Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction by the immune system. Symptoms often include: headaches, shortness of breath, eczema, sneezing, watery eyes, depression, fatigue, diarrhea, palpitations, coughing, sleeping difficulties, sore throat, dizziness and asthma. In the last fifty years there has been a global pandemic of allergies such as asthma, and its getting worse every year. Current research has linked these reactions to an increase in allergens found with modern building methods and materials. There is now a movement to address these issues within the building industry known as low allergen design or low allergy housing.
Indoor allergens have been identified as dust mites, moulds and fungal spores, fine particles, fumes and gases, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature, and many are known to be toxic and hazardous to human health. The building industry has changed radically in the last part of the twentieth century, and indoor allergens are now prevalent in the modern home. Synthetic and chemical products that contain VCOs are increasingly used, and houses are often built to an airtight design using water resistant materials. This has resulted in warm, damp and poorly ventilated spaces, which are the ideal conditions for dust mites, moulds and fungal spores to thrive.
Low allergen design is a whole building approach that aims to reduce and avoid all known allergens, and to minimize the conditions in which they occur. The main areas that are considered in this process are: the specification of materials, ventilation, humidity and heating.
Low allergen design is a holistic approach to creating healthy living spaces. It is a sensitive and intelligent approach to minimizing allergen triggers by combining appropriate green building materials (which are environmentally safe and non-toxic), with design methodologies such as breathing walls and open, well-aired rooms. Low allergen design is a return to a more natural and sustainable way of building, in that both interior and exterior environments benefit, with a positive impact on health.