In 2002 William J, Rea, M.D. published his, “Optimum Environments for Optimum Health & Creativity”, a book we recently featured and now sits on my shelf along with numerous building science and engineering manuals collected over the years. I’ve given the good doctor space because he gave space in his book on something dear to me – that being the role that HVAC systems play in indoor environmental quality and specifically his recommendations for hydronic radiant heating as the best choice for conditioning people and places.
Dr. Rea is a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon with a strong passion for the environmental aspects of health and disease and Founder of the Environmental Health Center (EHC-D) and he’s not the lone physician when it comes to opining on heating systems. There are numerous professionals in the heath or building sciences that “get” the link between bodies and buildings and their work can be seen in such projects as CHMC’s Healthy House Toronto project or Seattle-Kings County Breathe Easy Homes - both are considered Gold Standards in healthy homes and both use hydronic radiant based HVAC systems.
I find it interesting how healthcare as possibly one of the greatest public relation machines on earth is overlooked by specific sectors within the HVAC industry when medical doctors such as W.J. Rea, S.D. Lockey lll, or A.C. Engler acknowledge radiant heating in their respective practices.
Another physician specializing in respiratory issues is Dr. P. Field who has served as a consultant to Asthma NSW and recognizes that, "radiant heating such as in-ceiling, in-floor or panel wall heaters are preferred as they are less likely to trigger asthma symptoms." This is echoed in a physician reviewed recommendation from The Children's Hospital at the Anschutz Medical Campus in their ‘Creating an Asthma-Safe Home’ they suggest when, “purchasing a home, consider buying one with baseboard or radiant heating.”
One of the best summaries I’ve found on low temperature hydronic radiant heating and indoor environments comes from, “The Health, Safety and Comfort Advantages of Low Temperature Heating Systems - A Literature Review” published from the Healthy Buildings Conference in August 2000. In a nutshell the report supports the sentiment found amongst allergists and other medical doctors.
Although I would strongly caution anyone making the leap that hydronic radiant heating improves people’s health it is safe to say that indoor environments using radiant based HVAC systems are recognized by some physicians as significant contributors to a healthier home. This has a strong appeal to two powerful decision makers - that being older adults and mothers.
My council to the various hydronic industry groups is this:
- Recognize that marketing and public relations efforts directed on using the features and benefits of efficiency and comfort are ultimately trumped by health concerns...and as continually demonstrated by Readers Digest annual survey, consumers ultimately have far more confidence in the words of the healthcare worker than words from the trades person or home builder.
- Find a way to work with the healthcare industry to communicate to consumers that radiant based HVAC systems do contribute to healthier homes.
Study our slides on The Human Factors in HVAC and understand why we feel strongly that elements of architecture such as building enclosures, interior design and HVAC need to be removed out from under the world of construction and be repositioned within the healthcare industry.
Learn more about the complete definition of Radiant Based HVAC