Retrofitting for the Future and Fixing the Bad Air Mixing

wildfires

-guest blog from Jonathan Noggle

 

If you’ve never driven west from Nebraska or Kansas into Colorado, you might expect grandeur mountains towering over small sleepy little towns along the Rocky Mountain Front Range. While this is typically true, and a beautiful sight especially as you near Denver, the scene I experienced three weeks ago on my trip to Colorado was unlike any of my previous trips out west.

 

The closer I approached the Rockies, the darker the clouds became with an orange hue emanating across the gray skies. East of Greeley, Colorado, I came to a stoplight where small snowflake-like flurries landed on my windshield. How could it be 50 degrees and snowing?

One hundred miles away, in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, homes and forests were being engulfed by flames. What I first thought was snow was in fact ash. To date, the 2020 fires in Colorado are the worst in recorded history for the state and have burned over 3 million acres—an acreage quickly approaching the landmass devastation experienced in California this year (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/3-largest-wildfires-colorado-history-have-occurred-2020-n1244525). The fires have not only affected those living in the mountains where the flames are spreading, they are also affecting the health of people in the foothills and plains where there are minimal trees to absorb carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulates emitted from the smoke (http://urbanforestrynetwork.org/benefits/air%20quality.htm).

While commercial building codes require fresh air exchange, residential codes only require direct exhaust vents in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry/mechanical rooms, omitting requirements for filtered fresh air intake. Residential construction codes rely on the ability to open doors and windows for fresh air, but in areas dealing with wildfires or perhaps increased humidity or pollen, this method of ventilation is more 17th-century than 21st-century. Relying on open windows and plug-in tower filters does not solve the clean-air problem; in fact, these options can potentially make it worse (https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-ventilation-and-air-filtration-to-prevent-the-spread-of-coronavirus-indoors-143732). To complicate the matter further, what should people do when they’re told to stay indoors due to poor outdoor air quality, when often their indoor air quality is just as bad if not worse than the outdoor environment?

For people like Josh, a tenant in one of MainStream’s air-tight multifamily buildings in Loveland, Colorado, clean air has been a godsend during the Colorado fires. The 1,100-square foot unit Josh lives in is served by a Zehnder ventilation and filtration system, which means he’s breathing clean air while his neighbors down the street lose sleep coughing and wake up with sore throats due to constant smoke inhalation. People who suffer from asthma, pneumonia, heart or lung disease, or perhaps even COVID-19, face potentially fatal consequences associated with smoke inhalation from the fires (https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/how-smoke-fires-can-affect-your-health#:~:text=The%20biggest%20health%20threat%20from,even%20linked%20to%20premature%20death).

The installed Zehnder Energy Recovery/Heat Recovery Ventilation (ERV/HRV) system (https://www.zehnderamerica.com/) with built-in CO2 sensors that Josh and his family have come to love, removes particulates, smoke, and poisonous gases before the fresh air enters the home. The clean air circulates the intended space and then exits the building. The result is increased indoor air quality with reduced heating and cooling costs. Depending on the size of a home or individual needs (e.g., for a workout room, Zen room, nursery, home office, or whole-home system), Zehnder has many options to choose from. For MainStream’s multifamily structures, each unit has its own dedicated fresh air exchange system so no two units share the same air.

MainStream Corporation is a leader in the healthy building movement providing free ventilation designs and material quotes for anti-smoke and anti-COVID ventilation and filtration systems. Their offices and buildings are installed with these systems and after working and staying at their facilities along the Colorado Front Range during the worst of the fires for nearly two weeks, I can say from first-hand experience that these systems are truly life-changing.  I slept better, worked better, and felt better during my stay in both a MainStream residential dwelling and their Berthoud office. In the end, that’s what we all want—to be the best version of ourselves, which is impossible to do if the indoor environment, where we spend so much time, makes us sick and unhealthy.

If you’re interested in more ways to be kind to the environment, breathe better, and save money, you can check out how we can apply passive house principles to your home, church, office, apartment, library, maintenance building, or upload your plan sets so that you can reduce your energy bills to nearly nothing per month! We provide passive house services for: passive house Colorado, passive house Wyoming, and passive house Nebraska. In addition, breathe clean and easy with Airtight and Ventilation solutions at mainstreamcorporation.com we ship all over the place! We exist for the sole purpose of helping the world build healthier, wealthier, and wiser!