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Category: Healthy House June 4th, 2007 by mbc

Our comfort zone, in terms of the optimum temperature within our healthy home, lies somewhere between 15 & 25 Degrees Celsius. The exact temperature will vary dependant upon a number of variables, which include surface temperatures, moisture in the air, movement of the air and the nature of any heat emitted in the environment.

To maintain the optimum temperature we must obviously consider both heating and cooling:

At its simplest, cooling of the occupants of a building can be achieved through appropriate positioning of the occupants, provision of opening windows and the employment of fans.

The thermal mass of a room, as defined by the mass of the dense structural elements of the room can be utilised in passively cooling air temperature during the day. Heat will flow from the warm air into the cooler structural elements, reducing air temperature by up to 3 degrees Celsius. The system must be reset over night by ventilating the structure with cooler night air and in doing so reducing the temperature of the thermal mass.

Mechanical cooling options are extensive, but are difficult to justify on green or sustainable grounds and are thus considered beyond the scope of this article.

Garden design can assist in keeping property temperatures in check – carefully placed deciduous trees can block up to 90% of the suns rays in the Summer and even when bare of leaves in the Winter up to 50% or so. Similarly, climbing plants will provide additional shade. A well planted garden will have a cooling effect brought about by transpiration from the leaves of plants.

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Category: Healthy House May 30th, 2007 by mbc

There is a growing body of research that suggests that exposure to electric & electromagnetic fields especially from high voltage sources may be detrimental to health.

Electric fields are produced wherever and whenever there is a flow of voltage. This occurs through any electric cable or appliance even when it is switched off.

Electromagnetic fields are only present where current is flowing and the appliance is switched on. It is electromagnetic field pollution (EMF’s) that is of most concern. EMF’s have been linked with many health concerns, including, immune system disorders, cancers, leukaemia, depression & allergies.

Distance is the easiest way to avoid these fields, but where this is not possible, electrical cables can be shielded with metal trunking to prevent electric fields. Electro-magnetic fields are more difficult to combat requiring clever well design electrical wiring – radial rather than ring wiring being one potentially effective approach.

Clever design (for example, keep electrical cables as far as possible from the sleeping, seating areas etc. ) combined with protective measures can be incorporated into a build to minimise the potential harmful effects of electromagnetic field pollution.

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Category: Healthy House May 30th, 2007 by mbc

The field of psychology recognises the affect that colour has upon us, not merely as a matter of subjectively favouring certain colours, but in terms of our base characteristics & responses.

…Dr Ashley felt that colo(u)r has a great deal to do with the well-being of the emotionally disturbed.

Nurse Diesel, High Anxiety, Directed by Mel Brooks 1977.

Instinctively, we are programmed to respond to colour in certain ways. Grey is associated with the descent into winter and associated hardship, green with fertility and plenty, blue with the cooling, powerful waters…

Of course these associations are not as simple and linear as I suggest here. They are complex, multi-faceted and adjusted by personal, geographical and spiritual experience.

Mighty forces that need to be handled carefully & with sensitivity – colour should be treated as a central design concern the building of our healthy house.

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Allergy Free

Category: Healthy House May 28th, 2007 by mbc

An allergy is a hypersensitivity to what are normally innocuous entities such as certain foodstuffs, cleaning products, dust, plant pollen and so on. Whilst debate over the scale, change in scale and root causes of people suffering from allergies is beyond the scope of this article, consideration of how to minimise the impact of allergens on the inhabitants a healthy house is. So, what steps can we take in the design and construction of our buildings to minimise the risk from allergens?

For a start, we can consider the minimisation of those factors that we have already considered under Air Quality.

Minimise dust. Use timber and tiled flooring, use closed storage rather than open storage.

Be aware of the seasons. Keep the house well ventilated and be aware of the pollen seasons and minimise the exposure of those who suffer with hay fever during them. Pollen levels are at their worst in the early morning and evening during pollen season so try to keep windows closed at these times.

Ventilation. To ensure minimal mould growth, keep the house well ventilated and manage humidity levels. Where mould grows, try to use vinegar or lemon juice based cleaning agents rather than chemical ones. In modern well insulated homes, the ability to ventilate properly is a major design consideration.

Pets. Minimise the potential impact of pets by grooming them regularly outdoors, keeping them and their bedding clean and minimising their contact with soft furnishings and carpets to which hairs and associated allergens may cling.

Through apropriate selection of the materials used in the construction and maintenance of our buildings and informed housekeeping practices we are able to minimise and to some degree manage the allergens within our home environment.

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Air Quality

Category: Healthy House May 20th, 2007 by mbc

Air quality is determined by the composition of the volume of air under consideration. Generally, the normal composition of air is 78% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, trace amounts of other gases, and around 1% water vapour. Substances not naturally found in the air or found in the air at higher than usual concentrations are pollutants which are detrimental to air quality.

In healthy house terms, we are interested in indoor air quality; a lack of ventilation can concentrate indoor air pollution and our living patterns bring about prolonged exposure to pollution. So what pollutants are we at risk from?

