example is made of concrete and glass windows with screens, Balay Bato is uniquely economical since it  uses local stones as the benchmark  of its solid rock foundation. The feeling of euphoria is priceless when you sit on the solid stone benches of Balay Bato and the couch of the Alabang Versailles Village Subdivision. In both of these homes the air is rushing in with its cool breeze. Nature and the sounds of crickets and birds sing their tunes in harmony with the swaying of bamboo leaves and frogs in a nearby pond.



As I rest my head on a garden coach with fresh air blowing on my face, I reminisce the days I spent in my grandparents nipa hut and small family farm where the air is fresh, the fish, snails and frogs abound in rice field paddies, ponds, rivers and streams. I can only imagine how many of us, missed the good old days, when our environment was healthy, when thick forests abound in our country and the air we breathe was pure and priceless.



The absence of forest in most parts of the Philippines has aggravated the country’s hot weather especially during Summer. Except in a few provinces where the forests were not logged over, the Philippines is extremely hot outdoors and indoors without the benefit of tree covers and indoor air conditioning.



My vacation will soon end and I will be back in Toronto where the glass buildings and houses depend on the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units for our supply of air ventilation, central   heating during the cold days of Winter and air conditioning during the hot days of Summer.



However, the experience of living in the Philippines in a house with open windows and homes with trees in abundance could make one’s vacation satisfying, healthy and memorable.

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