Scientific studies both here in New Zealand and overseas have linked poor housing design and construction to bad health. Cold, damp, mouldy and draughty homes make us sick, causing anything from coughs and colds, to asthma, respiratory infections and even cardiovascular disease and rheumatic fever.
Quite simply, if you build a Green home that is warmer and drier, you and your family will stay healthier.
Good Green NZ House Design
A healthy home starts with good design to ensure it is easier to heat and weatherproof. This involves designing roof pitches and wall claddings with the correct details. When building an eco house, the aim is for winter sun to penetrate but block out the intense summer sun. Given that sun tracks at different heights and angles in winter and summer seasons, you need to consider the depths and angles of eaves and verandahs and the position of windows.
Double glaze windows to improve the thermal performance of a home – and keep the inside warm in winter and cool in summer.
Insulation Prevents Damp
Damp gets inside poorly insulated homes which causes structural timber to rot. Stains, mould and watermarks appear on the walls and ceilings, promoting harmful bacteria that increase the risk of colds and respiratory illness.
When your house builder insulates your home’s ceiling, walls and under the floor, you create a thermal envelope that keeps heat inside so it costs less to stay warm. Insulation helps in summer too as it keeps the heat out, maintaining a cooler temperature inside and reducing the need for cooling systems.
An Otago University study found that for each $1 you spend insulating cold homes, there was a $2 benefit for its inhabitants in reduced energy costs, reduced home maintenance and reduced health bills. Insulation is a cost-effective way to make sure you remain healthy.
Ventilation Extracts Moisture
Unfortunately, insulation can add to the dampness problem. More airtight houses are easier to heat. But warm air holds water better than cold air. And because it’s sealed in, the moisture builds up then condenses on cold surfaces such as windows and walls.
Good ventilation is essential for removing excess moisture from your home and for maintaining air quality. Home ventilation systems use fans to move air into your house, offering an alternative to opening windows and doors. A well-designed ventilation system offers good ventilation by continuously replacing air, regardless of weather conditions.
Balanced pressure or heat recovery ventilation systems are particularly suitable for colder areas in homes that are well-heated and reasonably airtight. They have two fans: an intake which brings fresh outdoor air inside through ceiling vents and an exhaust fan which takes stale air from inside and discharges it outside. A heat exchanger in the roof transfers heat from the inside air to the incoming fresh air from outside to recover the heat.
Low Toxin Paints are Healthier
Traditional paints and products like thinners or strippers come with silent dangers as they emit toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds or VOC. Symptoms experienced are headaches, skin irritations, dizziness and memory impairment.
As babies have a higher metabolic rate, they are more susceptible to harm. Toxic fumes risk respiratory, cognitive and developmental problems that can last their lifetime.
Some manufacturers have developed low or zero VOC paints and products so they are much safer for chemically sensitive people. So make sure you check the label and choose carefully.
Water Quality Varies In NZ
Heavy metals such as lead, nickel, cadmium or copper can build up in your water supply if water is left sitting in plumbing fittings for several hours. Heavy metals can build up in the organs of your body and high levels can be harmful to your health.
Most of the water in New Zealand is susceptible because it is acidic. The Ministry of Health requires suppliers to alert residents to this issue through public notice. The Ministry believes the risk of drinking NZ water is small but as a precaution advises us to flush a glass from our drinking water tap each morning to eliminate the risk.
Some NZ water supplies fail to meet quality or monitoring standards and in 2016, over 5000 people in Hawkes Bay became violently ill when there was a build-up of campylobacter bacteria in the water. Some even died.
To be really safe, you can eliminate harmful pollutants by installing a water filtration system. Many whole home water filtration systems are available that remove all impurities.
- Water Quality