How do building materials affect indoor air quality?


Test houses built from different wall constructions (c) Thünen-Institut/Ch.Waitkus
Test houses built from different wall constructions (© Thünen-Institut/Ch.Waitkus)

Elaboration of an objective method considering the special character of wood and wood based panels for the evaluation of their impact on indoor air quality

Wood products emit volatile organic compounds (VOC) in different compositions and amounts. This project aims to develop an objective process that allows clear conclusions about the impact of VOC emissions of different building products on indoor air quality in real installation situations.

Background and Objective

Many biogenic and anthropogenic processes emit volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the environment. Humans, animals, soils and the sea, as well as plants like trees and their woods, belong to the natural sources. Wood and wood-based panels are important building products. Their use should be further increased in accordance with the scheme of the Federal Government called “Aktionsplan zur stofflichen Nutzung nachwachsender Rohstoffe” (Action plan for the material use of renewable natural materials). The building products are considered a potential source of VOC indoors because they might be installed with a large surface area. Against this background, and due to the fact that humans spend most of their lifetime indoors, the question of how VOC from building products affect indoor air quality is raised.

Emissions of wood, wood-based panels and products from these materials are well studied. Previous studies on VOC in indoor air show the high complexity of the involved processes and interactions. Particularly in the case of wood and wood products and their specific installation, differences in the adsorption capacities of the various building materials are to be expected. At present, the results of the emission test of a building material are calculated to the intended use to assess the later indoor air quality.

Consequently, the question of the significance of emission determination of individual components as found in real buildings will be answered. For this reason such interactions (synergistic and antagonistic) and influences are investigated extensively.

Within the research project the emissions of individual building materials (simple combinations and building walls and floors) will be compared under controlled conditions in test chambers with installation situations in model rooms and their indoor air quality. Based on the results, it should be possible to correctly evaluate and prioritize the different influencing factors.

Target Group

  • User/consumers (planners/designers and builders)
  • industries (manufacturer/producer and processors)
  •  authorities


Primarily, the precise scenario for the simulation of real indoor conditions will be defined. Four different wall constructions (and floors) will be tested in the laboratory as well as in real buildings. Wall constructions are chosen which are most frequently used. The building materials used will be tested against the requirements of the Committee for the Health-related Evaluation of Building Products (“Ausschuss zur gesundheitlichen Bewertung von Bauprodukten”, AgBB). In addition, basic conditions such as temperature, humidity, air exchange, duration of the test and possible test cycles with changing boundary conditions are defined.

The wall constructions (and floors) will be tested over several months to evaluate whether a statement is possible on the medium term expected indoor air concentration of VOC. The same applies to a selection of tests in test chambers. In addition, an odour test (according to ISO 16000-28 and ISO 16000-30) is carried out.

Conclusions for a future consideration of wood products in the installed state with regard to their emission assessment are to be drawn from the results. Furthermore, they can be used to derive recommendations for users, industry, authorities, tendering, and contracting. It should also be assessed whether a statement about the long-term behaviour of the materials is representative of a study over the normatively scheduled period of 28 days.

Our Research Questions

Do the results of emission tests of individual building materials deliver sufficient information for the assessment of the air concentrations in real indoor rooms?

Is it possible to improve the information about the expected concentration of the indoor VOC in real buildings after testing the constructions or adjusting the test conditions in real-life installation situations?

Is a 28-day emission test representative of the long-term performance of the material?


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

  • Fraunhofer-WKI
    (Braunschweig, Deutschland)
  • Verband der deutsche Holzwerkstoffindustrie e.V.
    (Gießen, Deutschland)
  • Deutsche Säge- und Holzindustrie, Bundesverband e.V.
    (Berlin, Deutschland)
  • Bundesverband Deutscher Fertigbau e.V.
    (Bad Honnef, Deutschland)
  • 81fünf high-tech & holzbau AG
    (Lüneburg, Deutschland)
  • Deutscher Holzfertigbau-Verband e.V.
    (Ostfildern, Deutschland)
  • Informationsverein Holz e.V.
    (Berlin, Deutschland)
  • Studiengemeinschaft Holzleimbau e.V.
    (Wuppertal, Deutschland)
  • Verband Holzfaser Dämmstoffe e.V.
    (Wuppertal, Deutschland)
  • ZimmerMeisterHaus Service&Dienstleistungs GmbH
    (Schwäbisch Hall, Deutschland)
  • Holzbau Deutschland im Zentralverband des Deutschen Baugewerbes e.V.
    (Berlin, Deutschland)
  • Deutscher Holzwirtschaftsrat e.V.
    (Berlin, Deutschland)

Funding Body

  • Federal Ministry of Food und Agriculture (BMEL)
    (national, öffentlich)


4.2016 - 12.2019

More Information

Projekt type:
Project funding number: 22008514
Funding program: FNR
Project status: ongoing

Test house under construction (© Thünen-Institut/S.Poth)