ecotecture.GIF (12664 bytes)
Department of   Design and Environmental Analysis,
Cornell University
  1. External Considerations

  2. Core & Envelope

  3. Indoor Ecology

  4. Material/Product Content

  5. Ecotecture Worksheets

  6. Additional  information.

  7. Case Studies

Use the table of contents to go directly to specific topics:



Indoor Air Quality

Design Considerations:

Air changes per hour-  Pollutants are most typically a problem when they are too concentrated, often due to inadequate ventilation.  A solution is to achieve a constant fan-forced ventilation rate, with a heat exchanger that allows the heat from the polluted exhaust to be transferred to fresh, outdoor makeup air.  Provide enough air supply and return for each room in terms of their size and use.  Determine the location of air supply and return in order to avoid unhealthy air entering the facility.  Air turnover rate should have a goal that relates to the size of the interior space.  (i.e 220,000 sf interior with a 30 minute turnover rate)

Smoking policy-  Tobacco smoke is one of the five most common sources of indoor pollutants.  There should be a no smoking policy for the facility.

Air Filtration-  Filtration systems should remove any particles larger than 10 microns.  Dust and particulates should be removed to decrease the hazards for allergy sufferers.

Natural Ventilation-   The most significant cause of complaints of indoor air quality is lack of outdoor air.  While operable windows do not increase the energy efficiency of a space, they do allow fresh air into an interior space, as well as allow the users to control their interior temperature.
Ventilation can force fresh air into a space as well.  This must have a filtration system on it that will filter any particles that may cause hazards for allergy sufferers.  

Building Materials-  Common indoor pollutants include sources such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), the most dominant of which is -formaldehyde- present in plywood, particle board, carpets, upholstery, draperies, and urea-formaldehyde foam insulation. Formaldehyde is suspected to be carcinogenic.

"Breathing Skin"-  Passive design of building materials promotes a "breathing skin".  The natural diffusion of air through porous materials such as brick, stone, lumber, and plaster can create a breathing skin that can add to air exchange and help to absorb moisture.  The air inside a sealed energy-efficient office building often has ten times more pollutants than outdoor air.  Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is found in the soil in varying concentrations depending on location.  It leaks into buildings through cracks in the foundation and basement slab, and in newer, relatively airtight construction it can be a source of serious health concern.

Pesticides- If the building materials include natural materials such as wood- they are likely to suffer from pest problems such as termites, and other insects.  If pesticides will be needed to be used in order to maintain the natural materials- these should be investigated for toxicity.

Indoor Flora- While some studies have indicated that indoor plants can reduce the amount of toxic substances in indoor pollution, it is more likely that the indoor plants will act as an allergenic more often.


Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provide information concerning indoor materials.

Review the publication Environment Resource Guide

Use computer modeling to help determine the potential design, operation and cost of renewable resource systems

Consult with:  Environmental consultants, energy analysts, and mechanical engineers

Case Studies to Research:

Air Changes per Hour- 
Herman Miller- Miller SQA Facility , Zeeland, MI.
William McDonough + Partners
-Boyne River Ecology Centre, Shelbourne, Ontario
Douglas B. Pollard Architects
Natural Ventilation
Inland Revenue Center, Nottingham, England
Michael Hopkins & Partners, Architect

Further Information:
“High Dividends” Buchanan, Peter.  Architecture. Vol.84, no.7, July 1995, pp.76-83.
“Office Ecology” Mays, Vernon. Architecture. Vol.84, no.7, July 1995, pp.84-87.
“Centre of the Earth” Mays, Vernon. Architecture. Vol.83, no.6, June 1993, pp.52-57.
The Natural House Book  David Pearson, Simon & Schuster
Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA)
American Society of Heating, Refrigerator, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
Moore, F.  Environmental Control Systems: Heating, Lighting, Cooling.  New York:  McGraw-Hill, Inc, 1993.
National Audubon Society Audubon House:  Building the Environmentally Responsible, Energy-Efficient Office.  New York, NY:  John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 1994
The Ecology of Architecture: A Complete Guide to Creating the Environmentally Conscious  Building by Laura Zeiher.















































Cornell University, December, 1998