Radon is a gas that in certain regions (especially those where granite bedrock predominates), emanates naturally from the Earth. It is a carcinogen, wherein the risk to health lies. Researchers have estimated that radon in the home causes approximately 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the European Union each year, around about 1,000 of those in the UK. [Ref: BBC News]
As it exudes from the ground it can become trapped inside the sealed envelope of a building and increase in concentration. Where there is a significant risk from radon emissions, the risk is usually mitigated through the employment of a radon barrier as part of the floor construction.

Formaldehyde (the stuff used in embalming), which is toxic to humans in high concentrations, can be emitted from building materials such as plywood and foam insulations and furnishings such as carpeting. Minimising the use of such materials will mitigate the risk.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can be introduced through selection of certain products. Within and around the home, common artificial sources of VOCs include paint thinners, dry cleaning solvents, wood preservatives and petroleum fuels. The nature of the risk varies inline with the exact compound; they are variously carcinogenic or causative of respiratory problems. It is also important to note that VOCs are a significant outdoor air pollutant and contribute to global warming.

Although no longer produced, the lead in lead based paints can degenerate into dust and be inhaled. Lead is poisonous and can cause damage nerve connections.

Air pollution can also be introduced intentionally, the use of air fresheners, burnt incense, scented cleaning items all add foreign bodies to the air breathed within the home. Similarly, open fires, wood-burning stoves and other non-sealed carbon fuelled heat sources can smoke particulates to the air, both inside and out.

Also related to carbon fuelled heating systems, carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and lethal gas, poisoning from which is often caused by faulty ventilation and chimneys.

A further concept of interest is that of Indoor Surface Pollution (ISP). ISP is defined by reference to the Fleece Factor – the area of the building that is carpeted, curtained and in other ways clothed with fabric and the Shelf Factor – the area of open shelving or other storage in the building. By consideration of these, in relation to the people and pets that reside within the space and the nature and frequency of cleaning we can begin to gain an appreciation of the nature and quantity of air-borne microscopic particles, potential effects of these and methods for minimising them.

Many of these pollutants can be introduced during construction of the building; therefore, we should allow a new build to air out for a period of perhaps 2-4 weeks prior to occupation.

The reduction of air pollutants and associated quality of the air are factors over which we have control through the choices made when designing, building, maintaining and living in our homes.

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Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter…

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

I love the interior of this conversion and the great use of horizontal slats on this conversion. I retains the essential ‘barnyness’ of the building… flemish-barn-by-arend-groenewegen-architect

Coming soon, my barn conversion guide… Interesting earthship greenhouse project on Kickstarter

I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“. If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by… It’s already funded so I […]


Barns Gallery on Remodelista

There is a lovely gallery of barn related inspirational photographs available on Remodelista.

Barns – the Long House

Situated on the North Norfolk coast, this is a building to admire…

Barns – the Balancing Barn

A stunning piece of architecture, although not entirely to my taste…

New fast-track planning permission for the development of barns proposed

The Daily Mail reports on a new fast-track route through planning controls for the conversion of barns…

De-assembled, re-assembled, re-cycled barns

“A bit like a private sector, modernising, repurposing St Fagan’s…”


What is a shadow gap?

A shadow gap – a mysterious dark place between two plains…

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety


Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

The Stirling prize 2012 winner – the Sainsbury Laboratory

The 2012 Stirling prize was won by a outsider, the Sainsbury Laboratory…

The Stirling prize 2012

I think that this years Stirling prize has some exciting projects on the shortlist…

Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

The efficient, shiny world of construction in 1923…

Design in Storage

When designing a layout it’s easy to forget to plan for storage…


Green Deal slow beginnings?

Oh dear! The green deal hasn’t got off to a very auspicious start… As reported in the Telegraph today since it was launched nearly a year ago just 12 homes have taken advantage of the Green Deal with a few hundred more in the pipeline. 71,210 households had been assessed for Green Deal measures such […]

The property roller coaster – planning reform to be rethought

Eric Pickles vague compromise on planning reform keeps the house happy (for now).

Energy policy, smoke screens, fracking, confusion and big bucks

There seems to be only one thing that is certain in the world of energy policy and that is that costs will rise annually above and beyond anything that inflation can currently throw at us. Beyond that, smoke screens & confusion seem to reign. Take the recent news for example… It’s reported today that the […]

Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on the green belt…

Green Deal Launch

The Green deal launched in the UK on Monday of this week. Fanfares? fireworks? a deluge of marketing? … read more …

Plaid Cymru’s Green New Deal promise

The leader of Plaid Cymru has promised a “Green New Deal” to rejuvenate the Welsh economy and help maintain Wales’ position at the forefront of Green policies.

Permitted development extension limits to be doubled

The government is due to announce a temporary increase in the maximum depth of extensions that can be built under permitted development rules.

Lloyd Khan, making shelter simple.

I wanted to share an interview with Lloyd Khan that I recently found…

Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

Sustainable development – with the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

While reading up on the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) I came across this quote from Sir Patrick Abercrombie…