Healthy Buildings - Breathable Walls

Why are we treating our food better than our health?

Each year, over 9,000 deaths in the UK can be attributed to poor indoor air quality[i].

To improve this situation and, enhance air quality within a building’s envelope, air must be able to circulate to enable any pollutants to escape.

Manual ventilation – eg opening windows and doors – does not always have the desired effect. Sometimes, for example in a bustling city centre, manual ventilation can have the opposite impact – letting in more pollutants such as those emitted from cars or factories - than those it lets out.

In these circumstances, whether you open windows and doors or not, your indoor air quality is going to be compromised unless your building can breathe. A breathable building is a healthy building.  It enhances both the physical and mental health of its occupants.

A breathable building is vapour-permeable.  That means its materials allow for the buffering of excess water thereby allowing water vapour to be discharged. Water – as both a gas and a liquid – which sits within a building’s fabric, needs a means of escape to prevent the build-up of damp, mould, condensation and, in the worst cases, rot. This, in turn, decreases the risk of respiratory ailments.

In Britain, our freeze-thaw climate means that trapping water within a building’s pores can lead to the natural erosion of building materials. By using more breathable materials – such as lime mortars or plasters – our buildings are able to deal with this moisture more effectively, passively ‘mopping-up’ any free water and releasing it into the atmosphere – lessening the risk of natural erosion.

The case for and health benefits of breathability is well-proven through the real-world data produced and analysed by Lime Green, verified by the Society for the Protection of Ancient buildings (SPAB)[ii].

Despite all the evidence supporting the health benefits of breathability, we’re often more thoughtful about how we treat our food and drink than our own bodies.

 Treatment of our wine, cheese and whisky

Visit any wine/cheese cellar or whisky distillery. Take a look at the walls and the floors. Chances are, they’re made of breathable materials such as lime.

Breathable materials are often favoured in these stores as synthetic materials produce chemical off-gasses as they begin to degrade. These off-gasses can taint or interfere with the flavours of the products being produced.

Natural products age and mature differently when surrounded by natural materials as opposed to synthetic materials. Natural materials give off significantly fewer – if any – volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Why is lime more relevant now than it has been for over 100 years?

Following WW1, cement became fashionable as it became a cheaper, quicker and easier building solution. As a result, lime began to fall out of favour. Britain needed buildings quickly and cement fitted the bill.

This isn’t the case anymore.

Lime materials are no longer always more expensive than synthetic alternatives. They can also enable faster working.  Some modern formulations of lime enable builders to build-up thicker layers thereby saving time.

Construction is no longer a matter of ‘needs-must’ construction. It’s about choosing the appropriate materials for the building’s environment and to promote occupants’ good health.

Building healthy buildings

As we’re spending more and more of our time indoors, it’s time we prioritised how our buildings are influencing our health – both physical and mental.

If they’re good enough for our food and drink, our homes, shops or offices should also be deserving of these natural materials.

To find out more about how you can act to build healthier buildings get in touch or visit our product range.

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To help you on your way, we also offer training, and can put you in touch with a wide network of system-trained installers.

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