Sustainable Balance

Lecture Week 9 19/9/16 by Krishna Munsami (Building Scans)

Energy, moisture and IAQ: the vital triangle

See Krishna’s earlier presentation here

Empowering the principles of sustainable buildings:

  • Moisture ingress (damp house syndrome)
  • indoor air quality (sick house syndrome)
  • energy efficient building envelope (thermal comfort)

It’s time to consider sustainability on a micro level, instead of just a macro level. Think of your home, your car and your office.


Achieving a sustainable balance:

  • moisture control
  • thermal performance
  • indoor air quality


Moisture dynamics: vapour (moves from high pressure to low pressure), liquid (waterproofing membranes are key here) and solid (ice – not a big issue in most of Australia).

Transport mechanisms: liquid flow, capillary suction, air movement and vapour diffusion.

Moisture will ALWAYS move from a high concentrated area, to a low concentrated area, resulting in dampness and mould.

Implications of moisture:

  • economic loss
  • increases in energy (Thermal performance and HVAC)
  • increased asthma/respiratory disease
  • lung infection
  • moisture is the most common cause of IAQ problems

Effective moisture control

  • control of liquid water
  • control on indoor humidity levels
  • control of humidity in sub floor areas
  • surface condensation
  • interstitial condensation
  • materials and hygrothermal assembly and design


 Symptoms of CO2 poisoning:

  • fatigue,
  • dizziness
  • possible sudden chest pains in people with angina
  • headaches
  • large amounts can be fatal


  • formaldehyde is now known to be a cancer causing agent by leading research organisations and been upgraded to Group 1 from Group 2 known to cause cancer to humans.
  • formaldehyde is found in the resins and glues used in furniture: most carpets, timber floor boards and timber furniture therefore has high levels of formaldehyde

Symptoms of Formaldehyde poisoning:

  • may cause burning or tingling sensations in eyes, nose and throat
  • can cause tightness in the chest and wheezing
  • can cause serious illness due to increased levels and long term exposure

Those who design, provide, build, maintain and occupy indoor environments have a duty to do no harm to indoor air quality in that environment. Ignorance about indoor air quality matters is not an excuse for causing harm. The facts on indoor air quality must therefore be readily available to, and used by, all the parties concerned.

-WHO, 2000

Further References



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