We spend a significant portion of our lives at home and being comfortable and healthy in them is a key element of our general wellbeing.
There are a number of factors that have a direct impact on our comfort and health at home:
- Temperature. The World Health Organization recommends a temperature range between 18°C and 25°C for children and adults to live comfortably and protect their health. Temperatures above 20°C are recommended for infants, the sick and the elderly. A house that stays within this range helps create a comfortable indoor environment for you, your family and your visitors. It can also help avoid health problems such as asthma, respiratory infections and rheumatic fever.1
- Humidity. Most people will feel comfortable at home in humidity ranging from 30% to 70% if the temperature stays between 18°C and 25°C. Keeping moisture below 70% will prevent excess moisture and condensation, while keeping it above 30% will prevent irritation to eyes and upper airways. Humidity above and below this range leads to perfect breeding conditions for dust mites and other allergenic organisms. Auckland is by nature a city with high humidity levels so including strategies to reduce humidity indoors, such as adequate ventilation, is essential. Buildings that are airtight will reduce condensation and, together with the right insulation and ventilation, can help reduce indoor air humidity.
- Light. Balance between natural and artificial light will reduce glare and help you perform everyday tasks better. Daylight levels in your project can be measured by your design team or sustainability consultants using specialised software that will help you determine if areas are underlit, overlit or just right. As a general rule, kitchens require higher daylight levels than other areas in your home. Ideally, your project will maximise the use of natural light and efficient lighting will be used to complete your lighting requirements.
- Fresh air. Introducing fresh outdoor air into the house helps control humidity levels and keeps the air clean and pure. Allowing fresh air to circulate also reduces the concentration of potentially harmful substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be ‘off-gassed’ or emitted by building materials.
- Noise. Controlling noise levels in different spaces and for different tasks can improve your comfort at home. Noise can disturb sleep which can have a significant impact on your health. The quality of the house’s envelope and its airtightness will play a key role in reducing noise.
A house that is warm and dry protects the occupants’ health and also has an impact on the wider community by reducing illness carried into workplaces and schools. Indoor environments that are warm and dry can also have significant impacts on the national level. It has been estimated that 780 people do not turn up for work each day because of health problems caused by their homes.2
In addition, 50 people each day are admitted to hospital because they live in damp and cold homes.3
Comfort and health impacts are usually linked to those of place and energy
. For example, a house that is well oriented will benefit from the sun’s warmth and is likely to require less energy for heating (or cooling) in order to remain at a comfortable temperature.
1Environmental Health Indicators New Zealand, 'Health and Cold Damp Houses'.