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Building & Renovating – Going Beyond Green

By Narelle Haw, Building Biologist and Feng Shui Practitioner

Sustainable Living or should we say Healthy and Sustainable Living, is a concept that takes our homes beyond the popular “green” initiatives and to ensure that your home  is NOT  built from; contain; or requires any substance that has the potential to harm the health or wellbeing of its occupants or the overall ecology of the planet itself.

Why is this important you ask? 

Well, we spend more than 90% of our time indoors. It is essential we create spaces that nurture and support both our health and wellbeing.

In the name of “energy efficiency” we are seeing homes built using hard dense materials for “thermal mass”; that are sealed up against the elements to preserve fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint. While admirable, these practices have resulted in our homes becoming air-tight – unable to breathe and the levels of indoor air pollutants found in our homes rising.

Some of the most common symptoms associated with poor indoor air quality include coughing, wheezing, asthma, nasal congestion, headaches, lethargy, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

According to the CSIRO, occupants of new homes may be exposed to up to 20 times the maximum allowable limits of indoor air toxics. 

Their research found that pollutants were found to be at their highest during constructions showing any materials used in building homes are significant sources of indoor air toxins.  In some cases, traces of known carcinogens were found to still be present up to 12 months after construction.  We need to ensure that when choosing building materials that we are not only considering the best for the planet, but also what is going to provide us with the best internal environment as well.  Some common building materials known to have associated health issues and/or have grave consequences on the environment include; paints, solvents and adhesives; MDF and some other  wood based panels; PVC, vinyl cladding and polystyrene.

Recommended building materials are ones which are natural; allowing your home to breathe; absorbing and releasing moisture as necessary; capable of filtering out air pollutants and releasing clean air into your home.  

So, design your home to breathe – able to eliminate any built up toxins on a day to day basis; definitely use passive heating and cooling principles making and seek guidance for limiting your electromagnetic field exposure to ensure you are designing a home that is healthy for you, your family and the environment.