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Sustainable Building Leads to Sustainable Health

Posted on June 16, 2015 by Rachel Davis There have been 0 comments

For several decades, people have been conscious of the importance of air flow and quality inside of buildings and the effects these things have on the health of the people living and working inside them.  Buildings with high-energy efficiency may seal in air, and many people work away from any source of natural light. This lack can lead to a variety of symptoms of poor health that are fairly common and may even sound familiar. Things like asthmatic symptoms, fatigue, nausea, headaches, difficulty concentrating—these can all be symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome. Different people may suffer a wide array of symptoms so it can be hard to diagnose whether or not a particular building is “sick,” but if you or your family suffer regularly from any of these, it is worth looking into.

What does this have to do with living green? Well, some designers and architects believe that through sustainable building practices, they can avoid Sick Building Syndrome in new buildings. There may be some things that can be done to help buildings that already suffer from it, as well.  Whether you are looking for a new home and want to look for signs that it will be “healthy” instead of “sick” or you want to try alleviating symptoms from your current home, there are things you can consider.

Healthy New Buildings

When designing new homes, there are several things architects and designers can do to avoid a sick building.  The type of materials used, the incorporation of natural lighting, and installation of windows that open and promote airflow are all things that can improve the air quality inside a new building. Some materials that promote healthier air include sustainable carpets, composite woods, and low-VOC paints. If you are looking for a new home, look for labels that indicate that the materials used to build the home are compliant with the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Program. The EPA provides a more detailed checklist for buyers to use as well.

Healing Old Buildings

When looking to alleviate symptoms such as runny noses, chest tightness, headaches, or any of the other connected symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome, there are many things a homeowner can do! Some things are very simple: open up windows and doors more often to encourage airflow and get rid of CO2 buildup from breathing as well as out-gassing from building materials; open blinds and let in natural light rather than overhead lighting whenever possible; put CO2 and toxin absorbing houseplants such as palms and peace lilies around your home. Other solutions are more time-consuming, but can be important factors in improving the air quality in your home: get your HVAC system, ducts and vents cleaned and upgraded if possible; replace older carpets with new, Carpet and Rug institute Green Label Certified carpets; remove older paints and re-paint using low- or no-VOC paints.

The Bottom Line

Increasingly, the responsibility to live cleanly and healthily is being brought home to builders and designers. New requirements and encouragement to follow green certification guidelines from the EPA means that new homes and buildings are increasingly touting their status as green homes. This is good news for consumers and for those who want to stay healthy, but ultimately, it is up to buyers and home and business owners to ensure that homes and businesses are safe for the people who spend so much time there.


This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Eco Home Improvement, Fighting Allergies, Green Living, The Air We Breathe and was tagged with ENERGY EFFICIENT, indoor air quality, low voc, NON-TOXIC

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