Effect of formaldehyde on ventilation rate and energy demand in Danish homes: Development of emission models and building performance simulation

  • Christopher Just JohnstonEmail author
  • Rune Korsholm Andersen
  • Jørn Toftum
  • Toke Rammer Nielsen
Research Article Indoor/Outdoor Airflow and Air Quality


Building performance simulation (BPS) tools need valid emission models to quantify the effects building generated pollution has on indoor air quality (IAQ) and energy demand. Predictions from existing emission models for volatile organic compounds have been shown not to correspond well with real world observations. This study aimed to approximate the impact building generated pollution has on the energy demand of Danish homes fitted with balanced mechanical ventilation systems using heat recovery. Two emission models were developed by regression analysis: one for normal level and one for high level formaldehyde (HCHO) emission rates. Data came from measurements done in detached and semi-detached homes in rural or sub-urban Denmark. Analysis included temperature, humidity and air changes per hour (ACH) as possible predictor variables. ACH was found to be the most important predictor. The emission models were implemented into a validated BPS tool, IDA ICE. Simulations showed it was necessary to have an ACH of minimum 0.22 h-1 to safeguard against HCHO. Two control strategies could prevent harmful levels of HCHO: a base level ventilation rate of 0.3 L/(s-m2) and a demand controlled ventilation (DCV) system using HCHO as a control variable. The DCV systems with heat recovery improved IAQ and reduced energy demand up to 3% seen relative to constant air volume ventilation systems with heat recovery. Based on considerations of the current level of technology and pricing, it was recommended to continue the current practice of prescribing base ventilation rates. Still, building generated pollution deserves continued attention.


building generated pollution emission models regression analysis building performance simulations demand controlled ventilation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



We would like to thank Ásta Logadóttir, PhD, Senior Researcher, Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University and Professor Lars Gunnarsen, PhD, Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University for collecting and sharing the data on HCHO concentration levels in Danish homes.

Supplementary material

12273_2019_553_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (187 kb)
supplementary material is available in the online version of this article at


