Energy Efficiency Upgrades Provide Many Opportunities to Improve Occupant Health


By Katie Weeks

Both healthcare costs and the amount of money spent on energy continue to rise. But improving the way the building industry provides energy upgrades to buildings can not only reduce dependence on fossil fuels, but also reduce healthcare costs, environmental health consultant Ellen Tohn told attendees at the recent Building Energy 13 conference in Boston. Tohn led the session, entitled “Health Opportunities and Pitfalls of Energy Upgrades: What Doesn’t Smell Can Still Hurt Us,” with Johnathan Wilson, deputy director of the National Center for Healthy Housing in Columbia, Md., as part of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s annual conference.

Housing-based threats to health include carbon monoxide, mold, environmental tobacco smoke, chemicals, and pests, Tohn said, and many of these elements can be raised as discussion points during energy upgrades. Consider research that shows that children growing up in a household with someone that smokes are 40 percent more likely to develop asthma in their lifetimes, Tohn said. With this in mind, “Could part of a multifamily energy audit and upgrade be talking to building owners about smoke-free housing?” she asked. “You bet.” One of the jobs of an energy upgrade, she said, should be to minimize asthma triggers.

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