With people spending about 90% of their lives indoors, buildings have a substantial impact on the health and well-being of their occupants.
What do we mean by health and well-being?
Health is the status of a persons physical and mental condition. Good health is about the mind as well as the body, i.e. feeling physically fit and feeling good within our self.
Well-being is the value of the quality of a person's life. In other words, well-being is the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy.
Peoples health and well-being are determined by a complex combination of many human and environmental factors, including those related to the built environments.
Attention towards health & well-being
From the indoor environment developments during the past three centuries it can be concluded that health had priority in the beginning.
- In the 18th century people wanted to have a healthy environment in buildings in order to prevent the spread of diseases.
- Later, the indoor environment problems were dominated by comfort issues and people wanted to be able to realize comfortable indoor conditions throughout the year.
- After the oil crisis in the 1970s, the main goal was to save as much energy as possible on indoor environment conditioning.
- Towards the end of the 20th century, sustainability became very important.
- And at beginning of the 21st century people regained interest in health in the build environment together with productivity & performance or supporting health and well-being of building occupants.
[*source F. Franchimon, “Healthy building services for the 21st century,” doctoral dissertation, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, 2009.]
The evolution of human health and the indoor climate
Human beings are not adapted to the conditions or temperatures at polar latitudes, even though parts of these regions have been populated for several thousands of years.
The ideal temperature for a naked person at rest is about 29°C: a stable temperature found in the mountain and savannah landscapes of Africa, the probable origin of our ancient ancestors.
Without clothing and shelter, humans could be regarded as a tropical animal that could only survive in a narrow zone along the equator. When our ancestors migrated north, not only was proper clothing needed but a protective shield from the outdoor climate also had to be developed. From this came housing and building technology that began to evolve and adapt to very challenging winter climates.
The indoor environment is not only vital for our survival, health and well-being but has also helped the human species to thrive and spread geographically.
What does our body need?
To stay productive and healthy, we are also careful about what we consume in the form of fluids and food, but we rarely think about all the air we consume with each breath.
On average, an adult male with a sedentary occupation will breathe about 15 m3, or roughly 15 kg of air, drink 1.5 litres, or 1.5 kg, of water and eat about 0.75 kg of solid food per day. Hence, the weight of breathed air constitutes about 87% of the total biological mass turnover every 24 hours.
Short term impacts on our health @(Model.HeaderElement)>
Long term impacts
If our indoor environment isn't balanced not only do we have short term side effects, it also can also cause long term implications for us.
With repeated, long-term exposure, the risks may increase significantly. Prolonged exposure can potentially lead to mood changes, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, cancer, and other health conditions. Airborne pollution is also a hazard to pregnant women and young children, increasing the risk of birth defects and developmental problems.
Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal.