Sofia G. Mantoni
Materials for Healthy Interiors
Contemplating current events, if someone lives until they are 80, around 72 of those years will be spent inside buildings. However, this number is expected to grow. In an increasingly chaotic and uncertain world, marked by the ongoing effects of climate change and the global pandemic, the desire to stay indoors in a protected, controlled and peaceful environment is stronger than ever. Architects face an important challenge: to create comfortable, productive and healthy interiors with well-regulated parameters, considering factors like indoor air quality, daylighting and biophilic features from the initial stages of design. Of course, this involves choosing materials sensitively and accordingly, whether it be by avoiding certain health-harming components or by integrating non-toxic products that soothe and promote wellness.
Surprisingly though, air pollution is much higher indoors than outdoors. Indoor contaminants come in various sizes and compositions, but we will not expand on these today. Instead we will focus on what we can choose to create healthier, more sustainable environments to live and work in. As architects, we can implement certain design strategies to eliminate or minimize indoor contaminants, such as ensuring the proper natural ventilation, exposure to natural light and the presence of plants. However, one of the most effective ways to mitigate the propagation of indoor pollutants is by choosing modern, non-toxic, sustainable building materials that are purposely created for safe construction and use in the home –hence promoting physical, mental and environmental health. Following some ideas:
Wood has proven to be extremely beneficial for physical and mental well-being. The visual presence of wooden elements can lower stress more effectively than plants. Needless to say It is pivotal to source the material from sustainably managed forests or use reclaimed wood in order to ensure environmental health. Since wood is sustainable, has a timeless charm, and conveys warmth and coziness, it is clearly the most common natural material in the home. Wood has the biggest effect on the health and mood of all-natural products that can be used for interior decoration. This is a sense of warmth and stability, which enhances well-being noticeably. Wooden interiors have been found to have a beneficial effect on the sympathetic nervous system, reducing blood pressure and heart rate and improving the body’s capacity to regenerate. As a result, stress levels decrease significantly, while concentration, attention, and creativity all improve.
Similarly, bamboo is known as a happy material; viewing it can calm a stressed mind, decrease anxiety and improve concentration. It is also highly sustainable, fast-growing grass that requires no fertilizer.
Due to metal’s cool appearance, this natural material is often associated with industrial design. In addition, its understated elegance can add a touch of class to any space. Metal conveys order and purity in the kitchen while gleaming accessories create a cool breeze in the bedroom. This is a real treat for both the body and the mind, especially on hot summer nights. If the impact of metal alone is too “cold” for you, combine it with wood, stone, or glass to create a healthy and friendly room climate. Metal is an essential part of modern, natural interior design since it is one of the five Feng Shui elements. Although not a natural resource, stainless steel is also a good alternative when creating healthy environments because it is infinitely recyclable and emits no toxins (which explains its popular use in cookware).
Stone is an ancient, timeless, and incredibly diverse material that has the ability to produce a unique atmosphere. It comes with a range of colors and textures and can be found in a variety of designs in the house, including flooring, wall cladding, work surfaces, and decorative features. In the home and garden, stone represents reliability and durability, but it may also reflect luxury. Dirt and dust are almost transparent on stone walls, which is a very practical advantage.
Stones have been used in Ayurveda, ancient Chinese medicine (TCM), and stone medicine for thousands of years to treat physical and mental illnesses holistically. Stones, like all naturally formed objects, are thought to be energy carriers that emit energy into their surroundings and have a positive effect on them.
These are merely some ideas that can be implemented, then there is the particularity each environment and project demands per se. To sum it all up though, good architecture is healthy, safe and sensitive. It must protect us from outside threats and should certainly not cause more harm than good. By this statement we thrive.