Woods Bagot's interior of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. Image: Peter Clarke

It’s a surprising realisation for many people that we spend over 90 per cent of our time indoors. And yet we pay little attention to how our interiors directly affect our health.

When we are outside nature provides the perfect balance for our wellbeing. Inside, however, our manmade interiors have in many cases engineered wellness out of the space.

While increasingly we are creating interior spaces that are good for the environment, little attention has been given to how these same interiors are affecting human health.

Here are 10 key wellness protocols that if addressed can make significant improvements to our health and wellbeing.

Ergonomics

We all need to stop sitting so much. Using a stand-up desk at work or home can reduce the significant health implications of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Just standing can reduce the chances of sedentary illnesses like diabetes and heart disease significantly.

Light

Replace your old light bulb technology with the latest circadian rhythm lights that adapt their colour temperature during the day to reflect the changing light outside. Tip: blue light in the morning to kickstart your brain for the day ahead; warm oranges and reds in the evening to prepare the brain for sleep.

Acoustics

Be aware of the noise around you while working and at home. High levels of noise can lead to lower productivity, stress and, if at night, poor sleep. New contemporary designed acoustic panels that mimic art can reduce noise pollution significantly and keep you more relaxed and productive.

Air quality

The air we breath inside is often more polluted that the air outside, especially in offices. Wall-mounted UV air purifiers have been proven to reduce airborne bacteria by over 70 per cent, meaning you breathe easy and stay healthy.

Water purification

The water we drink and wash in is heavily treated with chlorine as well as carrying high levels of other traceable chemicals. Install a simple under-sink alkaline water purifier to remove 99 per cent of toxins and return the water to its natural structure.

Fatigue management

Understand your sleep better and wake up refreshed. Wearable devices such as Jawbone and Fitbit track your sleep cycles and wake you at the optimal time in the morning when you are in your lightest sleep cycle. Or try dawn simulation alarm clocks that simulate the sun rising 30 minutes before the alarm sounds.

Nutrition

Instead of opting for that afternoon caffeine or junk food pick me up go for a healthy alternative. Keeping healthy snacks always at hand such as pulses, nuts and fruit makes it much easier to avoid those cravings and keeps your moods and ability to concentrate far more balanced.

Fitness

Even if you are not a runner – walk! The medically recommended 10,000 steps a day can do wonders for your health. When at work take time every hour to walk around the office or head outside for a walking meeting, and take the stairs instead of an elevator whenever possible.

Stress reduction

Meditate! Mindfulness as it is also known is a proven way to reduce stress, feel happier and improve productivity. Find a quiet corner at work or home, close your eyes and just focus on your breathing for 10 or 20 minutes. The positive effects on your wellbeing are scientifically proven and are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace as a way to beat the effects of stressful workloads.

Environmental balance

Clean surfaces reduce your chances of being exposed to bacteria and illness. The average person touches 132 items per day. Consider a non-toxic water based treatment, such as Microbe Shield Treatment, which can protect surfaces you are in regular contact with for up to 30 days.

Nigel Hobbs is founder of Welnis Labs, an interior consultancy and fitout company.

10 replies on “10 quick tips for a healthy indoors”

  1. ASHRAE Acceptable Indoor Air Quality Standard 2010
    ANSI/ASHRAE Addendum q to ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2007

    Ozone level acceptable at 0.05ppm…….average over 8 hr period

    NAAQS level is 0.08ppm
    OSHA level is 0.1ppm
    WHO level is 0.06ppm

  2. Well I tell you what Ronald

    Don’t go out in a forest or near the ocean or anywhere that ozone is 0.02 then….. Geeezzz.
    Don’t go outside when it rains
    My argument is that ozone between 0.02 and 0.05 has been deemed safe by leading health organizations…

    Oh and certainly move out of cities and don’t go anywhere near a motor vehicle….there are more dangerous emissions than ozone…

    Ronald, you talk and focus about the health effects of ozone. Yet seem to be missing what the health effects of the bacteria, viruses and mould in the air and on surfaces really are …. a true risk to indoor air quality…not ozone at 0.02ppm

  3. Jeremy,

    Your arguments don’t hold water.

    The following is from the Environmental Health Committee ASHRAE (that is the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning), the organisation from which indoor air quality standards are the basis for indoor air quality standards in the western world.

    OZONE & INDOOR CHEMISTRY

    “To minimize health impacts of ozone and associated by-products, the following actions should be considered (particularly for individuals and populations at high-risk for adverse consequences, such as infants, the elderly and those with chronic respiratory illnesses):
    1. Remove ozone from outdoor air at the outdoor air intake, or as early in introduction to the occupied space as possible, using ozone removal technologies that do not result in by-product formation.
    2. Minimize indoor ozone emissions by reducing the use of equipment that produces ozone (e.g. laser-based printers, and photocopiers, and some air cleaning technologies).
    3. Minimize indoor ozone by filtering or exhausting the ozone produced by pertinent equipment.
    4. Reduce concentrations of terpenes and other reactive organic compounds as well as carbonyls and other products of indoor ozone chemistry in indoor spaces through source reduction and gas phase removal equipment.
    5. Use high efficiency particulate filters (e.g. MERV 13 or greater) to remove ozone reaction products in the form of SOA and UFP from outdoor and recirculated air.

