Designing and building for good health doesn’t seem to be a priority for architects and builders in Spain. Why is that when healthy living permeates our lives in so many other ways: healthy diet, taking exercise, organic food, 5 a day, alternate therapies and so on?
We know a lot about unhealthy homes. We know about external pollutants such as exhaust fumes or drifting agricultural spray, dust, and pollen. We know about the dangers from air intake ducting where the very equipment specifically designed to keep the air clean and healthy is the polluter. This kind of danger also extends to poorly fitted boilers, stoves, leaky flues, and old chimneys. We know about the links between electric magnetic fields caused by wiring, electric appliances and health. We know about the dangers from paints, paint strippers, varnishes, and timber preservatives. We know humidity imbalance is associated with poor health of between 40% and 65%. Yet very few architects and builders make addressing these concerns a priority. Odd!
What to do? Here are some ideas.
Radiant Heating and Cooling
The only healthy heating and cooling system is a radiant one. Human thermal comfort is far more than having a thermostat set at 20C. The most comfortable thermal environment for humans will be created when the surfaces in the room (walls and floors) are a little warmer than the air, when the air is relatively still and there is sufficient thermal and moisture mass in the building to moderate both temperature and humidity swings. These conditions are almost impossible to create with any convective (warm air) system.
Fresh air is needed to replenish the oxygen we use when breathing and to exhaust the carbon dioxide we produce. Air extract is needed to cope with pollutants and odors created by people materials and services. Extract is also needed to deal with excessive humidity and is good for cleaning out micro organisms and day to day pollution.
Too much artificial light has an ill effect on health. Natural light varies and keeps us connected to the natural passing of time. If we design buildings with rooms that have windows in more than one wall it will help us keep our natural balance equilibrium.
Excessive is noise is obviously to be avoided as is also low level background noise associated with machinery.
We spend a lot of time asleep in one place. Sleep is the body’s time for recuperation on a number of levels. If you can only make one place healthy make it the bedroom.
Developing Minds and Bodies
Children whose bodies are developing quite differently from adults are at much greater risk from the effects of toxins. They also spend a lot more time closer to the floor than adults so pay attention to floors and children’s bedrooms.
Arguably the worst offender for health in many people’s homes can be the unassuming wall to wall carpet not only because of the materials and treatments it contains but also its capacity to store dirt and harbor dust mites and their faeces. They can be replaced with wooden floors linoleum tiling or similar
Many applications of chemicals for protection against infestation rot mould and so on are unnecessary. If you have a problem consider contacting a specialist (not someone trying to sell you a chemical treatment) who will probably be able to assess the situation independently and offer remedial solutions such as better ventilation better drainage and so on without the need for chemicals.
Natural paints and finished such as limewash, chosen with care, offer the same performance as toxic synthetic options.
Author: John Wolfendale
Bio: John is a founder of Eco Vida and is passionate about bringing modern design and construction practices to Spain. He believes a home which is warm in winter and cool in summer is largely a matter of design and selective use of materials. He is British and a Chartered Surveyor with 18 years experience living and working in Spain.