Indoor expert: “New buildings are almost always healthy”

Indoor air problems in new buildings are a marginal phenomenon.

Indoor air problems in new buildings are reported in the media at regular intervals. They make tough claims, but according to Juhani Pirinen, only a few percent of new buildings have indoor air problems. Pirinen is head of a business unit at FCG and has studied indoor air problems for a long time.

“New buildings are usually healthy, but the media are good at picking out the problem buildings. Just one problem building discussed in the media will stir up a big fuss,” Pirinen says.

There should, however, be zero tolerance regarding indoor air problems in new buildings in order to reduce these issues in the future. Pirinen calls for clients to take more responsibility. Building companies simply follow their contracts.

“Building companies do not cause damage on purpose. Clients have to be able to demand dry buildings. Therefore, they need to have enough expertise and understanding of the construction processes.”

Demolition is rarely the only option

According to Pirinen, moisture damage that leads to indoor air problems can usually be repaired. However, sometimes demolition is the only option.

“It is simple mathematics. The renovation costs should be compared to the price of a new building. It is also important to take into consideration the possible risks of a renovation project. It may not make sense to renovate the building if it involves a great deal of risks,” Pirinen says.

It is also worth considering the lifespan of the building. The so-called exhaustion of a building’s life cycle is worth considering when it is known that the building will be demolished in the near future. Pirinen hopes that the problems are not passed on to future generations.

“If there is damage caused by mould, it should always be repaired. Many public buildings are repaired by making their structures more airtight and encasing the mould damage inside a wall. The problems will pile up and burden the next generations and it may be very costly to fix them in the future.”

There is a lot of lively debate over indoor air issues. It’s no wonder as many municipalities are feverishly looking for solutions to the challenges caused by indoor air problems. Indoor air, moisture problems, energy efficiency and, for example, the choice of materials involve a lot of data based on measurements and studies, but there are also many perceptions, assumptions and open questions related to the issue. Petri Heljo, head of R&D from Kiilto’s construction unit, compiled several statements and prevailing views on indoor air problems. Experienced and respected indoor air specialist Juhani Pirinen then commented on them and we were able to create an interesting series of articles that will be published during the autumn of 2018.