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Environmental Health (Interiors)

The way we use a building can have just as much impact upon the health of people, as the way the building may have been designed, built, and furnished.

For Example:

  • Too many people inside a small, poorly ventilated room will soon use significant oxygen reserves and produce increased levels of carbon dioxide. Movement about the room may become difficult and the likelihood of accidents will increase.
  • Excessive use of cleaning chemicals, pesticides, or other toxic products can raise levels of toxins to a point where they become hazardous.
  • Failure to clean properly or often enough can result in increased pest or disease problems, impacting upon human health.
  • Passive smoking is now known to affect non-smokers who live or work in close proximity to smokers. In many countries smoking has been banned in many public buildings and places of work.
Ventilation

Consider the natural ventilation the home or building has and how it can be improved.   Options will depend upon the building type and can range from the very simple to more expensive solutions.

  • The simplest solution is to simply open more windows. To increase cross ventilation open windows on opposite sides of the house/room. This allows stale air to be replaced with fresh air. It may be necessary to include insect screening on windows that are open regularly. In addition, this may depend upon the location of your building; in inner city or industrialised areas for example, pollution and poor air quality may mean this is not an option. Alternatives include air ducts, air vents and diffusion through walls.
  • Remove sources of the pollution where possible; for example, in offices, do not locate printer exhaust ports where they may be directed toward staff, also replace traditional chemical cleaners with non-toxic and unfragranced alternatives.
  • The installation of ceiling fans will also increase movement of air around the building. This is also a cheaper way of cooling buildings in warm climates.
  • Installation of a range hood above the cooking area especially for gas stoves which produce nitrogen dioxide.
  • Another very effective method is an Indoor Air Purifier. These are essentially large air filters that are highly effective for people with asthma, and respiratory illnesses.
Temperature

Indoor temperature control can have a large impact on human comfort and stress levels.  Consideration needs to be given to how best to manage indoor temperatures. The way in which this is achieved will be dependant upon local climatic conditions, the existing building and its aspect.  Air quality and indoor temperature control is closely related; in colder areas where buildings are shut against the elements to retain heat, indoor air quality is much poorer.

Consideration needs to be give to insulation and materials used for insulation. Temperature will also be affected by:

  • Seasonal variations.
  • Ceiling insulation.
  • Under floor insulation.
  • Window awnings.
  • Use of blinds and curtains.
  • Window placements.

Windows and doors provide a means for letting fresh air into a room, or controlling the fluctuation of temperature. They can also be used to prevent undesirable ‘things’ from entering the inside of a building. Reflective films on windows can reduce heat radiation, whilst also enabling internal temperature control systems to perform more effectively.

Doors inside a building can be used to close off sections of a building in order to regulate temperature fluctuation, air flow, etc.

Curtains and blinds provide a way of controlling light levels, regulating temperature, and to some extent regulating ventilation (i.e. air movement) inside a building. When used properly, they will keep a room cooler on hot days and warmer on cold nights. They can also be used to help optimise growing conditions for indoor plants.

Cleanliness

Regular cleaning will remove allergens, disease organisms, and other unwanted materials from a building before they build to a level where the impact on health becomes significant.  Some cleaning methods can however create more problems than they solve. It is important to be selective in choosing how to clean, not just when to clean.

Many modern cleaning products contain undesirable chemicals. There are however safe alternatives. Dusting can stir up fine particles and cause them to remain suspended in air for long periods.

  • Check for cleaning chemicals and habits that can lead to a decline in indoor air quality.
  • Dispose safely of unwanted chemicals.
  • Replace with non-toxic cleaning products.

Mould fungi can survive in a wide range of temperature and humidity’s.  Consideration needs to be given to ventilation (air flow, extractor fans) and temperature control in mould prone areas.

Electricity

Electricity is a necessity in any modern home, but the way it is managed can create increased problems with electromagnetic radiation.

  • If you sleep on a water bed, turn off the power to the heater over night, to reduce electro magnetic radiation exposure for prolonged periods.
  • Do not leave appliances plugged in and switched on at the wall when they are not being used.
  • Do not use long extension leads if this can be avoided - be mindful of where leads are being placed and the electro magnetic radiation which they may cause.

Other Issues

There are a great many other areas to consider, including building acoustics, the use of chemicals in paints and glues inside a house, and the impact of domestic pets, insects and other animals.

You can learn more about healthy buildings with our Health Buildings courses. Healthy Buildings I focusses on the construction of buildings, whilst Healthy Buildings II looks at the building environment and health. The courses are studied by distance learning and can be started at any time. They will be of interest to builders, designers, consultants, or project workers, or those who are looking to design and develop their own home.

Our courses have been developed by highly qualified experts with extensive real world experience. If you have any questions or would like to know more about any of our courses, get in touch with our highly knowledgeable tutors today. They will be happy to answer any questions and outline different options for study to meet with your goals. 

 

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