With the coronavirus crisis upon us, here is how you can ensure your indoors are well-maintained, says Anupama Mohanram

I have often highlighted the importance of natural light, ventilation and eco-friendly building materials in our homes. And there couldn’t be a better time to emphasise the need to maintain healthy indoor spaces. With the coronavirus spreading rapidly, it is imperative we take swift action and ensure our surroundings are clean too.

Closed indoor spaces that are not well ventilated can easily become breeding ground for any infection. Sick building syndrome (SBS), a condition that results in headaches and respiratory problems, is attributed to unhealthy indoor spaces.

The importance of natural light and ventilation for human health was understood over a 100 years ago. Case in point is the 1918 influzena pandemic, wherein it was found that severely ill flu patients, who were nursed outdoors, recovered better than those who were treated indoors. A combination of natural light and fresh air resulted in faster recovery.

In fact, research in the 1960s revealed the existence of an ‘open air factor’ that is found in fresh air which kills airborne bacteria and viruses faster than indoor air. This makes fresh air a natural disinfectant. Thus, this is a clear case of the need for adequate cross ventilation and fresh air distribution within our indoor spaces.

Also, sunlight is important for the synthesis of Vitamin D, which is required for the proper fucntioning of the immune system and could play a role in resistance to infections. A constant visual and physical connection to nature helps keep us calm and free of stress, which, in turn, can enhance our body’s immune system.

Considering the above, a few things to keep in mind while building or buying a home in order to ensure healthy living conditions:

l Ensure 100% of the spaces have access to adequate natural light and cross ventilation. This assumes that the building has been designed sensibly to keep our indoors cool without relying on air-conditioning.

l Give preference to natural building materials.

l Avoid finishes (paints, adhesives, panelling, carpeting, etc.) that have harmful emissions that impact immunity or are susceptible to pathogen growth. Look for green certified finishes and products.

l Maintain air-purifying plants to promote clean indoor air.

l Maintaining kitchen/roof gardens which allow us to grow organic food as well as keep our roofs cool.

l All of these can help bring about a truly healthy lifestyle not only for us but also for our environment.

The author is the founder of Green Evolution, a sustainable architecture firm

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