Toward the end of my pregnancy my blood pressure skyrocketed. It got so high that I had to visit my doctor three times a week, was put on bed rest and was even checked into the hospital for monitoring several times. Needless to say, it was no picnic. After having my son, who was induced two weeks early but was healthy and perfect, I took a good, hard look at my health and what was possibly causing my blood pressure to elevate to levels beyond comprehension. Upon evaluation I found that I needed to make several changes in order to decrease my blood pressure and prevent future health issues.
I knew that what I put into my body had to change. I mean, as much as I would like to, I certainly couldn't live off Sour Patch Kids, Mexican food and Diet Coke forever. And I knew I needed to exercise more (walking into the store to buy Sour Patch Kids and Diet Coke wasn’t necessarily a work out). So, I knew how I could improve my health with diet and exercise, but how did my physical environment impact my health?
Working for Function: the past few years has taught me that, like with people, there are healthy and unhealthy buildings and that the way the building is designed and the products selected for those buildings can impact the health of its occupants. According to the EPA, on average, Americans spend about 90 percent or more of their time indoors. That’s a lot of time (get outside people – including me). Indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times higher, and occasionally more than 100 times higher, than outdoor levels. Makes you think about where you are sitting right now.
From the amount of daylight in a building, to the VOCs used to make the flooring and the adhesives used to connect the floors, there are many factors that contribute to the health (or lack thereof) of a building. The health of building occupants is top of mind to architects, designers and building product manufacturers. As BPMs develop products they consider how those products affect building occupants – from how they heal, work, learn to how they conduct recreational activities. One of our clients, a flooring manufacturer, evaluates their offerings in terms of its contribution to indoor air quality, by making floors that easy to maintain and require fewer chemicals to clean, amongst many other things.
I can’t do much about my office or the buildings I enter, but in my home I am making sure that the blinds are open to let more sunlight in, that we are cleaning with less abrasive chemicals and that I am doing what I can to make my physical surrounding as healthy as possible. As an architect, manufacturer, contractor, building owner, etc. it’s your job to make sure that your buildings and products are as healthy as possible for the people who use them. Sure, make em’ pretty. But keep making em’ healthy too.