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The Challenges of Radon and Energy Retrofitting: Unravelling Complexities and Interaction within the Built Environment

DESCRIPTION OF THE SESSION

This workshop will explore the intricate relationship between radon and the built environment, in the context of ventilation and indoor environmental quality. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is a leading cause for concern as it accumulates within indoor environments. However, unlike other indoor air pollutants, the infiltration of radon cannot be assumed to be a constant flow rate, but instead, it is a dynamic process which depends on various factors, including the depressurisation rates within buildings. This is especially crucial in the context of energy retrofits, where ventilation and retrofit strategies have the potential to further increase the radon flux into buildings. In this session, presentations will delve into the complexities and interactions that the indoor built environment plays in altering the radon concentrations within residential buildings. Speakers will present recent research findings, discuss the implications different ventilation strategies can have, and discuss challenges and opportunities associated with the context of energy retrofit.

The session will start with a presentation that explores the predictive capability of radon infiltration within residential buildings by analysing existing radon datasets. An understanding of the radon flux will be presented by exploring the underlying physical mechanisms. The second presentation will follow by presenting a research study that investigated how different ventilation approaches and building structures impact the depressurisation rates within buildings and the consequence for the radon flux. These findings will be supported by a separate study that conducted field measurements in Canada that examined radon measurements under varying building characteristics, including ventilation strategies. While the first three presentations highlight the challenges and risks associated with radon. By contrast, the fourth presentation will be complemented by recent research published by the Irish EPA that examined the effectiveness of radon remediation measures. These findings will be vital in discussing their implications for various mitigation measures and offer opportunities to meet the challenge of radon during energy retrofit.

Following the presentations, speakers will form a panel including an industry representative (Simon Jones, Industrial Advisor to the AIVC) and a representative from SEAI (Brain McIntyre, previously coordinated the national energy retrofit pilot programme) that will address the audience’s questions to stimulate an interactive discussion. Each speaker will contribute to how their unique insights can manage the challenges of radon during energy retrofits. The panel comprises academic and policy members, so attendees will gain insights from multiple perspectives. The session will be designed to stimulate discussion and raise awareness, providing an interactive platform for insights from the audience. Attendees and speakers will contribute to discussing how these practices can be incorporated into retrofit strategies.

Moreover, the session will contrast Canada and Ireland, offering unique insights into how different countries, climatic conditions, and national policies influence radon. Special attention will be given to understanding the retrofit context, aiming to identify risks and the best appropriate to develop a risk matrix that can be implemented into practice. Ultimately, the session will highlight how radon considerations should be integrated into retrofit measures rather than only considering it post-retrofit. These insights could lead to cost-effective measures, utilising policy incentives to protect and seize opportunities during energy retrofits. Attendees will emerge with valuable insights into the dynamic interplay of radon, construction, and ventilation systems, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in mitigating radon-associated risks.

OBJECTIVES OF THE SESSION

  • Explore the dynamic processes of radon infiltration, recognising the complexities and interactions the indoor built environment has in altering radon concentrations.
  • Analyse the implications of different ventilation strategies, national policies, and their relevance in the energy retrofit context.
  • Assess the implications of these findings for various mitigation measures and explore opportunities to integrate radon considerations into retrofit strategies.
  • Quantify the potential cost-effective measures and policy incentives for mitigating radon risks during energy retrofits.
  • Review a list of crucial issues from various stakeholders and compile data to develop a radon risk matrix.
  • Compile and formulate the ideas for the discussion to write a position paper.

SESSION PROGRAMME

  1. ‘Introduction and Overview’. James A. McGrath, Department of Physics, Maynooth University, Ireland
  2. Quantify factors influencing radon flux in dwellings’. Mohsen Pourkiaei, Department of Physics, Maynooth University, Ireland
  3. Challenges and opportunities arising from different ventilation approaches: Controlled experiments conducted at the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology’, Liang GraceZhou, Construction Research Centre, National Research Council Canada, Canada,
  4. Field study measurements evaluating radon concentrations under different ventilation scenarios’, Janet Gaskin, Construction Research Centre, National Research Council Canada, Canada,
  5. Passive sumps as a method of reducing radon levels in Irish dwellings’. Alison Dowdall, Office of Radiation Protection and Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland.

SESSION CHAIRS

  1. James A. McGrath, Department of Physics, Maynooth University, Ireland
  2. Janet Gaskin, Construction Research Centre, National Research Council Canada, Canada,

SESSION DURATION

  • 90 minutes
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