6.6.2 Improved health, quality of life and comfort
In the least developed countries, one of the most important opportunities for achieving GHG mitigation as well as sustainable development in buildings is to focus on the health-related benefits of clean domestic energy services, including safe cooking. Indoor air pollution is a key environmental and public health peril for countless of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable people. Approximately three billion people worldwide rely on biomass (wood, charcoal, crop residues and dung) and coal to meet their household cooking and heating energy needs (ITDG, 2002). Smoke from burning these fuels contributes to acute respiratory infections in young children and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in adults. These health problems are responsible for nearly all of the 2.2 million deaths attributable to indoor air pollution each year, over 98% of which are in developing countries (Gopalan and Saksena, 1999; Smith et al., 2004), (See Box 6.2). In addition, women and children also bear the brunt of the work of collecting biomass fuel. Clean-burning cooking stoves not only save substantial amounts of GHG emissions, but also prevent many of these health problems and provide many other benefits identified in Box 6.2.
In developed countries, the diffusion of new technologies for energy use and/or savings in residential and commercial buildings contributes to an improved quality of life and increases the value of buildings. Jakob (2006) lists examples of this type of co-benefit, such as improved thermal comfort (fewer cold surfaces such as windows) and the substantially reduced level of outdoor noise infiltration in residential or commercial buildings due to triple-glazed windows or high-performance wall and roof insulation. At noisy locations, an improvement of 10–15 dB could result in gross economic benefits up to the amount of 3–7% of the rental income from a building (Jakob, 2006). Lastly, better-insulated buildings eliminate moisture problems associated with, for example, thermal bridges and damp basements and thus reduce the risk of mould build-up and associated health risks.
Box 6.2: Traditional biomass-based cooking has severe health effects
In South Africa, children living in homes with wood stoves are almost five times more likely than others to develop respiratory infections severe enough to require hospitalization. In Tanzania, children younger than five years who die of acute respiratory infection are three times more likely than healthy children to have been sleeping in a room with an open cooking stove. In the Gambia, children carried on their mothers’ backs as the mothers cook over smoky stoves contract pneumonia at a rate 2.5 times higher than unexposed children. In Colombia, women exposed to smoke during cooking are over three times more likely than others to suffer from chronic lung disease. In Mexico, urban women who use coal for cooking and heating over many years are subject to a risk of lung cancer two to six times higher than women who use gas. Rural coal smoke exposure can increase lung cancer risks by a factor of nine or more. In India, smoke exposure has been associated with a 50% increase in stillbirths.
Cleaner-burning improved cooking stoves (ICS), outlined in the previous sections of this chapter, help address many of the problems associated with traditional cooking methods. The benefits derived from ICS are: 1) reduced health risks for women and children due to improved indoor air quality; 2) reduced risks associated with fuel collection; 3) cost-effective and efficient energy use, which eases the pressure on the natural biomass resource; 4) a reduction in the amount of money spent on fuel in urban areas; and 5) a reduction in fuel collection and cooking time, which translates into an increase in time available for other economic and developmental activities.
Source: UN, 2002