Green and Healthy Homes: Better Living Through Green Design

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dad and baby healthy homeOver the next while, we’ll look at what makes healthy homes. How does a home get unhealthy? How does that affect us? We’ll look for tips on achieving healthiness around your house, ways to simplify cleaning, what to look for with toxic environments, and more.

Unhealthy homes cause everything from depression and asthma to skin conditions and cancers. That’s not an attempt to spread panic or fear, it’s simply something we’re learning is more true every year. Green and healthy homes, of course, have the opposite effect. From breathing easier to fewer headaches, the greening of the modern home has far more than just Earth-friendly benefits.

Home is where the health is

It doesn’t matter how old or how new your home is — there are conditions that can be unhealthy no matter what era its construction or renovations may be from.

Whether it’s old building supplies we now know to be unhealthy (like asbestos and lead paint) or it’s a new product that hasn’t had enough real-world testing, or it can be poor construction methods or improper use, there are all kinds of factors behind homes being made, or becoming, unhealthy.

I’ve learned through personal experience what it’s like when a home turns against you. We have much to learn about environmental triggers and their impact. It’s a powerful quality-of-life factor, and here at Build Direct, we think it’s important to learn more about how we can live a healthy life just by where we live and what we surround ourselves with.

Cause and effect: The realities of design

When my editor assigned the topic of “green and healthy homes,” and suggested it could be a series, I realized how far-ranging the topic really is, and that’s why we’re not stopping with just one article on the subject.

When we talk about healthy homes, we’re really talking about two matters. One is “environmental illness,” which can be induced by anything from cleaning products used through to suffering a lack of natural light. The second is “sick building syndrome.” This is when design, construction, conditions, or materials lead to illness symptoms. In this case, there’s often no discernible cause — just something’s not right and it affects the sufferer.

All manner of environmental tests and experts exist in the world. Want to have mold experts test your air? Or carbon dioxide monitoring? Want to get paint scrapings done to see if there’s lead in that flaking paint? You could spend thousands on searching for causes to environmental issues, if they’re affecting you enough, and in some cases, it’s probably wise to bring in folks who can scientifically ascertain what’s going on. Know who your experts are, get references, and be sure they’re not just hawking hocus-pocus instead of giving you the real-deal science of things.

Bluntly put, we won’t be getting into the heavy-duty stuff, since that affects fewer people but it’s also the kind of thing you shouldn’t be turning to the internet to get advice. After all, the internet doesn’t know your specifics, and you might not even fully understand them, so don’t speculate — investigate.

A world of topics

During our series, we’ll take at look in coming weeks at broad-stroke subjects like:

  • Childhood illnesses that can be influenced by at-home environments (and/or schools)
  • How your day job could be making you sick at home
  • Why de-cluttering is the most important thing you can do for your home’s health
  • Construction products for your kitchen and home that can help keep you healthy
  • How architectural design can impact your home’s healthfulness
  • A priority list to keep in mind for healthy home choices in renovations
  • Mold: How it develops, how to fight it, and when to realize it’s a serious issue
  • Cleaning Products: Your definition of “clean” might be your problem
  • The simplest cleaning & organizing steps to take for a healthier home

We know, it’s a big world of environmental considerations out there, so we ask you: Are there specific conditions you’d like to see us talk about as this series progresses?

Until we can tackle all these topics, let’s state the obvious in the short-term: The most important thing for a healthy home is keeping it clean. The more open spaces you have, the easier it is to clean off surfaces, the simpler it is to stay on top of dust, allergens, pollutants, contaminants, and more. Obviously the products you clean with are important. If you ever cough, have watery eyes, or get itchy eyes/throat, you may be using too harsh of a product and “cleaning” your home could be part of the problem.

Stay tuned to Build Direct: Green Blog as we take a look deeper at what’s making you healthy — or sick — around your home, and don’t hesitate to ask.


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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.