How to make a sick build­ing healthy

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - East Kent Property - - County Briefing -

When it comes to g reen liv­ing, the Ger­mans are light years ahead of the Brits. Slowly, like tod­dlers be­ing dragged to the doc­tor, the UK is mov­ing to­wards more en­erg y-ef­fi­cient homes, while Ger­many swal­lowed its medicine long ago. Ger­many has fab­u­lous in­cen­tives for g reen home im­prove­ments, to say noth­ing of its sup­por t for re­new­ables. Com­pare this to g rubby old Blighty, where mil­lions don’t even have de­cent in­su­la­tion. But this means we can learn a lot from the Ger­man ex­pe­ri­ence of what it’s like to live in an eco-friendly build­ing. So once we “power down” our homes and sor t out en­erg y leak­age, what next? One is­sue that has emerged in Ger­many is the ef­fect on hu­man well-be­ing of the build­ings we live in. They even have a term for the study of it – Baubi­olo­gie, or build­ing bi­olog y. Iron­i­cally, its roots lie in the im­proved ef­fi­ciency of mod­ern construction. As homes be­come more air tight, they deny their in­hab­i­tants fresh air and in­crease ex­po­sure to tox­ins in the build­ing’s fab­ric. Such think­ing has been used to ex­plain the emer­gence of sick build­ing syn­drome, var­i­ous al­ler­genic re­ac­tions and re­cent in­creases in asthma and res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases. The re­sult is to em­pha­sise healthy construction – a home that is good for you as well as the en­vi­ron­ment. It is safe to say the pub­lic has some ap­pre­ci­a­tion of po­ten­tial prob­lems from hu­mid­ity, harm­ful chem­i­cals and lack of fresh air. In the UK, there is also a g row­ing aware­ness of chem­i­cal pol­lu­tants that might find their way into the home, from harm­ful gases in paint known as volatile or­ganic com­pounds to flame re­tar­dants in fur­nish­ings. De­sign-build com­pany Baufritz’s an­swer to hu­mid­ity, tox­ins and lack of oxy­gen is to de­sign homes with a breath­able skin, a mod­ern equiv­a­lent to deal­ing with mois­ture that stretches back cen­turies, and me­chan­i­cally con­trolled win­dows that open and close ac­cord­ing to the in­ter­nal air qual­ity, and a cen­tral ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem. The Build­ing Re­search Es­tab­lish­ment (BRE) says it is keen to do more re­search into the idea of a healthy home, but is not aware of any body of in­for­ma­tion on the sub­ject. To this end, the Prince’s Foun­da­tion for the Built En­vi­ron­ment is build­ing a state-of-the-ar t house from nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als at the BRE’s In­no­va­tion Park near Wat­ford, the site for a hand­ful of show homes demon­strat­ing the lat­est ideas in sus­tain­able liv­ing. A BRE spokesman said: “Re­search will ex­am­ine the im­pact of nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als on air qual­ity, on al­lerg y re­sis­tance and on gen­eral sense of well-be­ing.” There will be more g reen ideas at the Grand De­signs Live ex­hi­bi­tion at Lon­don’s Ex­cel from April 25 to May 4. For de­tails see www.g rand­de­signslive.com

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