A healthier home is one that prioritises the well-being of its occupants by creating an environment that promotes physical, mental, and emotional health. It encompasses various factors that contribute to overall well-being, such as site location, air and water quality, moisture management, EMF, lighting, low-tox building materials, finishes, furniture and other household items, and basic housekeeping.
Achieving a healthier home involves multiple steps. and varies depending on the individual needs, genetics and health of each occupant. Taking steps to create a healthier home environment is crucial for our overall well-being and can lead to improved physical health, mental clarity, and a greater sense of comfort and happiness. If you would like to dive deep into these foundations, read on!
S I T E L O C A T I O N
The precise location of where you live holds significant importance for the health and well-being of you and your family. Being exposed to contaminated air & water, noise pollution, radioactivity, and electromagnetic fields can pose serious hazards to your loved ones (1).
For example, simply living near major roads, airports, tram lines, cell phone towers (including 5G), high voltage transmission lines (HVTLs), radio and TV towers, geopathic stress zones, mining and coal-fired power stations, golf courses, farms, timber plantations, vineyards, parks, wind turbines, flood and industrial zones (just to name a few), can lead to a whole variety of health issues depending on your proximity to those places (1).
Therefore if you are looking for a site to build your new home, it is crucial you spend time conducting thorough research on potential sites to check the history or previous land use to try and avoid flood and industrial zones and ensure the house is located in dry or well-drained soil (1).
It is also worth checking prevailing winds to ensure you are not downwind from chemicals being sprayed on a public park; for example is a simple yet important factor, as is soil testing and checking for geopathic stressors such as excavation or mining (1).
Take the time to investigate your surroundings for the sake of your family's well-being.
A I R Q U A L I T Y
We all know that indoor air can be 3-5 x worse than outdoor air (2). Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can be caused by:
Inadequate ventilation and insufficient fresh air exchanges
Off-gassing building materials, finishes and furniture (VOCs and SVOCs)
Particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) from traffic pollution etc.
Dust, dander, pollen, dust mites and pesticides (carried in from shoes)
Mould, mildew & moisture
Synthetic fragrances, cleaning products, smoking, and other household items
Incomplete combustion of fuels in gas stoves, fireplaces, or faulty heating systems
You can improve the air quality in your home by:
opening your windows and doors (if not near any of the hazards listed above)
buying a HEPA-rated air filtration unit (sized for the room)
keep humidity low (also important for mould)
keep AC filters clean (use professionals to avoid spreading potential mould spores)
use a HEPA vacuum
W A T E R , F I L T R A T I O N
Clean water is vital for our health, and I suggest all homes have a water filter. Depending on where you live, contaminants vary depending on where the water is sourced from.
Typical tap water contains contaminants such as chlorine fluoride, asbestos, VOCs, copper, heavy metals such as lead, pesticides, blue-green algae and PVC (3).
Water filtration is the best way to remove contaminants, and as I tell clients, is an absolute necessity. Filters come in a variety of types, from the whole-home to countertop options and each type filters different contaminants.
So start by getting clear on your budget, what type of filter you want (under-sink, countertop) and what you are trying to filter. I always suggest a water test to check contaminants before selecting a water filter.
W A T E R , M O I S T U R E M A N A G E M E N T
When designing a home, it is crucial to consider the building envelope's role in protecting against external elements like rain, wind, and heat, while also allowing the transfer of water vapour from inside to outside.
However, the increasing trend towards new energy-efficient homes that are tightly sealed can lead to issues such as condensation buildup and mould-related problems; in fact, it is estimated that around 40% of new builds in cool climates in Australia are affected by these issues (4).
New homes often have higher levels of water vapour due to materials like concrete slabs taking months or even years to fully cure, and additionally, occupants contribute approximately 10L of water vapour per day through daily activities like showering, cooking and just breathing, which accumulates and causes condensation in hidden areas within walls (4). This, in turn, promotes the growth of mould.
Several factors contribute to these condensation problems, including the presence of impermeable vapour barriers, thermal bridging, inadequate wall cavities, and insufficient or lacking ventilation in the roof and subfloor (1).
It is essential to address these factors during the design and construction process to mitigate condensation issues and ensure a healthy living environment.
