“Wheeze, pant, pant, cough, cough, ahem!” Gina caught her breath as she gasped arduously and forced steady breathing. Lately, she has been convulsively catching her breathe a lot.
At 35, Gina developed asthma when she started working from home in her 28 square-meter studio condominium unit in Quezon City. Opening her apartment’s windowpane is not an option as she thought that she would be like a fish in an aquarium entertainingly observed by her neighbors from the building across hers that she equally views. And so, the lack of air circulation and continuous use of the air-conditioning unit aggravated her adult-onset asthma during this pandemic. Gina surmised that there might be many others like her where she lives.
A preference for condominium living
The development of Central Business Districts in response to a rapid growth of an economy generates an increase in population. And as a result, it amplifies the construction of multi-story and high-rise buildings as the highest and best land use. Condominium living built with amenities like a gym and swimming pool is a preferred lifestyle. They, too, are convenient and practical because of accessibility to public transportation, commercial establishments, offices and schools.
While the Philippine real estate market struggled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central Bank of the Philippines favorably perceived a strong recovery in 2021 at a 7.8-percent growth. In the face of a slow economic recovery but with the distribution of vaccines, a market headway optimistically could bolster sales of available condominiums.
Statistica forecasted that by the end of 2021, there will be a total of 152,000 residential units in the Philippines. Fort Bonifacio, with almost 41,000 units leads the supply, followed by the Bay Area with 38,000. The city of Makati will supply a little over 28,000 units, and Ortigas Center with close to 20,000. In 2018, the total supply was only about 119,000 units, thus reflecting a 22-percent projected increase in supply by the end of 2021. This will add to the energy demand from buildings.
The rise in energy demand from buildings
According to the International Energy Agency, buildings, and building constructions account for one-third of global final energy consumption with 40 percent total direct and indirect carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
One part carbon and two parts oxygen constitute CO2. It exists indoors as a combination of the outdoor CO2, what we breathe indoor, plus the building’s ventilation rate. As buildings become energy-efficient and air-sealed, it results in a reduction of indoor fresh air. To save energy, most ventilation systems recycle air. And so, contaminated air moves around indoor with no new air. Consequently, there would be a high CO2 concentration and poor indoor air quality.
The IEA mentioned that buildings were responsible for 28 percent of global energy-related CO2. The direct sources of emission from buildings come from space cooling, appliances and electric plug-loads. Hence, the increase of CO2 where we live affects indoor quality and therefore would not sustain us.
The Latin etymology of “sustainability,” a word that has now become customary to us, is “sustinere,” which means “to hold,” and from “tenere” denoting “support.” Thus, sustain refers to carrying a capacity or pressure over an extended measured time, where a thing can endure trial or hardship, such as cement and steel is the foundation of a house so that its structure will hold over time. To be sustainable, it must be self-supporting in terms of four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environment. For this reason, sustainability considers our health and well-being, including that of animals and our environment in the manner we make our choices in our everyday living in relation to our environment. When we apply these in the built environment design, it can be regarded as a “green” environment.
We spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, and the quality of the indoor air in condominiums can significantly affect our health, comfort and well-being. Often, buildings with improper ventilation are referred to as “sick” buildings. They are inclined to become smelly, airless, uncomfortable and unhealthy; thus, living will not be sustainable.
Green buildings=proper indoor air quality
The study of Dr. Amanjeet Singh and his colleagues conveyed that proper indoor ventilation in green buildings have a positive effect on health and well-being of employees. The reports regarding asthma or allergies reduced by 2.35 working hours per month and all employees’ productivity improved by 2.6 percent.
The construction of buildings is a human activity that may pose environmental repercussions. Fortunately, builders have been able to exhibit the feasibility of improving buildings without substantial cost consequences. Efficient buildings can derive savings.
Ventilation systems can improve indoor air quality, which can be done using different green building strategies. Measuring indoor air quality is important to know how indoor air quality is affected when clean outside air goes into the building. Mechanical ventilation systems, like fans, to pull fresh outside air into the building can provide consistent airflow indoor. Passive ventilation systems are a natural ventilation strategy without using mechanical ventilation systems. There can be cross-ventilation when ventilation devices are strategically located within a building. Stack ventilation uses high- and low-pressure zones where outtake air vents are located at the top of the building to exhaust warm and air vents provided in the lower levels to allow cooler air to come in.
Although some of us are not asthmatic, we ask why we struggle. Our “sigh, huff, huff, wheeze and gasp” would be alleviated by improving the building indoor environment through its ventilation system.
Dr. Ana Liza “Pinky” Asis-Castro teaches in the MBA program of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University and in Real Estate Management program of DLS-College of St. Benilde. She is a real estate consultant and broker and is a certified BERDE professional.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.