Healthy Homes

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Do you know that your home can help you live healthy? Well this is indeed true as what you have within your home can actually make you live better and happier. Home decor is not just about aesthetics but also about health. Well, this might sound far fetched but it is really simple common sense. Climate change, global warming and depletion of natural resources are pressing issues that no one can ignore. And an eco-friendly home is one of the simple yet effective ways to do your bit to reduce your carbon footprint.

Material Matters

The use of natural materials that are local to the region or vernacular materials is ideal to help its residents stay healthy. This is to be kept in mind while selecting materials for flooring, the walls and roofing. “For example, laterite is a great material used in our coastal homes. This is because the materials’ inherent properties keeps the house well-ventilated and cool. The use of natural materials such as stones, brick, solid wood, leather, bamboo, jute, cane and wicker etc. are the best home solutions to keep the residents healthy. Avoid harmful chemical-laden materials that emit its poisonous gases for a prolonged period of time,” says Gita Ramanan, Co-founder of Design Café. Minimalism as a style is also good for health. The style celebrates clutter-free spaces and the lack of clutter automatically contributes to good health. In interior design, the kitchen triangle links the three areas of greatest activity – the sink, stove and refrigerator. There should be unobstructed access to and from all three of these locations. “If you can utilize fireproof materials on your kitchen like treated glass, solid, blocks and drywalls you can be safe from fire hazards. Stacking and nesting plates, pots and food storage containers helps to maximize the space, as does employing storage extenders like wire shelving that lets you take full advantage of wasted vertical space,” says Namit Bajoria, Director, Kutchina.

Courtsey: HOF
Courtney: HOF

Building Blocks

Sustainability has created a buzz in the interior design and architecture industries, with many builders making the effort of integrating sustainable and health and wellness-oriented solutions in home design. “As opposed to traditional masonry walls for home interiors, drywalls made of gypsum plasterboard are made of 100% environment friendly material, thus saving energy costs. Drywalls also use 95% less water than masonry construction. Also, gypsum-based drywall partitions entail significant acoustic properties and can deliver up to 70db+ of sound insulation levels. This helps keep noise out of certain spaces of your home and also helps improve your sleep levels, adding to your overall wellbeing. Gypsum drywalls also have excellent thermal insulation properties which help reduce the air conditioning load in your home. More importantly, they help maintain a balanced temperature for your home’s interiors and are specifically helpful for homes situated in extremely warm climates,” says Sudeep Kolte, VP, Sales and Marketing, Gyproc India.

Image courtesy Gyproc
Image courtesy Gyproc

Choose Right

When you design a home, choose materials that reduce ecological footprint by minimizing transportation. “Select furniture that is made from sustainably harvested, FSC certified timber like birch, pine, beech, rubber wood. You can also use furniture that are made from Bamboo, lantana. Use furniture that do not use nails so they can be recycled. Look for furniture options that do not use formaldehyde based adhesives — they emit toxins in the air for 20 years from the time of making,” says Chandshekar Hariharan, CEO and Founder, Biodiversity Conservation India Ltd. Use of carefully chosen native species of indoor plants that sequester carbon and give you fresh oxygen not only improvises health but sinks carbon in internal air. Although eco-friendly living is becoming more and more popular across the world and it is not difficult to see why, importance of the use of eco-friendly furniture is often overlooked. “Aspects like whether the wood being used for the furniture is grown in a sustainable manner or not and what chemicals are being used while casting it need to be considered while making the right choice. A high number of chemicals like formaldehyde that can adversely affect your health are generally used during the various processes involved in furniture-making. Bamboo is an incredibly fast-growing and versatile grass and is mostly grown with few or no pesticides, making it a great choice for eco-friendly furniture,” says Pravin Patel, Chairman, HOF Furniture System.

