Housing is one of the most integral parts of society. Homes provide shelter and are a center for where people live. However, many American homes and apartment complexes don’t meet basic health principles. Nearly six million households live with moderate to severe safety and health hazards (greenandhealthyhomes.org). These hazards place homes for at-risk illnesses and injuries including asthma, lead poisoning, slip and falls, and respiratory illnesses. Hazards in homes include inadequate ventilation systems, which not only lead to poor circulation of fresh air but also allow for mold and moisture to ruin homes and residents’ health. Poor ventilation also contributes to concentration of contaminates inside the home. This provides a dangerous condition for residents and increases the risk of respiratory illnesses. Humans spend so much time within the home it is important to rethink living environments. Everyday life takes place within people’s homes so the health of homes has an even greater impact on human health.
In recent works, communities and builders have become more aware on the dangers of unhealthy homes and begun to take steps in creating healthier homes. Furthermore, the National Center for Healthy Housing is studying how the incorporation of green building into low-income housing rehabilitation projects can promote health and reduces environmental exposures (nhhc.org). My precedent I studied was research article on the rehabilitation of the Wheeler Terrace Apartments in Washington D.C.. This particular rehabilitation project looked to connect green design to improve the health conditions and the well being of its residents. This particular project renovated the apartment complex, which was filled with dangerous indoor living conditions such as, leaking buildings and plumbing, inadequate ventilation, mold and mildew, as well as pest. The residents who lived here were also facing serious respiratory illnesses and in 2004 chronic respiratory disease was the seventh leading cause of death for children under the age of one in the City’s district. These dangerous conditions were not only impacting the residents’ physical health, but was also creating an environment that felt neglected. The feeling of neglect was seen in the high crime neighborhood, depreciated buildings, and an unsafe neighborhood.
Wheeler Apartments before the renovation
The green renovations to the apartment were carefully considered based on cost, durability, life-cycle costs, and health and environmental impacts (nchh.org). The renovated project included green elements such as geothermal heat pumps, fresh air ventilation systems, a community garden, and a storm water filter system. After the renovations, the National Center for Healthy Housing conducted research to trace the impacts on the residents who returned to the community. Since the renovations the neighborhood has experienced a decrease in crime as well as an increase in time spent outside by residents. Air samples were taken both before and after the renovation and are continuing to show air that is no longer contaminated by dust, mold and other hazards. The renovation also unexpectedly removed many stress triggers previously seen in residents. Furthermore, by using geothermal heat pumps and other green features save residents money and free them of high electric bills. It is proven that low-income households typically spend fourteen percent of their income on energy cost, compared to three and a half percent for other households (greenandhealthyhomes.org). I was particularly inspired how this renovation projected not only impacted its resident’s physical health, but also lead to a better mental health for the residents.
Wheeler Apartments after the renovations took place
My diagrams seek to go one step further than the renovations of the Wheeler apartments, and seek to change the way we think of clustering apartments together. My diagram seeks to interrupt the average apartment complex with a series of outdoor porches that are connected to individual units. By attaching each indoor space with its own outdoor space, I hope to improve the overall airflow that enters the building. These porches will also be spaces for residents to enjoy year round. By stacking other apartments on top of each other, the direct sunlight is blocked by the story above it. This allows for residents to have their own private spaces that are well lit and open enough to gain fresh airflows, which will eliminate the concentration of air contaminants. When situated perpendicular to the direction of the wind, these porches will provide a natural way of ventilation. Winds from the porches will pass through individual apartments through windows and will eliminate moisture and high risk of mold and mildew in a cramped apartment. In addition, these porches will allow residents to have their own green spaces in which they can grow gardens, let their children play, and spend more time outside. Residents will no longer have to deal with the stress of paying high energy bills and will create a safe outdoor environment. The aim is to use natural ventilation and light to cut down on energy cost, while also forming a connection between the residents and nature, ultimately aiming to reduce stress and improve respiratory health.