Healthy Building Materials Matter

Design
by Rene

The selection of materials in buildings can affect the quality of life and health for the people that inhabit them. Amber’s recent blog post looked at the effects of materials on psychological wellbeing and sensory stimulation. By making informed decisions about materials and finishes we can have a positive impact on the built environment and the wellbeing of occupants.

We are in an age where materials can be sourced easily and economically from around the world. Genuine quality products are often imitated – in appearance but not always performance. How do you balance affordability with the materials performance and the occupants health?  Edmiston Jones’ approach to selecting materials considers:

  1. Suitability for the use
  2. Environmental impact
  3. Lifespan and the future of the building
  4. Cost

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With regard to environmental impact, toxins in building materials, fixtures and finishes are a big issue. Research into toxins, particularly formaldehyde has shown links to diseases like cancer. The impact on indoor air quality is critical to our evaluation process. We look for options that are non-toxic or low-toxic and sustainable:

Paint

  • Should contain either low or zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)

Furniture

  • Avoid particleboard which has a synthetic resin binder impacting indoor air quality
  • Select low-emission boards like E0 or E1 boards for built-in furniture
  • Wherever possible opt for solid timber and natural finishes

Floor Finishes

  • Carpet – Check out the fibres, backing substrate and glues
  • Vinyl – Look for lower impact alternatives like marmoleum or cork
  • Timber – FSC certified hardwood is preferred as products can contain toxic binders

Considering the life of the building and its costs over time as well as occupant wellbeing shifts the equation from up-front construction to the triple bottom line of financial, environmental and social costs. Expert knowledge is key to making intelligent decisions during planning and construction.


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