Tenets of a healthy home

This stun­ning Ora­tia home was built in line with the prin­ci­ples of build­ing bi­ol­ogy and ecol­ogy.

Element - - Architecture Feature - By Jo­hann Bern­hardt

When the Build­ing Bi­ol­ogy and Ecol­ogy In­sti­tute (BBE) set up shop in New Zealand in 1990 it added an­other di­men­sion to the ex­ist­ing eco build­ing ap­proach, tak­ing into ac­count the bi­o­log­i­cal ef­fects of the build­ings we live in. So what is the dis­tinc­tion be­tween bi­ol­ogy and ecol­ogy all about? In a nut­shell it is about the twofold im­pact of build­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment (ecol­ogy) and on the health of peo­ple (bi­ol­ogy).

The prin­ci­ples of build­ing bi­ol­ogy and ecol­ogy have been in­cor­po­rated as much as pos­si­ble in the Ora­tia house fea­tured here. The chal­lenge in the de­sign of this home was to en­able three gen­er­a­tions to com­fort­ably share the space by pro­vid­ing a 3-bed­room home and a mi­nor dwelling to be used sep­a­rately and/or com­mu­nally.

With re­gards to cre­at­ing a health­ier in­door en­vi­ron­ment the fun­da­men­tal de­sign choice was pas­sive so­lar de­sign with large, north-fac­ing join­ery, pro­vi­sion of ther­mal mass (con­crete) and a high level of in­su­la­tion (140mm thick walls, dou­ble glaz­ing) as it helps cre­ate a rel­a­tively balanced am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture level through­out the year. In or­der to pre­vent over­heat­ing in sum­mer shad­ing de­vices are in­cor­po­rated in the roof de­sign to the north and the use of clerestory win­dows fa­cil­i­tates a good air flow and ven­ti­la­tion by us­ing the stack ef­fect where ris­ing warm air draws in cooler air from a shady side of the house. The dou­ble garage is po­si­tioned to the south of the house as a buf­fer to the pre­vail­ing cold south­west­erly win­ter winds.

With the de­sign pro­vid­ing for nat­u­ral so­lar heat in win­ter, nat­u­ral air flow for ven­ti­la­tion in sum­mer, am­ple nat­u­ral light and a dry and warm in­te­rior the ba­sics of health­ier liv­ing con­di­tions were in place. Min­imis­ing the gen­er­a­tion of pol­lu­tants re­mained to be looked at.

Low VOC in­te­rior fin­ishes for walls and floor­ing are the ma­jor items in re­spect of cut­ting down on toxic out-gassing. The use of PVC items has been min­imised.

The con­tin­u­ously warm and dry in­te­rior dur­ing win­ter means there is no suit­able en­vi­ron­ment for the growth of mould and mildew.

Ex­posed tim­ber floor­ing (plan­ta­tion grown eu­ca­lyp­tus saligna) has been used in ad­di­tion to the con­crete floor slab, which cuts down on dust and makes for easy clean­ing.

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