It is not enough for your home to be a visually appealing shelter crafted from brick and mortar. It must also be suited for healthy living. This means, the materials which go into building the house, the paint, the furnishing and the decor accessories must not make you sick or pollute the air you breathe indoors.
Healthy building is all about using materials or chemicals which are non-toxic, non-allergic, non-carcinogenic and as eco-friendly as possible. This sustainable concept can not only help you live a long, disease-free life, but also increase your physical and mental productivity. And if you have children, elderly family members or pets at home, then you have every reason to keep your abode healthy.
Different building science based strategies are usually employed by construction professionals to set up a house, which is the perfect nurturing haven for its inhabitants. But we understand that it may not be possible to get everything done, on a short notice. So, here we show you how taking care of the little things can also transform the aura of your house, and allow positive energy to permeate your interiors.
Apart from eco-friendly plasters, paints or lacquers for walls and ceilings should also be chosen with care. Pick paints which are either low in VOC or completely free from VOC, to avoid breathing in noxious fumes. And the good news is, such options are currently available in myriad shades and textures. So you don’t have to compromise on the aesthetics of your abode in any way.
Some of the low or zero VOC paints may also contain anti-microbial ingredients, which can effectively attack the growth of mould or mildew. In case you don’t mind the lack of abundant variety in colours, organic paints like milk paints can be a “green” choice for your home too. These comprise of biodegradable ingredients like minerals and milk proteins, and can give your walls a classic, traditional appearance.
It is needless to emphasize that floors constitute a major part of your house. So it is important to consider the pros and cons of what you use to cover it. Carpets may attract dirt and allergens which can affect asthma patients, or they may contain chemicals which contaminate the air inside the house. Certain floor finishes may also pose the same problem.
As a healthy alternative, you can go for low VOC (volatile organic compounds) carpets featuring labels or certifications, which indicate they are environment-friendly. Carpets fabricated from natural fibres like cotton, jute, wool, linen, coir or sea grass are also good options. For flooring, you can opt for materials like wood, cork, bamboo, natural linoleum or even concrete. Also, try using low VOC or no VOC finishes, adhesives and sealants for floors.
Plaster as you know, is extensively used as a protective and decorative coating for walls and ceilings. It is lightweight, durable, fire resistant, and can be moulded into any shape. Observe the gorgeous ceiling adornments pictured above, to realize the possibilities of this material. Also, plaster doesn’t shrink while setting, and provides a firm base for wall paints.
But please bear in mind that acrylic or silicone plasters are not breathable or healthy. So you can instead pick from environment friendly options such as gypsum plaster, lime plaster, cement plaster, and clay plasters. These are readily available, breathable, and they don’t emit harmful chemical vapours.
Straw bales are not only healthy and sustainable forms of thermal and acoustic insulation; they are inexpensive, easily available, and fire retardant too. You only have to make sure that the moisture levels are kept to a minimum, so that the straw doesn’t rot. For inspiration, take a look at this roof designed by Allmermacke, architects from Austria.
Other options for natural insulation include sheep’s wool, hemp, wood fibre and cellulose made from recycled newspaper. These are breathable, can reduce condensation levels, and can significantly improve indoor air quality. You will be able to reduce your negative carbon footprint, and won’t experience any eyes, skin or respiratory infections. Moreover, natural insulation materials can be conveniently decomposed and they don’t cause unnecessary landfill. So it’s time to bid adieu to oil-based insulation materials now, and welcome solutions which show that you care for our planet!
You may have heard of organizations like Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), or green building certification programs such as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design or LEED, in USA. These essentially offer recognition to structures which satisfy diverse aspects of healthy or ecologically sustainable building practices. In India too, the Indian Green Building Council or IGBC plays a similar role for both residential and commercial projects.
But it is not just buildings which can receive certifications. The different materials that go into putting it together, often come with such certifications too if they are eco-friendly. So whenever you buy plaster, paint, insulation material or floor coverings, make sure they feature some sort of label or certificate that enforces its quality. You can also ask the supplier or manufacturer about the detailed composition of each product, and its side effects if any.
The furnishing and decor items that you pick for your house should be as healthy as your floors and walls. Or else, the goal of achieving a non-toxic living can be futile. So for upholstered furniture, you can choose sofas which are covered with organic fabrics and stuffed with natural latex foam. Or go for wooden furniture with eco-friendly certifications.
Mattresses can be of organic wool, cotton or natural latex. Adorn your interiors with artefacts crafted from wood, metal, shells, bamboo and other natural items. Local artisanal stores or vintage shops often offer many pocket-friendly and tasteful options.
Avoid inflatable furniture, vinyl covers or artificial leather, since they may contain harmful phthalate based PVC. Furniture made of fibreboard, plywood or particleboard may also contain formaldehyde adhesives. Stay away from upholsteries which are marked as stain resistant. They may contain Teflon which may expose you to toxic chemicals.
So the path to healthy living is not so difficult after all, right? You just need to be a little aware of the natural alternatives for the things which surround your everyday life! Get in touch with an experienced architect, builder or interior designer to help you with the different ways you can introduce healthy living in your home. For more inspirations, take a look at this ideabook – 6 tips to a more eco-friendly home.