Venting for Health

Project Funder: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Project Partners: Steven Winter Associates, New York City Housing Authority, Green City Force

Project Contact: Jonathan Wilson, jwilson@nchh.org, 443.539.4162

What we studied: The effect of an enhanced central ventilation system on indoor air quality and resident health in multifamily high-rise housing.

What we found: Dwellings with enhanced ventilation improvements had significantly lower relative humidity, carbon dioxide, and formaldehyde after work. Regardless of level of ventilation improvement, dwellings were drier/less musty, and residents experienced fewer sinus/ear infections. A journal article about the study is expected to be published in 2018.

Why it matters: Owners of multifamily housing need to ensure that their ventilation systems are operational and properly maintained to provide a healthier living environment for their residents. Sealing leaks in air shafts and increasing exhaust ventilation rates in apartments offer additional indoor air quality benefits to residents.

Project Description: This study tested the hypothesis that resident health and indoor environmental quality would improve more in apartments receiving enhanced ventilation than in those receiving standard ventilation upgrades in high-rise multifamily public housing in Coney Island, New York. All dwellings received self-balancing dampers and ventilation shaft cleaning, while half received new higher-horsepower rooftop fans and had the ventilation shafts sealed. Our study collected self-reported health information from residents one year before ventilation work was conducted and one year after ventilation work was complete in 96 multifamily apartments. A subset of dwellings also had their air flow and indoor air quality tested.

We found that across both treatment groups, dwellings were drier and had less musty odors, adults had fewer sinus infections, and children had fewer ear infections in the year after ventilation work was complete. The installation of appropriate-sized roof fans and shaft sealing increased the air flow from dwellings along those ventilation shafts and within dwellings. The increased ventilation rates were associated with reductions in relative humidity, carbon dioxide, and formaldehyde in these dwellings. We also observed reduced levels of hay fever among adults in the dwellings that received the new roof fans and sealed shafts.

Resources:

New York City Housing Authority. (2016, April 22). NextGeneration NYCHA sustainability agenda. New York, NY: New York City Housing Authority.