From my perspective, a healthy home is the first priority in environmental sustainability. It is our home environment that is the foundation for our health and well being, and consideration of this environment has to do with our building practices as well as with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the relationships we have…and much more. Some time ago I heard someone refer to our homes as our “second skin” – a type of vital organ of its own, functioning on another level for nurturing, protection, and detoxification.
I have been intrigued with houses as long as I can remember – especially how I feel when I am inside. I didn’t understand at the time but, looking back, I can see how various homes stimulated a sense of welcome or anxiety, creativity or stagnation, joy or depression, etc. I also was intrigued by the construction itself and, together, these things drew me to my involvement in building and renovation – and my evolving interest in healthy homes.
I started my journey in building with a focus on creativity and energy efficiency in house design. As time went along, I became interested in holistic health and the effect our homes have on our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I also became interested in how our social life and relationships are influenced by the environment we live in. Today I tend to look at many aspects when I consider the design or redesign of a healthy home.
Like the consideration of mind, body, and spirit in holistic health, a healthy home must address the spiritual, environmental, social, and economic aspects of holistic sustainability. In our personal pursuit of health we often focus on our body and neglect to see how the state of our mind, emotions, and spirit affect the whole. It can be the same, even with green building, to focus on the environmental issues of our “second skin” and neglect to see how our homes affect our spiritual, social, and economic health. Here are my considerations for the holistic aspects of a healthy home.
Environmental Sustainability addresses the considerations of green building and how our homes affect our personal well being along with the health of the planet. The following areas are the primary three categories of green building:
- Energy Efficiency involves consideration of conservation of fossil fuels through insulation and weatherization, as well providing alternative methods of power through renewable energy sources.
- Resource Conservation involves consideration of the materials and methods we build with, the waste in the building process, the life cycle of our home, and how we design to encourage future reuse and recycling.
- Air Quality involves consideration of the toxicity of the materials we build with, along with the ability of our homes to deal with air exchange and environmental toxins.
Spiritual Sustainability addresses the considerations of how our home provides an atmosphere that cultivates peace and serenity, creative expression, and emotional security.
Social Sustainability addresses the consideration of how our home welcomes our family, neighbors, and friends, as well as how it provides optimum indoor and outdoor environments for healthy social engagement.
Economic Sustainability addresses the consideration of how our home will affect our finances now and in the future.