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How Buildings Impact Our Health

Chiu-Nan Lai, Ph.D.

A year ago, I read a book that introduced the views by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, a pioneer in anthroposophy, on architecture. According to Dr. Steiner, buildings are not only places for habitat, but they also influence our consciousness. Round or crescent shaped buildings can stimulate our astral bodies (i.e., influence our emotions), while buildings with sharp points have adverse effects on us. Good buildings can positively impact our minds, empowering liars to refrain from lying, and evildoers from doing unwholesome deeds. Buildings can be the throat of devas.

Ever since reading Dr. Steiner’s prophecy that we need buildings to positively alter the human consciousness in this era, I started to focus on investigating how buildings can enable devas to talk. What I wanted to know was how buildings can achieve environmental protection and energy conservation while raising our consciousness and promoting well-being. In the past year, I’ve come into contact with concepts that I’ve never heard before, learned a lot, and discovered that there is much more to learn.

Chinese architecture has a long history, and its concerns are those that the modern man cannot understand. Ancient carpenters use Luban rulers. Luban was a carpenter in ancient times who discovered that different length measurements vary in their degree of auspiciousness. Furniture and houses that are made in accordance to auspicious measurements provide a sense of harmony. Currently, only some carpenters continue to use Luban rulers.

I use the dowsing method to measure the energy of Luban rulers, and found that auspicious measurements are indeed associated with clockwise energy movements, while inauspicious measurements are associated with anticlockwise energy movements. Our feelings of comfort or discomfort upon entering certain places may be related to this.

I have on occasions seen models in garages or storage sheds, and found that storage sheds space would have positive or negative energies simply due to differences in their dimensions. Modern buildings generally do not consider the harmony of its dimensions, which is possibly why one doesn’t get a good feeling in the city.

Buildings in ancient China generally consider the “harmony” factor in their design. The upward curves at the edges of the roofs are to avoid having the sharp “killing” energy of the edges pointing downwards. Viewing an upward curving roof also elevates the mind.

When I was in Austin, I became acquainted with George Swanson, an architect who is knowledgeable about ancient Indian fengshui (or vastu). According to George, Chinese fengshui and Indian fengshui share similarities. Like the Chinese, ancient Indians also distinguished between auspicious and inauspicious measurements and length-to-width ratios. Ancient Indians consider the north and east to be auspicious directions. The south is associated with the source of energies that exhaust us, while the west is also not a favorable direction. Hence, ancient Indian buildings tended to have thicker walls and smaller windows facing south, while windows facing the north and east tended to be larger. Rooms have skylight roofs in the middle for better ventilation and lighting. The interior of the house also has a small natural open area directly in contact with the earth.

In contrast to the Indians, Chinese generally consider the south to be an auspicious direction. Why is there such a huge difference between these two cultures? One possibility is that the Himalayan mountains are located to the north of India and to the south of China. This mountain range is the source of high-level energy. Furthermore, India is a warmer country, and its northern area is cooler. Fengshui beliefs can be different because of differences in weather and geography.

In December 2007, Lapis Lazuli Light organized a workshop in Texas, Austin that focused on how our health is related to our diet and living conditions. We specially invited George Swanson to talk about environmentally friendly building construction.

Some workshop participants asked him why he became so interested in the relation between green buildings and health. He replied: “Thirty years ago, I designed an energy-efficient house in the central part of the United States. The heating bill for the house costs only a few dollars per month. I used a very thick thermal insulation to seal the house. The house was awarded several prizes, but I failed to consider the chemical toxins emitted by the carpets. Because the house had poor ventilation, these toxins caused my wife to fall ill, and my child also died as a result of these toxins. After that, I went to Germany to learn about building biology (termed bau-biologie in German).” I finally understood the driving force behind George’s interest in environmentally friendly buildings.

