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Is your Building Making you Sick? - Part 1

Spaces are powerful enough to change our moods and affect our emotional and psychological well-being. In today's time, where we Indians are spending about 80% of our time indoors, space can easily mess with your head. A room can calm you down or cheer you up or increase your anxiety or give you the chills. A place can influence one's productivity, inhibitions, comfort and even happiness. It's highly important to design our spaces for our mental health.

There is a special term called the "Sick Building Syndrome" which refers to the occupants contracting acute health-related issues as they spend more time in a poorly-designed building.


Let's look at some specific such factors :

  1. Continuous Exposure to artificial light

The Lack of Natural Light exposure can give us the blues.Many modern houses and offices do not have an outdoor view from their rooms and they depend on CFL Lights and LEDs to illuminate their spaces. Your building being not connected to Nature can turn both your mental and physical health off.

Studies show that spending most of our time in artificial lights can affect our immunity, Vitamin-D, sleep, as well as lead to depression. Regular use of artificial lighting can cause your eyes to strain and commonly causes migraine. It can leave you always fatigued and exhausted, to not be connected to the outdoors once in a while.



2. Spaces that don't create favourable Inner Conditions

All organisms in Nature look for the most optimum climatic conditions to survive. Even a few degrees change in the temperature or humidity can kill them. A good example is the termite mound which always regulates their inside temperature, wind movement and humidity through various methods.

Humans too, are required to maintain our body temperature at around 36-37 degrees. Our bodies work hard by heating up and cooling down, to maintain this temperature.

A space needs to naturally respond dynamically to the outside climate to create a favourable inner climate. The heat and wind-movement needs to be regulated by the building’s walls, roofs and plasters. 

Staying in spaces that are not designed to respond to the external climatic conditions forces us to use energy fueled systems like Air conditioners, fans and dehumidifiers.


3. Living in damp, humid spaces

Poorly executed or designed buildings tend to store dampness through capillary action from the ground, or through absorption from rains. The choice of Building materials as well as plasters influences the absorptive nature of the building. If the moisture in the building does not evaporate away, this can cause the building to develop severely humid spaces. 

Additionally, when there are no outways to ventilate the space to dry the moisture, harmful moulds and spores can grow to cause respiratory issues. Such moist spaces are also the breeding ground for Viruses, Bacteria, Fungi and Mites. Relative Humidity in the air is an important driving factor in the spread of Corona, hence maintaining humidity levels at 50-60% RH is crucial. 


Let’s examine more such factors in Part 2.

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