Solving one problem can sometimes cause another. It’s the law of unintended consequences.
One very good example is the way energy efficient design led to some changes in building practices, and the result has been a growth in the number of buildings that cause ill health.
Before the 1970s, no one gave much thought to energy efficiency. People designed brick or wooden houses, installed a fireplace or heating system, and simply turned up the heat when cold weather struck.
Then the price of energy skyrocketed, smoky fires went out of fashion, and new buildings were designed to trap heat indoors. The result was a building envelope specified to be as airtight as possible. Perhaps the only form of ventilation allowed was a few bathroom extractor fans.
This approach saved energy but generated a whole new set of problems.
The poorly ventilated conditions inside many modern buildings provide perfect growing conditions for fungal varieties such as stachybotrys. The spores from this common mould have been shown to cause headaches, watery eyes and respiratory disease.
Fungus and fumes
As well as keeping moisture trapped indoors, modern buildings may encourage the build-up of fumes from paint, furnishings and technology. Photocopiers and printers, paint and varnish, caulking compounds and adhesives – these can all create a toxic cocktail in the air.
The principal suspect is a group of chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These are a large group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. While most people can smell high levels of some VOCs, other VOCs have no odour.
Breathing low levels of VOCs over long periods of time may increase some people’s risk of health problems. Some studies suggest that exposure to VOCs may make symptoms worse in people who have asthma or are particularly sensitive to chemicals. The outcome may be ear, nose and throat irritation, nausea or worse.
The best way to deal with problems in the air is to change the air you breathe.
Ventilation is your best protection
An efficient home ventilation system will completely replace the air inside your house two to three times an hour. It works silently in the background, filtering air from your ceiling space and pumping it into your rooms. By creating positive air pressure inside the house, stale air, moisture, spores and chemicals are forced outside.
Energy efficient design is here to stay. It keeps heat inside for a warm and comfortable life with lower fuel bills. All you have to do is add a modern air ventilation system, and your home will be healthy as well as warm.