Healthy
living in

Breathable
spaces

Healthy living in breathable spaces

Does your home have air to breathe?

Green buildings are one of the most sought after architectural designs right now. One of the ways green buildings are energy-efficient is that they seal the indoor spaces to prevent heat from escaping. While this reduces the energy needed to maintain an optimal indoor temperature, such designs may inadvertently be causing you harm. Harm, which scientists recognise as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

SBS occurs when building factors such as indoor air quality affect its occupant negatively.

Occupants living with such unhealthy spaces show symptoms such as cough, dry throat, eye irritation and skin irritation. In more severe causes, SBS can even result in headaches and dizziness. Even as early as the 1980s, the World Health Organisation has already highlighted that SBS affects up to 30% of newly built office buildings in the Western World.

In a more recent study, Dr Mendell and his colleagues from the Ohio National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimated that nonspecific building-related symptoms, such as SBS, may have had a negative consequence of up to $70 billion on the United States economy. To calculate this estimate, Dr Mendell first identified the number of health cases related to nonspecific building-related symptoms. These reports were explicitly from individuals who work indoors, which ranged between 8 and 30 million cases annually. Next, the research team translated the individual cases into the cost from absence and other performance losses. While this estimate cannot be fully validated, it goes to show that good design, which often is invisible to the eye, can have significant health and economic impact.

As one the biggest factors of SBS is the presence of mould, eliminating the conditions for mould would help prevent SBS. During our research with Rob Mills Architecture & Interiors on healthy interiors for the Fawkner House, we found that one of the best ways to prevent mould is through proper air ventilation. When an interior space is carefully designed with cross-ventilation in mind, humidity in the air is allowed to escape, which lowers the chances of mould from growing.

By placing windows strategically to ensure cross-ventilation, humidity generated from our daily activities is allowed to escape.

Activities such as taking a hot shower, boiling a kettle and even breathing adds humidity into the air.

Not only do large operable windows help promote ventilation, it also draws fresh air into the space. Hence, lush landscaping invested around the openings not only block traffic pollutants from seeping indoors but also creates the conditions for fresh air to circulate indoors. Aside from these air benefits, they also bring in direct sunlight.

Another way to circumvent SBS is to provide ample opportunity for sunlight to fill the space.

Since mould requires darkness to grow, flooding the interior space with natural light is the best defence against an unhealthy environment. Again, this is where large windows, and even skylights, helps to create the conditions of a healthy living space.

While sealing an interior space helps to maintain energy efficiency, make sure that they are filled with lots of light and have operable windows to promote ventilation. This will help create a healthy living environment for you.

 

  • Transformed thinking into action

Here at Beulah, our projects are driven by investigating thinking and the pursuit for design and research innovation. Through these insights, we create transformational spaces and experience for present and future generations.

We transform this thinking into action for Fawkner House.

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