Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, March 2021, Volume 4, #116
A kitchen can be regarded as well designed if it provides the required usefulness to its users. The determinants of usefulness can be broadly categorised into functionality and safety. Functionality means a kitchen providing an avenue for products (e.g., food) and services to be delivered in required quality and quantity. Safety usefulness, which is the focus of this article, means people’s life and comfort are healthy, and properties are in good condition.
Cooking activity that is central to the purpose of having a kitchen could compromise the delivery of the safety usefulness if appropriate preventive and mitigating measures are not taken. Cooking activities, due to its combustion nature, lead to the generation of latent heat (moisture), sensible heat, and air pollutants such as semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), carbon monoxides, particulate matters (e.g., PM2.5 and PM10), nitrogen oxides (NOx), etc.
Air pollutants cause irritation, discomfort, and health problems when they find their way into the human body through inhalation, dermal uptake, and ingestion. The heat and air pollutants generated in the kitchen could increase the risk of fire outbreak and damage. A compromised safety could also compromise functionality.
The risk of the highlighted safety problem could be significantly reduced with adequate ventilation provided in the kitchen with openable window(s). Unfortunately, some interior designers and architects do not see window(s) provision in a kitchen as a priority.
Priority is sometimes given to having hard surfaces for placement of furniture and storage of kitchen utensils or support cooking activities. It could also be due to constraints caused by how the building is designed. Some designers placed window(s) at the laundry area adjacent to the kitchen to compensate for the non-availability of a window at the kitchen.
The problem with such a design is that the ventilation provided will not be as adequate as having a window in the kitchen. The distance outdoor air coming in through the window at the laundry needs to travel before getting to the kitchen will make it less effective. Furthermore, clothes hanging in the laundry area may obstruct airflow from the laundry to the kitchen.
Additionally, the practice of relying on the exhaust as a replacement for an openable window needed for ventilation in the kitchen is not appropriate for achieving a healthy kitchen. Exhaust should complement the provided window. So what happens when there is no or inadequate outdoor air mixing with air in the kitchen?
The person or people cooking in a kitchen will be vulnerable (vulnerability due to exposure) to experiencing irritation, discomfort, and health problems caused by air pollutants generated in the kitchen.
The air pollutants could also be transported to other micro-environments in the building if there is no adequate dilution of the air pollutants in the kitchen and compromise the occupants’ perceived air quality and health in the micro environments.
The safety concerns will be more serious in buildings occupied by people with physiological or psychological vulnerability. Suppose there is no avenue for air pollutants and heat generated in the kitchen with no window to be transported to other micro environments in the building. In that case, the risk of fire outbreak and damage will be higher than if the pollutants and heat generated are transported to other micro-environments in the building.
The best scenario of providing safety usefulness for the users of a kitchen or occupants of the building the kitchen is located is to provide openable window(s) for adequate ventilation supported with exhaust to further reduce air pollutants and amount of heat generated in the kitchen.
Do you want to know more about the topic? Read Farmer et al. (2019), Patel et al. (2020), and Zhu and Wang (2003) articles