L I G H T
Lighting design is a highly intricate process that is often overlooked. Typically, interiors are equipped with standard lighting setups, such as four down-lights in each room, without much consideration beyond the basic requirements.
However, when I worked for a wellness technology company, we had a team of expert lighting professionals and scientists who delved into the complexity of lighting design, including layout, lighting levels, brightness, and colours, and their impact on the body. We conducted extensive research to understand how different lighting scenarios affected the body.
Light levels have a profound effect on the body's circadian rhythm, also known as the 24-hour body clock, this rhythm plays a crucial role in our immune system, reproductive health, and sleep (5).
Since the advent of electric light, most people's circadian rhythms have become misaligned (1). To illustrate this, consider the experience of camping, where you rise and sleep in sync with the sun. Camping often leads to a significant improvement in how we feel.
The type and level of light also have significant implications. Bright natural light in the morning can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep (7). The middle of the day should ideally be the brightest, resembling daylight, while warm yellow light in the evening mimics the setting sun, triggering melatonin production and promoting better sleep (8).
However, excessive exposure to blue light, emitted by electronic devices like computers, TVs, phones, tablets, and compact fluorescent lights, can disrupt the body's natural rhythms and suppress melatonin (9).
Use natural light as much as possible
Natural light first thing in the morning (try to avoid your phone or electric light until you have exposed your eye to natural light)
Brightness and colour of light should mimic the day, so the circadian lighting we used would be warm and yellow in the evening and bright and white in the middle of the day.
Bedrooms should face east (if you can accommodate this in your designs)
Bedroom should be warm yellow (and dimmable if possible)
Try to limit lighting use at night, use smaller floor/bedside lamps with warm yellow bulbs (or get specific blue blocking bulbs)
Conversely, misaligned circadian rhythms can result in sleep disorders, loss of productivity, and even weight gain (6).
C O M F O R T (thermal, acoustic and olfactory)
As a WELL AP, and having worked for the company that started the WELL Building Standard; I understand all too well the importance of 'invisible' factors such as temperature, noise levels and unpleasant smells on a person's health and comfort within a built environment.
Creating a comfortable and healthy home involves significantly reducing the most common sources of physiological disruption, distraction, and irritation while enhancing acoustic, olfactory, and thermal comfort. By addressing these aspects, we can prevent stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep (10), facilitate comfort, and increase productivity, and overall well-being (11).
THERMAL: With more people working from home, the thermal environment is a key factor that significantly impacts thermal comfort, which, in turn, has a direct influence on the productivity of occupants (12). Effective insulation, efficient HVAC systems, and access to natural ventilation are vital in achieving this.
ACOUSTIC: Designing spaces with effective sound insulation, minimising noise sources, and providing a serene acoustic environment are crucial steps in fostering a peaceful and focused atmosphere within our homes.
OLFACTORY Lastly, strong or noticeable odours have the potential to disrupt both physical and psychological comfort, causing symptoms like eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as nausea and headaches (13). By actively managing and minimising odours, we can adopt a straightforward yet effective strategy that significantly enhances occupant comfort and overall well-being. ensuring pleasant and fresh smells by implementing proper ventilation, eliminating odours and synthetic fragrances, and using non-toxic materials positively impacting our sensory experience and creating a more enjoyable home environment.
ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS & RADIATION (EMF)
In my opinion, reducing electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in our homes is important due to the potential health effects associated with prolonged exposure (14). In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified EMFs as possibly carcinogenic (15).
Yet, there still remains a lot of controversy around EMF and its adverse health effects. If you wish to read more in-depth research and information on this you can visit my website, or I suggest the book Healthy Home, Healthy Family by Nicole Bijlsma.
EMF refers to electromagnetic waves with frequencies below 300 GHz, and exposure can be divided into two categories: extremely low frequencies (ELFs) ranging from 3 to 3,000 Hz, which are associated with high-voltage transmission lines and in-house wiring; and radio-frequencies (RFs) ranging from 30 kHz to 300 GHz, which encompass mobile phones, smart devices, base stations, WiFi, and 5G technologies (16).
EMFs emitted from sources such as power lines, electrical wiring, appliances, baby monitors, wifi routers, smart meters, and wireless devices have been linked to various health concerns, including headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, brain tumours, breast cancer, autism, and cognitive impairment (1).
