Good Thing Architects
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Designing to Rebuild Our Health

In the last post we looked at the impact that internal environments in buildings can have upon our health. In particular we focused on the use of antibiotics – in the form of antibacterials – in many products that make our homes, community centres and places of work.

Following on from there, this post will take a look at some of the ways that we can begin to rebuild the inherent health of our indoor environments, and consequently our personal microbiomes, by using simple design strategies and taking greater personal ownership of the specification of building materials.

Natural air flow – This is just allowing all spaces, especially the ‘habitable’ spaces where you spend most of your time, to be freely and naturally ventilated by fish air from outside. In practical terms this can be achieved by active or passive means; by either temporarily opening windows and vents or using permanently open trickle ventilation. Studies have demonstrated that rooms with openable windows, rather than relying on mechanical heating and cooling, have air profiles that tend to have higher levels of soil-dwelling Methylobacterium.

Plants and nature – Plants are a repository of ancient DNA that aided our evolution, culture and well-being. We are hugely depend upon plants. It stands to reason that annexing our bodies from plants has a detrimental effect on our health. Happily, the opposite is true – that surrounding ourselves with plants is restorative. Consequently, we prefer a building design that promotes both active and passive contact with plants.

Above: Our Truss House project uses a series of interlocking internal and external spaces to improve the microbial profile of the air.

Avoiding fungal attack – We have all experienced buildings where mould grows on the walls in damp corners or behind cupboards. This is often the result of poor building design, namely a lack of appreciation for building physics. As a consequence, many building products that may come under fungal attack due to poor design, are impregnated with biocides. These biocides tend to be surface-present in order to be functional, and so are at risk of leaching, especially when they come into contact with water. To avoid this, we recommend taking a practical, simple, traditional and quality-controlled approach to junction details to avoid the problem arising and removing the use of biocides.

Materials specification – Much like a recipe gives the ingredients and measures for a pasta dish or a cake, we always write a recipe for our buildings. We call this a specification and it describes the qualities and types of materials that make the fabric of a building. So, for example, just as you wouldn’t put triclosan in your dinner, we won’t put it in our buildings. Simple.

The above strategies begin to direct us towards viewing our buildings as an extension of the natural world. By allowing microbe biodiversity in our buildings we begin to address the tyranny of monoculture internal environments that lead to illnesses and deplete our microbiomes. Building health = gut health.

In the next, and final post in this microbiome introduction series, we’ll wrap up everything into a concise guide.

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