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How Your House and Office Makes or Breaks Your Health

Have you ever spent time in an environment that invigorated your body and mind, calmed your nerves and inspired you to think clearly and creatively? Chances are high that this place was in nature.

In contrast, how do you feel when you spend hours inside a cubicle in an office building, or surrounded by fluorescent lighting, wall-to-wall carpeting and artificial paint? Dull, down and dreary may come to mind.
The 2008 Building Biology Conference: Building the Way Nature Intended

Join the international movement of individuals who are rebuilding the built environment into one that nurtures and restores human life.

Bau-biologie is a term from Germany that means “building biology,” and it is at the forefront of intertwining the nurturing feelings of nature with the places in which you live and work. This is the holistic approach to the “built environment.”

Building biology describes a movement that promotes “the use of healthy building principles as a means to improve living and work spaces and the health of people who occupy them.”

Building “ecology” can then be defined as the relationship between the building and the environment.

Among the 25 principles of bau-biologie are:

1. A building site shall be geologically undisturbed.

2. Residential homes are best located away from industrial centers and main traffic routes.

3. Housing shall be developed in a decentralized and loose manner interlaced with sufficient green space.

4. Housing and developments shall be personalized, in harmony with nature, fit for human habitation and family oriented.

5. Natural and unadulterated building materials shall be used.

At the International Institute for Bau-Biologie and Ecology, a non-profit organization, work is underway to educate people about the health hazards that may exist in typical living spaces, and to raise awareness that homes and workplaces can be created to bring the benefits of both health and aesthetics into your living environment.

They view buildings not just as shelter, but as a third skin (the first skin being your body, the second your clothes).

You can experience an embracing, nurturing feeling in your home and office, such as what you might feel when you are in a forest with the sun shining gently on your face, if it was built in accordance with the laws of nature.

Whereas a home or office built from artificial materials will gradually deplete you, a home made from nature will nourish you.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
How much time do you spend in your home and office? If you’re like most people, it’s the vast majority of your life. So the materials used in these spaces -- and the overall feeling you get when you’re in them -- can and does have a huge impact on your physical health and mental well-being.

This is a major reason why I am building a new office building for my practice and Web team (which we hope to move into in the spring of this year). This building has the highest possible LEED certification, but we are going beyond LEED and applying the Bau Biology principles.

LEED focuses on ecology or environmental issues but Bau Biology focuses on biology and the notion that if a material or approach is good for your body it will also be good for the environment. So it is a much higher standard. This is in many ways similar to the use of the term organic, which although well intentioned, has frequently been perverted and does not always mean the food is good for you.

The Hazards of Typical Buildings

Walking into an office building or typical home will probably not make you immediately sick, but over time your body will absorb any number of potentially toxic substances that exist freely around us in our daily lives. For instance:
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic gases emitted from paints, cleansers, air fresheners, vinyl floors, carpets, upholstery fabrics, and much more, can cause cancer and damage to your liver, kidney and central nervous system. VOCs in the indoor air of new buildings have been found to average 20 to 40 mg per m3. Adverse health effects may begin with exposure at just 10 mg per m3.
  • Engineered wood products commonly used to make cabinets, furniture, wall paneling and more emit pollutants such as formaldehyde into your home’s air.
This is truly only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the chemicals floating around most homes and office buildings. And it doesn’t even touch on the mental impact.

The environment in which you live and work very dramatically impacts your state of mind. If your living space is cluttered, for instance, it’s proven to bring you down. Meanwhile, if you feel trapped or closed in (in a cubicle for instance), your thinking will not be at its best (the height of your ceiling can actually impact the way you think!).

To be truly happy, not to mention productive and at your “top game” emotionally and physically, you must immerse yourself in an inspiring environment, and for most of us this does not include four walls, a desk, and a fluorescent light buzzing overhead.

“Greening” Your Living Environment

You may not be able to build a new natural home or office for yourself, but you can make small changes to bring more natural, aesthetically pleasing and healthy materials into your living spaces by:
  • Redoing a portion of your home with a natural material, such as bamboo flooring.
  • Avoiding all chemical cleansers, air fresheners and detergents, and switching to natural varieties instead.
  • Installing full-spectrum lighting to bring the benefits of natural sunlight indoors.
  • Adding houseplants to your home and office.
  • Getting outside to spend some time in a natural environment as often as possible.

+ Sources and References