  4. Ronald Wood

    “Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”

    I am not sure why you use Criegee biradicals to now try and prove a point that air purifiers are still bad???
    Ozone reacting with alkenes to produce nitrates and sulphates… At what levels and what health effects are they creating. I already explained that ozone is in all the air that we breathe…You cant change that…. And with the air purifiers that produce levels of less than 0.05 ppm the benefits of killing bacteria and viruses and removing chemicals etc can far out way the negatives. And I cannot agree with comparing this to vehicle exhaust emissions.

    I also dont feel its fair to now add to the argument being made.
    The original information provided was that UV air purifiers can reduce airborne bacteria. You had said not without ozone…I stated that was untrue and that HEPA filters are recognised for removing bacteria and viruses, mould spores etc. Trying to now change subject to about gases and using carbon resulting in toxic waste was not the subject.

    The research is available.. But I am not here again to argue or prove long term effects, we both know a long term study would be almost impossible… We cant make people live in a bubble for years with an air purifier.
    Studies on lung tissue, DNA etc are all there for a professional like yourself.

    Ronald , you sell your business of promoting plants. I dont try and point out any false negatives towards this and wouldnt want to.
    I just tried to clear up some negatives you were making against air purifiers and ozone in general and provide more information that would help people make best choices.

    I know from first hand seeing of air and surface bacteria levels in lab and real world tests the success of using air purifiers with limited ozone and hydroxyl ions and I am aware of organizations like WHO (World Health Organization) using them in their offices , which gives me confidence that they are not useless or so dangerous.

    Regarding your comment on the biradicals
    Professor Dudley Shallcross, Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry at The University of Bristol, added: “A significant ingredient required for the production of these Criegee biradicals comes from chemicals released quite naturally by plants” So whether we like it or not if ozone is natural and plants are natural, then nature is doing it anyway and taking care of the outdoors in its own way”
    Air purification in different forms we both agree is a necessity for indoors given the risks of doing nothing…

  5. Jeremy,

    “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    ” Ozone is a highly reactive species, even at the concentrations you suggest, forming other compounds (Criegee biradicals) with indoor air gaseous pollutants (think motor vehicle emissions) producing lung irritants and probably exacerbating asthma in susceptible individuals.
    HEPA filters remove particles, but not gases. For this an activated carbon filter is required. When saturated it is not recyclable and is toxic waste.
    Where is the evidence of the effectiveness of “hydroxyl ion generators, plasma air and negative ion generators” to “clean” air without causing adverse health effects.

  6. Ronald Wood
    I do understand the point you have tried to make but U disagree with a a few comments
    Most UV air cleaners are not totally ineffective…..
    Passing any amount of air past a UV germicidal light is effective..
    But Yes some manufacturers embellish their claims.

    To clean the air you do not necessarily need ozone.
    Both HEPA filters , hydroxyl ion generators, plasma air and negative ion generators can do this without causing ozone.
    You also imply that breathing any ozone is extremely hazardous to health and refer to the EPA
    You I think would well know that there is ozone in all the air we breathe and it is well documented that levels of up to 0.05ppm are safe for majority of humans without short or long term damage.
    Air cleaners designed to only produce or control ozone to 0.02 to 0.05 ppm therefore pose no threat that you accuse air cleaners of presenting. So it is my opinion to not just declare all ozone as bad.
    Formaldehyde and all sorts of viruses and bacteria can pose a much greater risk than ozone. As in most things and the EPA website states ozone at unhealthy levels is a risk…not all ozone….
    We both know and agree that drinking too much water can kill you too. But we dont avoid water all together

  7. Plants! Fantastic ‘natural’ technology for air purification, stress reduction, connection to place – bringing nature into the office. Let’s reintroduce green life back into offices and start to blur one of the boundaries that separates ‘inside’ from ‘outside’

  8. Great article and one I absolutely agree with, however, I believe the pursuit of wellness in the built environment shouldn’t just be limited to commercial office buildings, but all buildings, especially residential. It’s also worth mentioning the newly released International WELL Building Institute’s WELL Building Standard. This standard, which interplays with, among others, current LEED standards/guidelines, covers many of the abovementioned aspects, certifying building designs that aim to enrich the health and wellness of its building occupants.

  9. “Wall-mounted UV air purifiers have been proven to reduce airborne bacteria by over 70 per cent, meaning you breathe easy and stay healthy.”
    Well no, most UV air cleaners are totally ineffective despite the manufacturers claims. To be effective in killing microorganisms the air cleaner needs to generate ozone, and therein lies the difficulty: breathing ozone is extremely hazardous to health. See the US EPA website for more.

  10. What an excellent article…we spend far more time in our offices than in our living rooms, so as well as making our work spaces – and our selves – more healthy , why not create in the office a home from home, with personal possessions; pictures, plants. Why not insist on a comfortable and individual working environment? With a couch and a kettle we would be infinitely more productive.

Comments are closed.