Volatile organic compounds (‘VOC’s’) may be a word you have come across when you have researched building materials, paints, household cleaners or tobacco. Although, what are VOC’s and why should you care?

A VOC is a chemical compound that becomes a gas or vapour at room temperature (or during burning activity). They always contain at least one carbon and one hydrogen atom and they can be both natural and man-made.  Examples of well-known VOC’s are: methane, formaldehyde and ethene.

 

Why are VOC’s given a bad reputation?

 

Simply put, VOC’s are not good for your health. Whilst they are not acutely toxic – i.e. inhalation of the gasses will not kill you instantly – there is evidence to indicate that VOC’s have carcinogenic effects and can lead to organ damage. Most commonly, individuals exposed to VOC’s experience symptoms such as: tiredness, headaches and a sore throat.  

Concentrations of VOC’s are much higher indoors. In fact, concentrations can be up to 10 times higher indoors than outside – especially following any new building or decorating work.  Furthermore, it is not uncommon for outdoor concentrations to be elevated near industrial sites or busy traffic. In scenarios like this, VOC’s can lead to photochemical smog…not pleasant.

If you are now wondering if you have been exposed to VOC’s I will ask you this: do you know the new car, carpet or paint smell? If so, I am sorry to say but that lovely new smell is the off-gassing from strong VOC’s. Moreover, if any of you really enjoy the smell of the air at a petrol station, you may want to change your mind as that air is full of VOC’s. 

 

How does Huub manage VOC’s?

 

Unfortunately, it is impossible to avoid all VOC’s since they are always in the air surrounding us. However, at Huub we understand the risks associated with VOC’s. Due to this we choose materials which are classified as ‘low VOC’s’ and we ensure that our materials are long lasting and durable. 

Our installations use: aluminium (which is made of 60 – 70% recycled material), plywood and double glazed aluminium windows (the insulators inside the glazing frame are made from recycled plastic). Whilst many building companies use a thermoset plastic called ‘Celotex’ for insulation, Huub uses natural wood chippings since the material is considerably more environmentally friendly and has lower VOC levels. 

We promote sustainability and environmental health by avoiding materials such as MDF, PVC and uPVC. Whilst MDF is a cheaper alternative than plywood which we use in our builds, the glue in MDF releases higher volumes of formaldehyde as a VOC than ply. So, we choose to actively avoid this material. Huub also never uses paint or concrete due to their high VOC levels. 

Did you know that the CO2 emissions on a standard mix of concrete is around 72.1kg per tonne? To put this into perspective, you would have to use a kettle around 4807 times to emit the same levels of CO2 as one singular tonne of concrete. This means that if you use the kettle 4 times a day, it would take 3.3 years to produce 72.1kg per tonne of CO2…that is crazy!

 

Do VOC’s matter in my office then?

 

This all comes down to your own personal opinion. Personally, I would choose to reduce my interactions with VOC’s when the option is given. Why put your families long-term health at risk when you have the option to mitigate potential hazards? More so, whilst you are working in your office the last thing you need is a splitting headache and feelings of fatigue when you have deadlines mounting. 

 

If you are interested in building a sustainable Huub office contact us on: 01305 250429

Or, email us as: sales@huub.space

 

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