The health of a building is directly linked to the health and wellbeing of everyone living or working within that space. Although, as a citizen, awareness about the health of buildings might be low, there are several guidelines and blueprints in place from several governments and private agencies on ensuring compliance with environmental factors, sustainability, design and practices that best support the ‘wellness’ of a building.
A building which is designed well, is adequately ventilated, has good indoor air quality, and is free from excessive moisture, dampness and growth of any mould forms an ideal indoor environment which promotes the health of the people working inside and is also conducive to productivity. On the other hand, a sick building, which essentially implies a building that tends to promote illness and disease, is one which needs a major overhaul to understand the source of the problem and subsequent resolution.
Therefore, it is worth understanding that if you have frequent colds and coughs, skin diseases, allergies and other respiratory ailments, it could be due to the environment in which you are spending time, whether at work or at home. Once there is awareness about the possible causes of health issues, these can be dealt with by addressing the problems originating in the building, rather than continuously visiting a health practitioner.
In fact, the entire conversation around building health, wellness and sustainability is responsible for constant innovations in design, materials, products, environmental research and better building practices. Not only is it essential to use the best quality materials during construction but it is equally relevant that maintenance is of the highest order to ensure that repairs and problem areas are addressed in time, before they become a bigger issue leading to health problems.
Several projects that focus on indoor air quality identify moisture and mould as primary health risks, which are directly linked to the quality of construction and the maintenance of the building.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors which contribute to moisture and mould in buildings.
- Leaking pipes, overflowing water, flooding.
- Rain seeping through the roof through cracks, missing tiles, spillage from a blocked gutter.
- Water penetrating around window frames, or leaking through a cracked pipe.
- Rising damp due to an ineffective damp-course or lack of a damp-course.
Dr. Fixit Institute of Structural Protection and Rehabilitation explains, “Damp walls are excellent breeding grounds for mildew and mold, which can damage the home and lead to health problems for occupants. Apart from the health issues, the water which enters or escapes from the buildings can cause serious damage to the building contents as well as structural damage. Water damage is second only to fire as a cause of building decay and deterioration. The combination of roofing, waterproofing, damp proofing, joint system and flashing system that act cohesively as a barrier, protecting interior areas from water and weather intrusion is known as Building-Envelope.”
Clearly, the health of a building impacts the well-being of its occupants, and citizen awareness is key to working out viable solutions and adopting a proactive approach towards healthy and sustainable work and home environments.