Building biology started in Germany after the World War II. At that time, people were concerned with the damage caused to the ecology and the environmental problems associated with industrial development and started to promote building biology. The German government recognized the close relationship between health and buildings. As long as a patient had a medical doctor to certify that his house caused his illness, the government will provide funds to rebuild or renovate the place. Germany has social medicine, and the government discovered that it was more economical to spend money to detoxify a residence than to spend money on medical bills. George mentioned that one company in Amsterdam (Netherlands) has its building conform to the building biology principles, and its employees never took medical leave.

Germany has a regulation that prohibits workers from working on cement floor for over one work-hour per day. A person who stands on cement floor easily gets tired because cement conducts electricity. Batteries placed on cement floors will have electrical leakages. Similarly, humans will also leak electrical impulses when they stand on these cement floors. In this book (published in the U.S. in February 2008), George suggested two ways to mitigate this problem. One way is to mix some wood shavings with the cement before laying the cement floor so that the cement will draw electricity from the wood shavings. The other way is to place a thin layer of magnesium oxide cement or magnesium oxide board (MgO board) over the cement.

Building biology came to the United States in 1987. Its main concerns relate to how the building industry can avoid common problems that endanger human health: (i) mold, (ii) chemical toxins emitted by building materials, (iii) fiberglass, (iv) electromagnetic and wireless radiation, as well as microwave radiation. Any of these factors can lead to serious health problems such as allergies, headaches, chronic fatigue, pain, lung infection and even cancer. Many people are not aware that health problems can originate from their homes or work places. Once the source of these ailments is eliminated, the ailment will go away.

People are generally aware of chemical toxins emitted by building materials. Toxins from paint or rubber can cause health problems. Fiberglass is currently the most popular material used for heat/cold insulation. Its disadvantage is that it is not breathable, gets damp easily and does not dry up easily. This creates an environment conducive to the growth of mold. At the same time, in a humid environment, its insulation capacity is reduced. In a very cold environment (e.g., below 20 degrees Fahrenheit), its ability to insulate against the cold is greatly compromised. The comfort of a home is associated with the appropriateness of its interior temperature, and also related to health issues. Interior temperatures should not fluctuate too much within 24 hours. In designing a house, it is best to select breathable materials that can also moderate the wall temperature so that it is warm in winter and cool in summer. Also take note of where the sunlight enters the house. For example, in winter, allow sunlight to enter from the windows or roofs facing the south; in summer, when the sun is higher in the sky, let its rays be blocked by the roof; in winter, the most comfortable source of heat comes from the walls or the hot water pipes running beneath the floors (heat from the walls is most comfortable). To cool down the interior of the house during summer, it is possible to use the cold water pipes to absorb the heat.

Most heating facilities in the United States come from forced air. This kind of warm air is not conducive to health. Experts investigating this issue list five limitations: (i) it only warms the surface of the skin but the bones are still cold. Radiant heat from hot water pipes or wood stove have long wavelengths, and its warmth can penetrate our skin and reach our bones; (ii) there is a great temperature gradient between the walls, and between the floor and ceiling. It is uncomfortable to live in such an environment. (iii) the flow of air is amplified and leads to discomfort; (iv) there is reduction in beneficial negative ions; (v) dust and mold will be blown into the air. For further information, please refer to www.healthyheating.com.

Air conditioners generally cool down the skin. On the other hand, the cool air from cold water pipes can reach the bones. The coolness from standing by a waterfall or by the sea is derived from long wavelengths. Many years ago, Dr. Ann Wigmore introduced a simple way to cool down our body—by immersing our feet in a pail of cold water. I was then living in Boston where the summers were very hot. I didn’t have a fan or air conditioner, but found that this method worked very well.

The building industry plays an instrumental role in protecting our eco system, environment, health and social harmony. May all the professionals in this industry open their minds to factors other than energy efficiency and economic factors, and consider issues such as building biology and ancient fengshui.

Reference for building biology: www.buildingbiology.com

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2008 Feb Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore