Design & Construction

Introduction

The Building Design & Construction Committee was charged with making recommendations for designing commercial and public buildings that would be more accessible for people with multiple chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities and provide healthier environments for all occupants.

The Committee found that major access barriers for chemically sensitive individuals are factors that contribute to poor air quality, such as pesticides, new carpets, tobacco smoke, inadequate ventilation, mold, certain building materials, and building activities that generate air pollutants. For electromagnetically sensitive individuals, access barriers include fluorescent lighting, unshielded transformers and wiring, security and scanning equipment and numerous other electrical appliances.

The recommendations that follow, therefore, focus on minimizing or eliminating these barriers through designing

  • for pest prevention to reduce the need for or the use of pesticides
  • for preventing moisture and mold growth
  • for optimum ventilation via HVAC systems and operable windows
  • for exhausting air contaminants
  • for minimizing use of carpet and other flooring that emit volatiles, and
  • for shielding occupants from electromagnetic fields.

Although many building materials can be problematic for chemically sensitive people, the Committee made minimal suggestions regarding product choices as this was the charge of the Building Products and Materials Committee.

Recommendations for Future Actions

The Committee recommends that the Access Board, NIBS, or other entity create a Design Manual using the outline in this report. This Manual would provide more detailed guidance than is provided here.

The Committee acknowledges that while the scientific evidence may be inconclusive about whether ambient electromagnetic fields pose a substantial health risk to the general population, the presence of EMF is an access barrier for people who are electromagnetically sensitive. Therefore, the Committee recommends that measures be taken to reduce EMF whenever possible in order to increase access for these individuals as well as taking a precautionary approach to protecting the health of all.