Navigating the Frontiers of Indoor Environmental Quality and Health

In September of this year, the 35th annual conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE 2023) convened in the vibrant city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This global gathering brought together researchers, scholars, and practitioners from around the world to delve into the latest advancements in environmental exposure science and epidemiology. Attending the ISEE 2023 conference provided me with a unique opportunity to foster communication and knowledge exchange and present two abstracts based on the Building Environmental Quality Model (BEQM). BEQM is used in the CATALYSE project to quantify the health co-benefits and potential harms of mitigation policies targeting buildings. BEQM characterises the thermal and ventilative conditions in residential buildings in Europe and models temperature and air pollution from indoor and outdoor sources.

Household Analysis of Health-Related Indoor Temperature Exposure: Comparison Between Thermal Comfort and Health Conditions in English Dwellings

The first analysis I presented took a closer look at the effects of various household characteristics on indoor thermal environments in England. This research highlights energy efficiency improvements and fuel payment eligibility may affect indoor temperature and occupant health. It is crucial to consider energy use practices and household characteristics in housing energy policies to reduce energy use and improve the health of older occupants.

Delving into the complexity of health-related indoor temperature exposure, the research compared thermal comfort between young and old adults. A link was found between high/low indoor temperature (above 24.6°C/under 18°C) and self-rated thermal discomfort. The findings not only unveiled energy performance determinants (e.g., building envelope, efficiency improvements, Energy Performance Certificate) and household characteristics (e.g., age, income, tenure) that affected indoor temperatures but also laid the foundation for practical applications in sustainable home design. 

Indoor Environmental Quality of Hospitals in the UK and Taiwan: Implications for the Delivery of Low-Carbon Hospitals

The second presentation was based on the new collaboration between University College London in the UK and the National Defense Medical Centre in Taiwan. Aiming at comparing the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of hospitals in the UK and Taiwan, this research highlights the importance of recognising the potential impacts of mitigation strategies and addressing the risk factors of indoor pollution to minimise long-term exposure and promote well-being in the workplace.

By comparing the IEQ standards and practices of these two regions, the research provided a comprehensive understanding of how environmental factors influence healthcare delivery in low-carbon hospitals. Beyond geographical boundaries, the implications of this study contribute valuable insights for creating sustainable healthcare spaces. This work relates to key topic areas in the CATALYSE project related to climate change mitigation and health in buildings and decarbonising healthcare.

Many research gaps remain regarding indoor environments and sustainable practices in building design, energy efficiency, and their influence on human health and well-being. I gained many insights through presenting my research at the ISEE conference and the rich discussions on the role of indoor environments in climate change and health. 

Shih-Che Hsu | Shih-Che Hsu | Research Fellow in Building Stock and Indoor Air Quality Modelling at UCL Energy Institute, The Bartlett School Env, Energy & Resources, University College London, UK.