The dynamics of indoor air quality

Indoor air quality

Occupants’ comfort ought to be the biggest factor in the design and construction of a building. Air quality is one key factor that affects the comfort of users. The indoor air quality of a building can be negatively affected by any of the following;

Pollution from outside

In cities where the air pollution is high, chances are that the pollution will be exported into the various homes around. Emissions from vehicles, fumes from industrial activities and dust are usually responsible for the air pollution recorded in some cities. Sometimes the pollution levels have exceeded healthy limits by a wide margin that people have had to wear masks. When this happens, so much discomfort is created for dwellers. Ventilation is heavily affected, and the indoor air quality is none the better.


In homes where the kitchen is indoors, smoke from the kitchen that is not allowed to escape can end up creating discomfort to users. In extreme examples, the smoking of fish sometimes leaves an unpleasant smell in both in the kitchen and adjoining rooms. Again, there is the potential for the smoke from cigarettes to affect the air quality indoors. This is usually the case in poorly ventilated rooms. With time, the air in the room becomes pungent with smoke, creating a lot of discomfort to users.

Broken seals

Ordinarily, there is a mass of water stored somewhere in the drainage pipes that carry the home’s wastewater (called a trap). This trap contains a seal (usually water), and this prevents foul air from moving back into the appliances (kitchen sink, hand wash basin, toilet, etc.) If for some reason the trap is damaged, leading to the seal losing the water (broken seal), the foul smell finds its way back to the source. This creates unbearable levels of discomfort to users.


Water sometimes seeps through cracks in walls, or even capillary action causes dampness in walls. At other times, faulty air conditioning systems and drainage systems account for these seepages. In some cases, depending on the type of paint used, the dampness reacts with the paint, giving off an unpleasant smell. In pronounced cases, the dampness could lead to the growth of fungi if not controlled.

Enhancing indoor air quality


The first approach to enhancing indoor air quality is at tackling the problem at the source. That is, taking a cursory look at the causes of lower air quality and managing them first. So whether it is smoke from the kitchen, cigarette smoke, a broken sill or dampness, there is the need to fix the problem first. Admittedly, sometimes users have no control over pollutants like dust and smoke from the community scale.  


Where the outdoor air is cleaner and of higher quality, a sure bet to enhance the indoor air quality is through ventilation. It might involve replacing the indoor air with outdoor air through natural mechanisms like window and door openings. The openings let in the fresh air, which replaces the stale air. Mechanical ventilation can also be employed recirculate the air in any space. Several types of mechanical ventilation exist, including air handling units and fans.

So there you go! A basic look at indoor air quality and how it is compromised and or enhanced.

Photo by yann maignan on Unsplash

Boat Sekyere

Boat Sekyere

Boat is a valuer fascinated by sustainable urban land use planning. He was recently selected as a Local Pathways Fellow of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN Youth) - a global Fellowship of 128 young leaders who will champion SDG 11 in their cities. When he's not reading another e-book, he's out photographing an event (@rsbpictures) or cycling in his hood, binge listening to his favorite podcasts. Say hi at

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