Why doctors order natural houses?
Toxic building causing health problems are wide but some to mention they can come in forms of problems that got to do with how organ system is functioning. Problems can be in cells, nerves and alveolus causing problems in lungs, eyes, nose and metabolism. The infection can cause, asthma, coffin and reduced fertility. After exposure, some people get over the symptoms after few weeks but some may never visit any infected spaces without having immediate symptoms. A lot of attention is in the forms of diseases and how to treat them, but preventing these symptoms to happen in the first place is wiser than dealing with the infected situations.
Why aren´t all buildings designed with health principles?
Building give feedback to their users slowly over tens of years and many buildings that are designed after 1960 have started to show that new doesn’t always mean better. The amount of building materials has suddenly raised from a few to hundreds, but the hundreds of years-old buildings, that are not ruined with wrong kind of renovation are the ones we can truly examine and find out what is working and it seems that less is more. As more information about healthy environments have been studied and findings are shaping the evolution of how new buildings are built, unfortunately the change is slow and toxic building materials are still being used today. There is nothing more frustrating and absurd than designing buildings that are going to be demolished or renovated after a short time. These buildings with legal building permission granted are still built today. The health as a value has become more valuable after people have been getting sick at work or at home. Though these situations could have been prevented with proper design. Now in Finland there is a boom to build schools made from logs because it is considered the healthiest and most suitable option to build because of the existing industry and craftsmanship.
Why is wood so good option?
In Finland, the wood industry is running strong. As there is a lot of forest to cut, using wood is a natural choice. The market offers VLT, CLT (vertical or cross laminated timber) and non-settling logs which consist of pieces of wood glued together. Time has shown that a simple single-material is the best option for external walls to have certainty of how the material works with atmospheric pressure and humid differences. Complicated combinations and processed materials are harder to control when the aim is to prevent hazardous toxins to form. With log or CLT, you get an exterior wall made of a single material that also works as insulation. A good air quality needs a specific humidity for good microbes to live and wood can provide that. Wood stabilises the humidity inside a building, when the air is humid, it absorbs more humidity in and in dry conditions wood releases more humidity to air. Even if laminated log and CLT layers are laminated using grid gluing method, the humidity in typical Finnish spruce moves in and out between 40mm depth from the inner or outer surface making it a fairly safe option. However, there are more reliable additive free solutions where the glue has been replaced. In Germany, there is Brettstapel, an option with beech screwsand in Finland Aalto haitek with metal screws.
What other options are out there?
Using wood works in Finland now but in other areas it may be a scarce recourse making it an unethical choice. For some sensitive people coniferous tree environments can also cause mucosa problems because of the evaporations of Alpha-pinene which also gives you the good smell of fresh wood. Some people love it and some get infected by it.
It is wise to use the material that can be found near the building site. Depending on the location, service providers and preferred qualities the best option could be hemp concrete with wooden frame, cane, straw house with limestone rendering or single material clay bricks. Things to consider are, how long is the building time and what equipment and skills are required to execute the work? In areas where the building industry is building with toxic methods, there is a demand for skilled builders and material providers to provide their qualified services.
Also, maintaining the building is an important part of the quality. You should avoid chemicals with wetting agents that are lowering the surface tension making the drop size smaller. This gives the liquid long-lasting quality when used but at the same time it produces toxic fog that enters the body through breathing, eyes and touch. This ingredient unfortunately exists in many paints and cleaning products. Also, avoid leave-on liquids where the chemicals are not washed but left at the cleaned surface, use rinse-off ones instead.
What materials to avoid?
Due to the large amount of avoidable materials, it would be easier to write about the recommended ones, but here are few of popular building materials to avoid,
Gypsum– Even if gypsum board has good acoustic qualities, it has several biocide resistant mould germs that produce mycotoxins. Germs are embedded in the gypsum board already when you buy it from a shop. Gypsum board is a common material used in interior walls and ceiling of dry places and bathrooms. If gypsum gets wet, it starts to spread toxic sulphur dioxide and therefore should be avoided.
Concrete– today most concrete contains toxic chemicals, so it should only be used mainly for foundation, not inside a building. Pure and dry concrete with controlled ingredients is safe to use but hard to find.
Plastic in variety range of uses, vapour barrier, vinyl flooring, plastic paint…
On top of all the bad chemicals plastic includes, it forms a layer gathering humidity and becomes a favourable platform for growing mould.
On top of these, the combination of these materials can become even more harmful cocktail. The combination of concrete slab and plastic flooring on top of it has caused VOC (Volatile organic compound) emissions, such as 2-ethylhexanol and C9 alcohol causing health problems.
More than just materials
However just the material is not enough to make the building healthy. The way of building can ruin the good intent if the big picture hasn’t been considered. Starting from the foundation, the best option is to build on pillars or with ventilated base floor to avoid radon and humidity to enter the building. Founding using slab on grade method should be avoided. Proper massing and placing of the building with proper ventilation and sun light access to kill harmful bacteria should also be designed and however natural it all is, it shouldn’t look like a building with curvy reliefs from The Lord of the Rings.