Healthy Materials, Healthy Buildings

Pollutants reach higher levels indoors

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inhabitants of modern cities spend up to 90% of their time indoors[1] and the concentrations of some pollutants reach levels 2 to 5 times higher than in typical outdoor environments[2].

We are currently living in an era that shows major concerns about time environmental conservation, energy-saving, and sustainability, but indoor air quality seems to have been left behind.

Indoor air quality is not a new issue

Although indoor air quality is not a new issue (the first published studies date back to the 80’s), once it doesn’t cause immediate adverse health effects, its importance and impact tend to be mitigated. However, its negative effects are capable of altering both the physical and mental health of the occupants of a certain building, causing high levels of stress, decreased performance of workers, and causing discomfort to its occupants.

Neuroarchitecture defends and demonstrates that the built environment influences human behaviour, and that the physical or environmental characteristics of a space can condition well-being. The factors that influence human behaviour are as diverse as the building’s proportions, the design of the space, the distribution of the furniture and the selected building materials.

Time to curb the use of products that contain chemical compounds

From an architect point of view, I state that it is urgent to curb the use of products that contain chemical compounds harmful to human health. One way of doing so it to share knowledge and raise awareness of the design of healthy spaces with optimal conditions for their occupants. Some great architects and industry leaders are leading the way, but it is still a long journey and it requires massive engagement.

When someone prescribes a building product, cost, efficiency and aesthetics are the 3 main factors that one takes into consideration. To think about the influence of that same product on the air we breathe, is not oftenly questioned within our industry and it should be.

Even though the building industry is already making huge efforts to gear their production into Net Zero, quite commonly the efforts are not appreciated by their clients. Also, “green labels” and certain trade names often mislead the consumer.

Marketing and communication view

Marketing and communication experts that partner up with the building industry have a major role in what concerns about raising awareness and communicating companies’ efforts without being neither too technical neither misleading.

Both architects and the industry should be 100% committed to creating a healthier build environment, and to raise awareness on transparency.

Honesty is key, and the time is now.


[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1989. Report to Congress on indoor air quality: Volume 2. EPA/400/1-89/001C. Washington, DC

[2] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1987. The total exposure assessment methodology (TEAM) study: Summary and analysis. EPA/600/6-87/002a. Washington, DC.