Most people spend up to 90 per cent of their time indoors, but poorly ventilated buildings that contribute to the spread of infectious diseases could make staying inside bad for your health.
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will host the 10th International Healthy Buildings conference from July 8 to 12, 2012 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre to examine the major issues facing building, environmental and health professionals.
Professor Lidia Morawska, director of QUT's International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, has urged academics and professionals in these fields to submit abstracts for presentation at the conference before the submission deadline of October 8, 2011.
"We can choose the water we drink, we can choose the food we eat, but we can't choose the air we breathe. We spend up to 90 per cent of our time indoors. This conference will look at how to make buildings healthier and more comfortable for people," she said.
Professor Morawska encouraged PhD students to get involved in organising the student program for the conference, which will include a competition to find solutions to the most pressing problems in the field.
The winning teams will present their work during a plenary session at the conference.
The four-day conference will be divided into three main areas: Balance of Power: Energy Conservation versus Indoor Environmental Quality; Race against Time: Population, Urban Growth and Miracles of Technology; and Infection Spread: Will Breathing Kill You?
Professor Morawska, who recently received the prestigious Clean Air Medal at the Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand conference in Auckland, said poorly-designed buildings contributed to illness.
"We can completely enclose the building, spend a lot of money insulating it but there is often no natural ventilation. Air conditioning systems can breed microbes," she said.
"Studies around the world show mechanically ventilated buildings are related to more health problems and symptoms than naturally ventilated buildings.
"In a mild climate country like Australia, we could have perfectly comfortable and energy-efficient buildings that are naturally ventilated."
Professor Morawska said the conference, which is supported by QUT's Faculty of Science and Technology and the Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) would look at how buildings could prevent the spread of disease.
"Since SARS in 2003, the issue of infection spread has really risen in importance. The belief is not a question of if a major pandemic will happen but when. We need to look at how we can minimise this," she said.
Professor Morawska said urban population growth and megacities, particularly in China and developing countries, also posed a huge challenge.
"Buildings are within urban environments and pollutants, such as dust from outside, can have a negative effect on people's health," she said.
Visit http://hb2012.org/ for more information about the Healthy Buildings conference.
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