How green buildings keep us healthy
Green building techniques and materials not only save us money and the environment too, they can also save our lives. Green building practices are proving to be a healthy choice for home owners, business owners and educational institutions. Improved health means improved productivity, reduced absenteeism and a reduction of money spent on medical bills. People who live, work and learn in green buildings are simply healthier, happier and more productive.
A breath of fresh air
The air quality in buildings is far worse than the quality of air outdoors, even if you live in the city. Indoor air can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than outside air. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are mostly to blame. VOCs are harmful compounds that are released into the air and, when inhaled, negatively affect out health. Chemicals in the home are legion; medications, cleaning products, adhesives, formaldehyde in building material, damaging chemical fire retardants in carpets and furniture, mould, dirt and dust all contribute to poor air quality. Poor ventilation of older or over-insulated homes results in increased air pollution and all its resultant health problems. Homes painted before the 1960’s were often painted with lead based paints.
Researchers found that air pollution in schools cost Americans up to a billion dollars a year in medical costs. These costs stem from medical conditions such as asthma, autism, ADD, childhood cancers and lead/mercury exposure. Only 5 states have laws governing the use of toxic chemicals and materials in schools. Green cleaning products, air filters and adequate ventilation as well as environmentally friendly, chemical-free building materials can go a long way to reducing the toxins and chemicals in the places where children spend most of their time.
You can reduce the levels of VOCs in your home by using recycled and sustainable building materials that are registered as being chemical free. Green building techniques use materials that are certified to be free of harmful chemicals and do not emit VOCs. Furniture should be sustainable; free of toxic fire retardants or finishes. Use non-toxic cleaning products and get rid of chemicals in your home. Activities that require the use of chemicals or produce VOC’s should be done outdoors.
Wash bedding weekly to reduce dust mite populations. Leave shoes at the door and use a HEPA filter vacuum to remove dust from the carpets. Use air filters to keep air quality at an optimum. Keep your house free of mould by sealing up leaks and keeping humidity at 60 %. This can be done with the help of a dehumidifier.
Let the sunshine in
A lack of sunshine results in insufficient supplies of Vitamin D. This increases your chances of getting cancer by 70% and leads to a large number of diseases which result from low bone density and a suppressed immune system. A lack of natural light disturbs your circadian rhythms and their associated biochemical, behavioural and physiological processes.
Natural light increases concentration and improves mental health, increases happiness and reduces hyperactivity. Children who study in classrooms that are naturally lit have achieved scores up to 20% higher than their counterparts in dimly lit facilities. Modern green building techniques focus on utilizing natural light. Buildings are naturally lit and sunlight is used to heat buildings in the winter.
Potted plants can reduce stress in people and toxins in the air. A Washington State University study showed that people who shared a room with a floral friend had a 4-point drop in blood pressure. In a process called metabolic breakdown, plants are effectively able to absorb chemicals and break them down into harmless substances. Packing your home, office or classroom with potted plants will help to sharply reduce the number of VOCs in the air. Plant foliage is also able to reduce airborne microbes by up to 60%. Overwatering your plants can result in the formation of mould, but this can be prevented by watering sparingly or covering your plant’s soil with pebbles or gravel.
Green building techniques such as green roofs and indoor gardens help to incorporate plants into the home structure. Trees are used as wind breaks and deciduous plants provide shade to windows in the summer and lose their leaves to let the sun in during the cooler months.
A healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy home, healthy office and a healthy classroom. Choose the places where you and your family spend most of your time with care, or when your child says that school makes them sick, they may well be telling the truth.