Skepticism as a tool


The other day a new IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) product assessment tool was announced by Healthy Building Network and Google. For building professionals this could be a valuable tool in their kit. We need to have access to good information on the products we specify if we hope to have buildings perform as we want.

What am I skeptical about? The narrow focus of this tool. There aren’t similar tools that examine the other aspects of the same materials. That could well give this tool more influence on the process than it deserves.

Suppose you’re selecting an interior wall finish material. There are several that met your general criteria, each with slightly different moisture diffusion characteristics. You run them through the IAQ tool and one comes back ranked better than the others. That’s the one to choose, right?

Maybe not. What if that product would cause excessive moisture accumulation in the wall cavity? You might cause a major IAQ problem trying to avoid a minor one.

Presumably, someone on the team would pick up on that. But these tools often tend to carry a lot of influence. And there may be an owner who decides that the tool rules, no matter what. There’s something very seductive about getting an answer from a computer. It’s precise, it doesn’t equivocate, no doubts.

Every method we use for choosing among options has flaws. But applying a bit of judgment and experience usually helps.

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I love buildings. I love thinking about how they are made and how they work. I am a building geek. I love to talk about buildings too. Get in touch.
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