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Healthy Home Basics - The Holistic House

By HHI Staff

Over the years, many members of the medical profession have tended to specialize. There are doctors who concentrate on the lungs, others only deal with the brain, and some are devoted to the skin. As a result, their concentration of knowledge is in one narrow field, and they aren’t always very aware of developments in other specialties, or of how the different specialties interact.

 

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House construction has followed a similar path. Plumbers know about plumbing systems and heating contractors know about furnace systems, but neither may fully understand what the other is doing. Just as we are seeing a need for a more holistic approach to medicine, we need to start looking at houses in a holistic manner. Just as the human body is a collection of systems that function as a whole, so is a house. We should not look at a house as an assemblage of lumber, pipes, and wires. It is a large integrated system consisting of several smaller systems. How all the components are assembled ends up being just as important as which pieces are selected.

 

Indoor air pollutants enter the living space in a variety of ways. Some are released directly by surfaces that are visible. For example, fresh paints release VOCs. Other pollutants enter the living space from the outdoors or from inside wall cavities.

 

If insulation remains where it was installed, sealed and hidden inside the wall or ceiling, it can’t affect you as an occupant. However, most houses have innumerable small hidden air leaks, so particles or gases from the insulation can filter into the living space. Radon enters the living space from the soil through similar gaps and cracks in the foundation. You can solve these problems in a couple of ways. For example, you could select totally non-toxic insulation and only build where there is no radon. But non-toxic insulation can be expensive, so it may not be affordable, and radon is a potential problem virtually anywhere. If you analyze how the different components of a house interact, and assemble them in certain ways, you can easily prevent radon and insulation from entering the living space.

 

This leads to the idea of an airtight house. If a house is built in an airtight manner, pollutants generated outside the living space, remain outside the living space.

 

The concept of ventilation systems in houses is actually a fairly new idea. In the past we were told to have plenty of windows for fresh air, but who has their windows open in the winter? And if they are open, it doesn’t always mean that air will pass through them. On a windy day, you may receive plenty of fresh air, but on a calm day there may be none. This feast-or-famine approach isn’t the best way for you to bring fresh air indoors. Mechanical ventilation using a fan is a much more reliable technique, but it must be done correctly. If it isn’t, it can interact with the furnace or other systems in the house and cause serious problems.

 

So it is not just the materials that go into a house that cause indoor air pollution. Your house is more than a collection of components, it functions as an integrated whole, and the different components tend to interact. If they interact in inappropriate ways, pollution or other issues result. As you read articles on The Healthy House Institute Web site, you will begin to understand how a house functions, how it breathes, and how it really is more than an assemblage of pieces. Doctor Frankenstein put some pieces together incorrectly and created a monster. You can do the same with a house and create a building that can damage your health or even kill you. Or, with an understanding of how the various pieces interact, you can create a house that will enhance your health.

 

And of course, the building itself could be 100% inert, and you could fill it with toxic furnishings and maintain it with noxious household cleaners. What we put into a healthy house is as important as the structure.

 

(This article is from the archives of the original Healthy House Institute, and the information was believed accurate at the time of writing.)

 

(Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Healthy House Institute, LLC.)

 

HHI Error Correction Policy

HHI is committed to accuracy of content and correcting information that is incomplete or inaccurate. With our broad scope of coverage of healthful indoor environments, and desire to rapidly publish info to benefit the community, mistakes are inevitable. HHI has established an error correction policy to welcome corrections or enhancements to our information. Please help us improve the quality of our content by contacting allen@healthyhouseinstitute.com with corrections or suggestions for improvement. Each contact will receive a respectful reply.

The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on HealthyHouseInstitute.com as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.

 

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Healthy Home Basics - The Holistic House:  Created on June 22nd, 2008.  Last Modified on February 28th, 2011

 

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Information provided by The Healthy House Institute is designed to support, not to replace the relationship between patient/physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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