Why We Ventilate Our Houses – An Historical Look

Publication Type

Conference Proceedings

Date Published




The knowledge of how to ventilate buildings, and how much ventilation is necessary for human health and comfort, has evolved over centuries of trial and error. Humans and animals have developed successful solutions to the problems of regulating temperature and removing air pollutants through the use of ventilation. These solutions include ingenious construction methods, such as engineered passive ventilation (termite mounds and passive stacks), mechanical means (wing-powered, fans), and an evolving effort to identify problems and develop solutions. Ventilation can do more than help prevent building occupants from getting sick; it can provide an improved indoor environment. Codes and standards provide minimum legal requirements for ventilation, but the need for ventilation goes beyond code minima. In this paper we will look at indoor air pollutant sources over time, the evolution of ventilation strategies, current residential ventilation codes and standards (e.g., recently approved ASHRAE Standard 62.2), and briefly discuss ways in which we can go beyond the standards to optimize residential ventilation, reduce indoor air quality problems, and provide corresponding social and economic benefit.


2004 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, August 22-27, 2004



Year of Publication