UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Understanding and mitigating overheating and indoor PM2.5 risks using coupled temperatures


1 March 2015


Indoor temperature and air quality in dwellings are closely coupled. Differences between the indoor temperature and the temperature outside and in adjoining zones can influence airflow due to the stack effect, whilst changes in ventilation can cause changes in indoor pollution and temperature. This paper demonstrates the relationship between an indoor air pollutant, PM2.5, and temperature in UK domestic building archetypes using the dynamic thermal and contaminant modelling capabilities of EnergyPlus 8.0 under various UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) scenarios (current, current 'hot', 2050 High Emissions and 2050 High Emissions 'hot'), with both internal and external PM2.5 sources. Results indicate that flats have 0.7-0.8 times as much outdoor PM2.5 infiltrating indoors compared to detached dwellings, but 1.8-2.8 times more PM2.5 from indoor sources. During hot periods, temperature-dependent window opening increases exposure to outdoor PM2.5, meaning that as temperatures rises, dwelling occupants will become exposed to relatively higher levels of outdoor PM2.5 and lower levels of indoor PM2.5 due to the need to increase dwelling ventilation. The practical implications for government and designers and possible policy implications of this research are discussed.Practical applications: This paper demonstrates how an increase in summertime ventilation is necessary in UK homes to reduce overheating risks due to climate change and energy-efficient building retrofits. This, in turn, will lead to a change in the profile of indoor air pollution exposure, with greater exposure to pollution from outdoor sources and reduced exposure to pollution from indoor sources. Roof insulation and trickle vents reduce overheating risk, whilst increased use of mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems in the UK is encouraged, as it offers the co-benefits of cooling through increased ventilation, energy recovery and the potential to reduce indoor pollution levels.

Understanding and mitigating overheating and indoor PM2.5 risks using coupled temperature and indoor air quality models. Building Services Engineering Research and Technology, 36 (2), 275-289. 

Taylor, J., Mavrogianni, A., Davies, M., Das, P., Shrubsole, C., Biddulph, P., Oikonomou, E. (2015)