More concerning are children and infants, as their brains and bodies are still developing meaning even small exposure to EMFs can have significant long-term impacts (17). I go into more detail about infants and young children and EMF exposure on my website and in my e-book (out soon).
Minimising EMF exposure can be achieved by simple measures like keeping electronic devices at a distance during sleep, using wired connections instead of wireless whenever possible, not placing wireless devices like laptops directly on laps, and positioning beds and seating areas away from sources of high EMF emissions (1).
Additionally, creating designated low-EMF zones in the home, implementing shielding materials, and utilising EMF-reducing devices can contribute to a healthier living environment with reduced EMF exposure.
N O N - T O X I C, building materials and household items
The emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from various building materials, solvents, paints, and adhesives significantly contributes to the degradation of indoor air quality (IAQ) (1).
When renovating or building (especially a nursery or child's room), it becomes imperative to select materials that are low in VOCs and free from harmful substances such as formaldehyde and lead, are made from no or low-tox ingredients, that have a neutral (or pleasant) scent and that do not release toxic vapours (1).
During construction, it is important to ensure adequate ventilation, and additionally, I highly recommend incorporating air scrubbers during painting processes and prior to occupancy to further enhance air quality and mitigate potential risks, and to run HEPA air filters 24/7 for as long as possible before and after moving in, as well as opening as many windows as possible to help release all the off-gassing vapours.
Further, it is essential to recognise the importance of avoiding bringing toxic chemicals into our homes, especially in cleaning and personal beauty products. By opting for non-toxic alternatives, we create a safer living environment, minimise exposure to harmful substances, and prioritise the overall health of ourselves and our loved ones.
The journey towards a healthier home is a multifaceted endeavour that encompasses various aspects, each crucial for the well-being of its inhabitants. Understanding that achieving a healthier home involves numerous steps tailored to individual needs, genetics, and health, emphasises the importance of taking action. By embarking on this path, we unlock the potential for improved physical vitality, mental clarity, and an increased sense of comfort and happiness.
These 7 foundations of design ensure you achieve the healthiest home you can for yourself and your family. If you're eager to delve deeper into these foundations and implement impactful changes within your living environment, please reach out to email@example.com.
Your home is not merely a shelter but a haven for cultivating well-being, and with each conscientious decision, you're sculpting a space that nurtures your holistic wellness. So let's embrace these insights and shape a home that truly supports and enriches our lives.
R E F E R E N C E S
Bijlsma. N., 2021. Healthy Home Healthy Family: Is where you live affecting your health? Third Edition. Red Planet Print Management. China.
Schmitz, Nina C. M., Ysbrand D. van der Werf, and Heidi M. Lammers-van der Holst. 2022. "The Importance of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms for Vaccination Success and Susceptibility to Viral Infections" Clocks & Sleep 4, no. 1: 66-79. https://doi.org/10.3390/clockssleep4010008.
Zhu L, Zee PC. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Neurol Clin. 2012 Nov;30(4):1167-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ncl.2012.08.011. PMID: 23099133; PMCID: PMC3523094.
Bedrosian TA, Nelson RJ. Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits. Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Jan 31;7(1):e1017. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.262. PMID: 28140399; PMCID: PMC5299389.
Bueno, A.M.; de Paula Xavier, A.A.; Broday, E.E. Evaluating the Connection between Thermal Comfort and Productivity in Buildings: A Systematic Literature Review. Buildings 2021, 11, 244. https://doi.org/10.3390/buildings11060244
Kıvrak EG, Yurt KK, Kaplan AA, Alkan I, Altun G. Effects of electromagnetic fields exposure on the antioxidant defense system. J Microsc Ultrastruct. 2017 Oct-Dec;5(4):167-176. doi: 10.1016/j.jmau.2017.07.003. Epub 2017 Aug 2. PMID: 30023251; PMCID: PMC6025786.
Moon JH. Health effects of electromagnetic fields on children. Clin Exp Pediatr. 2020 Nov;63(11):422-428. doi: 10.3345/cep.2019.01494. Epub 2020 May 26. PMID: 32683815; PMCID: PMC7642138.