  1. Andersen I, Lundqvist GR, Mølhave L (1975). Indoor air pollution due to chipboard used as a construction material. Atmospheric Environment (1967), 9: 1121–1127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bekö G, Lund T, Nors F, Toftum J, Clausen G (2010). Ventilation rates in the bedrooms of 500 Danish children. Building and Environment, 45: 2289–2295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bekö G, Gustavsen S, Frederiksen M, Bergsøe NC, Kolarik B, Gunnarsen L, Toftum J, Clausen G (2016). Diurnal and seasonal variation in air exchange rates and interzonal airflows measured by active and passive tracer gas in homes. Building and Environment, 104: 178–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. BSI (2007). EN 15251:2007 - Indoor environmental input parameters for design and assessment of energy performance of buildings addressing indoor air quality, thermal environment, lighting and acoustics. Technical Committee CEN/TC 156 “Ventilation for buildings”, British Standards.Google Scholar
  5. Chung P-R, Tzeng C-T, Ke M-T, Lee C-Y (2013). Formaldehyde gas sensors: A review. Sensors, 13: 4468–4484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Danish Building Regulations (2018). Danish Building Regulations 2018. Denmark: The Danish Transport, Construction and Housing Authority.Google Scholar
  7. Danish Construction Association (2017). Byggeriets Energianalyse 2017. Copenhagen, Denmark: The Danish Construction Association. (in Danish)Google Scholar
  8. Danish Working Environment Authority (2018). Indoor Climate Guideline. Available at Accessed 10 May 2018.Google Scholar
  9. Dimitroulopoulou C (2012). Ventilation in European dwellings: A review. Building and Environment, 47: 109–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dodoo A, Gustavsson L, Sathre R (2011). Primary energy implications of ventilation heat recovery in residential buildings. Energy and Buildings, A3: 1566–1572.Google Scholar
  11. EIA (2018). How much energy is consumed in U.S. residential and commercial buildings? U.S. Energy Information Administration. Available at Accessed 16 Mar 2018.Google Scholar
  12. European Commission on Energy Efficiency in Buildings (2018). Available at Accessed 16 Mar 2018.Google Scholar
  13. Goel S, Rosenberg MI, Eley C (2017). ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2016 Performance Rating Method Reference Manual. Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guyot G, Sherman MH, Walker IS (2018). Smart ventilation energy and indoor air quality performance in residential buildings: A review. Energy and Buildings, 165: 416–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoetjer JJ, Koerts F (1986). A model for formaldehyde release from particleboard. In: Meyer B, Kottes Andrews BA, Reinhardt RM (eds), Formaldehyde Release from Wood Products, Washington DC: ACS Publications. pp. 125–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hopke PK (2015). Air pollution and health effects. In: Nadadur SS, Hollingsworth JW (eds), Molecular and Integrative Toxicology. London: Springer.Google Scholar
  17. Huang S, Xiong J, Zhang Y (2015). Impact of temperature on the ratio of initial emittable concentration to total concentration for formaldehyde in building materials: Theoretical correlation and validation. Environmental Science & Technology, 49: 1537–1544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Huang S, Xiong J, Cai C, Xu W, Zhang Y (2016). Influence of humidity on the initial emittable concentration of formaldehyde and hexaldehyde in building materials: experimental observation and correlation. Scientific Reports, 6: 23388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hult EL, Willem H, Price PN, Hotchi T, Russell ML, Singer BC (2015). Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde exposure mitigation in US residences: In-home measurements of ventilation control and source control. Indoor Air, 25: 523–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. IDA ICE (2018). IDA Indoor Climate and Energy. Available at Accessed 13 May 2018.Google Scholar
  21. Johnston CJ, Nielsen TR, Toftum J (2019). Comparing predictions by existing explicit emission models to real world observations of formaldehyde emissions. Building Simulation, Scholar
  22. Kolarik B, Gunnarsen L, Punch LW (2010). Afgivelse af formaldehyd fra byggevarer og forbrugerprodukter. The State Building Research Institute. (in Danish)Google Scholar
  23. Kumar P, Skouloudis AN, Bell M, Viana M, Carotta MC, Biskos G, Morawska L (2016). Real-time sensors for indoor air monitoring and challenges ahead in deploying them to urban buildings. Science of the Total Environment, 560-561: 150–159.Google Scholar
  24. Laverge J, Janssens A (2012). Heat recovery ventilation operation traded off against natural and simple exhaust ventilation in Europe by primary energy factor, carbon dioxide emission, household consumer price and exergy. Energy and Buildings, 50: 315–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lehmann WF (1987). Effect of ventilation and loading rates in large chamber testing of formaldehyde emissions from composite panels. Forest Products Journal 37: 31–37.Google Scholar
  26. Liang W, Yang S, Yang X (2015). Long-term formaldehyde emissions from medium-density fiberboard in a full-scale experimental room: emission characteristics and the effects of temperature and humidity. Environmental Science & Technology, 49: 10349–10356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liang W, Lv M, Yang X (2016). The combined effects of temperature and humidity on initial emittable formaldehyde concentration of a medium-density fiberboard. Building and Environment, 98: 80–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Logadóttir A, Gunnarsen L (2008). Formaldehydkoncentrationen i nybyggede huse i Danmark. The State Building Research Institute. (in Danish)Google Scholar
  29. Mata E, Sasic Kalagasidis A, Johnsson F (2013). Energy usage and technical potential for energy saving measures in the Swedish residential building Stock. Energy Policy, 55: 404–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Morrison G (2015). Recent advances in indoor chemistry. Renewable Energy Reports, 2: 33–40.Google Scholar
  31. Myers GE, Nagaoka M (1981). Emission of formaldehyde by particleboard: effect of ventilation rate and loading on air-contamination levels. Forest Products Journal, 31: 39–44.Google Scholar
  32. Offermann FJ, Maddalena R, Offermann JC, Singer BC, Wilhelm H (2012). The impact of ventilation on the emission rates of volatile organic compounds in residences. In: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Healthy Buildings, Brisbane, Australia.Google Scholar
  33. Qian K, Zhang Y, Little JC, Wang X (2007). Dimensionless correlations to predict VOC emissions from dry building materials. Atmospheric Environment, 41: 352–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rackes A, Waring MS (2016). Do time-averaged, whole-building, effective volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions depend on the air exchange rate? A statistical analysis of trends for 46 VOCs in US offices. Indoor Air, 26: 642–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rim D, Gall ET, Maddalena RL, Nazaroff WW (2016). Ozone reaction with interior building materials: Influence of diurnal ozone variation, temperature and humidity. Atmospheric Environment, 125: 15–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Salthammer T, Mentese S, Marutzky R (2010). Formaldehyde in the indoor environment. Chemical Reviews, 110:2536–2572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Salthammer T (2015). The formaldehyde dilemma. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 218: 433–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schieweck A, Uhde E, Salthammer T, Salthammer LC, Morawska L, Mazaheri M, Kumar P (2018). Smart homes and the control of indoor air quality. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 94: 705–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stymne H, Axel Boman C, Kronvall J (1994). Measuring ventilation rates in the Swedish housing Stock. Building and Environment, 29: 373–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tenwolde A, Pilon CL (2007). The effect of indoor humidity on water vapor release in homes. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Thermal Performance of Exterior Envelopes of Whole Buildings.Google Scholar
  41. Tommerup H, Svendsen S (2006). Energy savings in Danish residential building stock. Energy and Buildings, 38: 618–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Waring MS (2014). Secondary organic aerosol in residences: predicting its fraction of fine particle mass and determinants of formation strength. Indoor Air, 24: 376–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Weschler CJ (2009). Changes in indoor pollutants since the 1950s. Atmospheric Environment, 43: 153–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weschler CJ (2011). Chemistry in indoor environments: 20 years of research. Indoor Air, 21: 205–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. WHO (2010). WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality—Selected pollutants. Copenhagen, Denmark: WHO Regional Office for Europe.Google Scholar
  46. Xiong J, Wei W, Huang S, Zhang Y (2013). Association between the emission rate and temperature for chemical pollutants in building materials: General correlation and understanding. Environmental Science & Technology, 47: 8540–8547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Xu J, Zhang J, Liu X, Gao Z (2012). Determination of partition and diffusion coefficients of formaldehyde in selected building materials and impact of relative humidity. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 62: 671–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Xu Y, Zhang J (2011). Understanding SVOCs. ASHRAE Journal, 53(12): 121–125.Google Scholar
  49. Ye W, Won D, Zhang X (2014). A preliminary ventilation rate determination methods study for residential buildings and offices based on VOC emission database. Building and Environment, 79: 168–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ye W, Won D, Zhang X (2015). A simple VOC prioritization method to determine ventilation rate for indoor environment based on building material emissions. Procedia Engineering, 121: 1697–1704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zhang Y, Xiong J, Mo J, Gong M, Cao J (2016). Understanding and controlling airborne organic compounds in the indoor environment: Mass transfer analysis and applications. Indoor Air, 26: 39–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhang J, Song F, Tao J, Zhang Z, Shi S (2018). Research progress on formaldehyde emission of wood-based panel. International Journal of Polymer Science, 2018: 1–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Tsinghua University Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Just Johnston
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Rune Korsholm Andersen
    • 2
  • Jørn Toftum
    • 2
  • Toke Rammer Nielsen
    • 2
  1. 1.The NIRAS GroupLillerødDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Civil EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkBrovejDenmark

Personalised recommendations