Director of Wellbeing + Sustainability at Light House Sustainable Building Centre Kaitlyn Gillis discusses why radon needs to be addressed early on in design of green buildings - and why all existing buildings need to test for radon.
A huge part of the work that we do at Light House is around green buildings. Traditionally, the focus of green buildings sought to lessen the substantial impact the built environment has on the natural environment. We have made huge progress in this area, especially with the uptake of rating systems such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and the Living Building Challenge.
While indoor air quality is often addressed in green buildings, more needs to be done, especially with regards to environmental toxins such as radon. Radon is a known carcinogen, and is the leading cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers. Although mapping exists showing potential radon hot-spots around British Columbia, unacceptable levels of radon can happen anywhere.
A bright spot towards more radon awareness is the recently released WELL Building Standard, a building rating system that focuses exclusively on human health and wellbeing in the built environment. The very first requirement of the standard states that radon levels are not allowed to be higher than 4 pCi/L (or 148 Bq/m3) at the lowest occupied level. This is lower than the 200 Bq/m3 that Health Canada currently recommends. Considering radon remediation strategies early on in design will decrease costs and if levels are high post-occupancy, remediation can easily take place. The radon requirement in WELL is applicable to all project types, including residential buildings, office buildings, schools, and other institutional buildings.
Radon as a health issue has long been ignored in the green building world and we need to start considering radon remediation strategies in the design of new buildings. For existing buildings, we need to propose radon testing. That is the only way to know for certain if radon levels are too high. If you are interested in learning more about radon in the built environment tune into Building Smart with Radon Mitigation on March 8, 2017 which is being hosted by RadonAware and BC Housing.
Here’s to a healthy and green built environment!
Light House Sustainable Building Centre is located in Vancouver, BC. Light House is an enterprising non-profit organization that focuses on consulting, education, and research on all things related to the green built environment and beyond. Our RadonAware program is working with Light House to help advance the knowledge around radon in the BC building industry.