Eco-Building I: Healthy Homes

We spend most of our lives inside buildings, yet we have only recently started to question their impacts on our climate, our community, our health and our lives. We all need to start learning about how building sustainably can make a difference to the health of our families and the health of our planet. You don’t have to be a hippy member of a green fringe group to seriously consider building an eco house.
 
Financially as well as environmentally, if you are building your own home, or just changing your existing one, it is increasingly making sense to eco build. It doesn’t mean you have to build with straw bales or rammed earth, though these are options; most successful Eco builds are very conventional in appearance. But it is much more than just choosing environmentally friendly materials and paint. In this series of articles we’ll look at some of the priorities one should have when building sustainably. We’ll try and keep the focus on a practical and accessible level for those of you who aren’t large scale developers but would like to enhance your quality of life whilst being kind to the environment.
 
The building industry is undeniably one of the least environmentally friendly, the construction of a whole neighbourhood or even just remodelling an existing house has a great impact on our surroundings. According to the experts, the Spanish construction sector generates 40% of CO² emissions, uses up 60% of the country’s primary resources, 50% of its water and generates 35% of waste.

Of the many things to consider when remodelling your home, finding eco-friendly ways to manage construction waste should top your list of ways to reduce your project’s environmental impact. A major kitchen redo might generate more than 60 pounds of debris for each square foot, for a total of about 5 tons. A whole-house remodel could pile up a whopping 13 tons of waste. That’s a heap of rubbish headed to the landfill, along with a pile of environmental concerns.
 
The main purpose of Eco-building is to minimise this impact whilst using sustainable techniques. Instead of depleting the planet’s resources, the idea is to replenish and regulate these in order to achieve a healthy habitat and global well being. We should be planning buildings that breath like we do, stand on healthy land, and when the time comes, they should disappear by integrating into the life cycle, just like we do.
 
Our homes should be designed to minimise energy consumption, which therefore reduces our CO2 production. We should be saving water too. According to the Spanish National Institute of Statistics, each of us uses 166 litres of this precious liquid per day. A new law (real Decreto 47/2007) is now introducing an energy efficiency label which will be attached to all houses on the market. Just the same as home appliances, the scale starts with the most efficient homes (class A) to the least energy saving ones (class G), thus indicating each house’s CO² emissions due to lighting, heating and hot water energy consumption.
 
Indoor air quality is another essential component of any healthy home. By using bio-compatible building materials you’re guaranteed walls free from damp, mould and bacteria. This is thanks to the fact they will be able to breathe, allowing a smooth flow in and out of your house. Eco materials also tend to be more durable, thus avoiding long-term structural issues, as well as being great at insulating your home which means keeping energy costs low. The sheer amount of chemicals we are surrounded by in our houses is really quite surprising, starting with lime based Portland cement which is often garnished with toxic additives, insulation materials are often unhealthy too as are paints and varnishes. The use of these materials close the electromagnetic fields in our homes so they stop breathing, therefore trapping these toxic chemicals which can create ailments such as headaches, anxiety, depression, fatigue, hyperactivity, etc.
 
Our next article will delve deeper into these matters with an array of suggestions and ideas for you to create a family-safe, non-toxic home that reduces its environmental impact while still enjoying the comforts of modern living.

For more articles in this series, click here

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