Get Floored

Use of plantation timber like natural solid bamboo, or rubber wood and acacia options, or even recycled wood for flooring is sustainable ecologically. Flooring is an integral part of any home and natural marble would be one of the best choices in material for the application. “Surfaces that attract dirt, dust or other allergens can gradually cause respiratory issues. However these particles can be easily cleaned if the flooring is natural stone. Also chemically infused cleaners and detergents should be strictly avoided as natural stone is a porous stone. One of the other benefits of natural stones is that being heat resistant it keeps the temperature cool even during soaring temperatures,” says Amit Shah, Managing Director, Classic Marble Company. Wet mopping frequently on the floor not just wastes water but all the chemicals added to the water in the form of phenyl causes more hazards. “People now opt for wood laminate floorings or ceramic tiles and these floors do not require such frequent mopping or cleaning. ​One should avoid wet mopping or if needed then do it once in three of four days. In contrast to the chemicals that we are using for wet mopping, there are some easily available solutions in the market to this. One can boil neem or curry leaves and can use the water for mopping. This is an eco-friendly solution to this problem,” avers Shabnam Singh, Founder Project Co.

Take Care

Make sure that your home is well ventilated as moisture accumulates and there are chances of mould that could occur which would be highly harmful. You should always allow natural sunlight and wind into your homes, sun has the power to kill the germs in the house and the wind along with the sun removes dampness that helps in non-formation of mould. Likewise using paints for the walls that are free from toxins and harmful products should be used as Volatile Organic compounds (VOC) pose a health risk. “Having indoor plants especially a herb garden can definitely benefit your health. Herbs such as fresh basil, oregano, lemon grass (keeps mosquitoes at bay) and thyme could not only be used for cooking but also help freshen up the environment,” says Interior Designer Ayushi Kanodia. Most eco-friendly product manufacturers claim to produce eco-friendly products. To ensure that they meet the global ecological standards, CII confers Green Product Certification to manufacturers only after evaluating on several parameters. So, check if the product has been awarded the Green product certification before buying it.  Mukund Patel, MD, Rutu Group advices, “use organic upholstery fabric for your furnishings: Most non-organic fabrics contain chemicals and pesticides. Exposure to these harmful chemicals for a long run can cause health issues, which is why we recommend eco-friendly upholstery fabrics such as organic cotton, recycled fabrics, and hemp fibers as they are environment-friendly, does not contain harmful chemicals, and are cost-effective.” Yatin Pandya, Proprietor and Practising Architect, FOOTPRINTS E.A.R.T.H. (Environment Architecture Research Technology Housing) says, “using a natural material palette like kota stone for flooring is an excellent idea as it does not absorb dust. This is a flooring that can be polished in such a way that it is almost joint less and there are no crevices that might have bacterial growth. This means that walls plastered with lime is antiseptic and a natural insect repellent. Paints are full of VOC and if you can use lime it can be redone at regular intervals, you can ensure that dust mites are not accumulated. Principle of natural ventilation is very important as stale air makes you unwell. You must ensure cross ventilation and avoid using split air conditioning as there is no possibility of fresh air when you use them.”

Right Aromas

A home that smells good, feels good and it creates a positive atmosphere for its residents. Essential oils are one of the best choices for creating the kind of aroma that will keep you refreshed without disturbing the environment. “Some of the many benefits essential oil has on our health include balancing hormones, boosting immunity and fighting infections. These oils are known to boost energy levels, improve digestion, alleviate aches and reduce emotional stress and anxiety,” says Amit Sarda, Managing Director, Soulflower. Essential oils that work best in the foyer are orange essential oil and geranium essential oil while if you want your kitchen to smell neutral and feel vibrant, cinnamon essential oil would be your choice of aroma. Rosemary essential oil works best for the living room and calming essential oils like lavender, Ylang Ylang, orange and basil which promotes peaceful sleep help in the bedroom. Eucalyptus essential oil’s sweet-smelling aroma gives you a refreshed surrounding which relaxes the body and mind and is a great choice in bathrooms. Sharath Babu, President, All India Agarbathi Manufacturers Association (AIAMA) adds, “in recent years some of the manufacturing processes have been replaced with machines, so we are getting uniform agarbathi. Apart from using natural ingredients, ecofriendly synthetics perfumery materials approved by competitive agencies are also being used to develop newer fragrances.” So get set to give your home a healthy makeover.

This story appeared in Smartlife’s June 2018 issue here: 

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