Is it possible to have a healthy home, while still benefitting from modern technology? How is modern living affecting our health? Should we be concerned? And if so, how can we make our homes healthier through technological innovation?
Alex Josling, Co-founder and Director at Seven Integration ponders these questions in his guest article below.
Living in a box
For hundreds of thousands of years, we have been evolving as a species. Most of that evolution happened while we were still exposed to the outside environment. Moreover, it remained pretty much unchanged until relatively recently. Being outside brought with it certain problems. We were exposed to the elements, the weather, animals that wanted to eat us, other people that wanted to eat us. And so to make us safe, to make us more comfortable and to protect us, we started building homes – boxes to live in.
As we continued to evolve and develop new materials, we enhanced these boxes with technology to the point where many, if not all of us now actually suffer from its effects. It is somewhat ironic that the boxes that we built to protect us are now the very things that are killing us.
We suffer from sleep deprivation. Our circadian rhythms are in chaos. Our air and water are full of pollutants. So what can we do about it?
There is loads of research into the effects of not getting enough sleep.
Given that a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day, it’s not surprising that chronic sleep debt may lead to long-term mood disorders like anxiety, and depression. Consequently, we take pills and potions. We see sleep therapists. We buy devices that we can wear that will tell us that we didn’t sleep well. The sleep aid market is expected to reach $102bn by 2023. $102bn on aids to help us do the most natural thing we do – sleep.
We wrote a dedicated blog about bio-adaptive lighting a few months back which you can read here. Bio-adaptive lighting is the use of technology to adjust the colour temperature of the lighting in a room. By changing the levels of blue and red light within the light spectrum we can mimic the changes in natural light outside. During the day we are exposed to more blue light that wakes us up and makes us more alert. In the evening we are exposed to a warmer red light as the sun sets. At this time our bodies release melatonin to help us relax and sleep.
Lighting Control company Lutron recently bought Ketra, a company that was at the forefront of manufacturing bio-adaptive lighting. And the light fittings company Orluna now produce a “warm dim” downlighter that when at 100% brightness is a very white light that is an almost perfect replication of natural daylight – great for task working or food prep – but when it is dimmed the light becomes warmer.
Monitoring and maintaining air quality, and in particular CO2 levels and humidity can have a huge impact on productivity and wellness. By maintaining CO2 within the recommended levels by some simple modifications to heating, ventilation and air-cooling systems (HVAC) productivity can increase and wellbeing in the home gets a positive boost.
Filtration of the air removes dust particles and pet particles. As a result, those with asthma see a massive boost in their wellbeing. Asthma was practically unheard of 200 years ago, yet today it accounts for 1200 deaths a year in the UK.
It could be as simple as a living green wall, or “vertical garden”. 1sqm of living wall extracts 2.3kg of co2 per year and produces 1.7kg of oxygen. They also absorb harmful VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) and convert them to plant food.
How pure is your water? We all know there are certain things present in our water. Chlorine for example, and fluoride. These are ok since they benefit us. But how about lead? Poisonous right? Any old lead piping that is still in the mains system will be contaminating your water.
Microplastics. Plastic fibres have been found in 72% of tap water samples across the UK. The health risks are still unclear, though microplastics are known to contain and absorb toxic chemicals.
A nasty bug called Cryptosporidium has entered the water supply in Lancashire, Bristol and Ireland in the past, meaning residents have had to boil their water to avoid diarrhoea. A study carried out by the Environment Agency, showed that estrogenically active substances discharged into the environment had led to the feminisation of male fish, causing them to effectively switch genders. There is no suggestion yet that this would have the same effect on humans, but it’s still a concern.
It’s not just about our air and water. Every man-made product in a building emits gas and leaks chemicals. The mattress and the sheet that you sleep on for 6-8 hours a night are full of chemicals and our largest organ, our skin, is in contact with them and absorbing these chemicals every single night.
We know that babies need more sleep, therefore more time in bed. At possibly the most crucial time in their development when their bodies are going through such change, they get wrapped up like a cocoon in covers and sheets that leak chemicals into their skin. Our bodies have evolved over millennia. To expect them to adapt to our modern way of living in a couple of thousand years is frankly ridiculous.
A healthier home: why we should be acting
A study in 2018 showed that 52% of first-time buyers were keen to prioritise health as a factor in their home. And among the top factors, they want to address are humidity and air quality, contaminants in drinking water and irritants in the materials we use to build stuff.
The fact is, modern life is not going to change. We aren’t going to suddenly start spending more time outside. So, if we can use technology to improve our indoor environment and fill it with wellness to make it a healthier place to be, then shouldn’t we be doing just that? The technology is there, we just need to make sure people know about it.
Seven Integration is a CEDIA Member of Excellence, putting us in the very highest group of professional integrators of technology. Formed in 2003, the team at Seven have been designing and installing smart home technology to many of the premier properties throughout London and the South East.
P.S. Did you know that decluttering your home can help make it healthier?
Find out more in our post about how to declutter your home for a healthier, happier life!