Improve Our Health

Inside a Kyoto home.  This detail displays the Japanese craft of keeping wood and clay together -- a tricky trick.

Inside a beautifully detailed, healthy home in Kyoto

Healthy buildings help make healthy people.

What do you mean, healthy buildings?  Angela Francis explains:

The primary differentiation between the healthy buildings we, the natural building community, strive for, and the standard in conventional building lies in the structure’s breathability.  In conventional construction, the aim is to seal the building up as much as possible, to wrap it in plastic and plug all the leaks.   Yet, even if we succeed in the goal of keeping the moisture out, the simple fact is that we create moisture inside.  We exhale. We make tea. We take showers.  By creating a situation where moisture is trapped, we set ourselves up for a loosing battle against stagnant dampness. This results in a stagnant, moldy environment, which is not healthy. Just to keep such a space functional, we have to add artificial energy systems. But these costly heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems don’t necessarily make a home or office safe.

Ill buildings make their inhabitants ill. We all know about sick building syndrome by now.   Architecture has power. Too often, those powers are misguided and misused, or completely ignored. That is how we end up with building systems and materials that make us sick.

If architecture has the power to make us ill, then conversely, with a good design and with appropriate building materials, it should have the power to make us well.

Earth buildings (buildings made out of clay/sand/straw, wood, stone — natural, dynamic materials) are naturally and constantly regulating the temperature and moisture levels between inside and outside.  In the natural building world, this is referred to as “Breathing.”

Clothes are often referred to as our second skin. In that case, buildings are our third.  Skin serves many functions — it regulates, absorbs, perspires, encloses, and protects.  Wrapping up our homes in Tyvek and latex paint is analogous to dressing it up in a polyester pantsuit. It would be very uncomfortable to wear a polyester pantsuit 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

The healthy and comfortable alternative is to build with earthen materials. Creating the most comfortable structure is best achieved through regarding your specific landscape.  In other words, the key is finding the right “outfit,” so that the building (and all the people dwelling inside) doesn’t feel like it’s wearing a miniskirt in a snow storm, or a wool sweater in the tropics. The materials, if placed appropriately, utilize the properties they naturally possess and, in the process, just happen to be keeping your home as comfortable as humanly possible.

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