by Nicolas Roy, VELUX Group

Much focus on sustainable buildings has been on energy aspects. However, health is the most precious resource we have, and energy is only one aspect of sustainability. A primary goal for sustainability should be to sustain good health and a healthy living environment. This was the starting point for a series of workshops with international experts initiated by the VELUX Group, based on a wish to start a discussion on how to create healthier homes.

This document describes a comprehensive vision to realize healthy homes that support the different biological needs of their occupants, in particular including their circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. It is based on discussions and findings of 5 workshops; ´Light and circadian rhythms´ (WS 1), ´Indoor climate´ (WS 2), ´The historical perspective´ (WS 3), ´ What to monitor and how´ (WS 4) and ´How to wrap-up the specifications´ (WS 5). The workshops were carried out by scientists and consultants specialized in healthy buildings, indoor environment, architecture and planning from November 2012 to August 2013.

Today, most residential buildings are designed or renovated in order to achieve a better energy performance. We acknowledge that there is an urgent need to transform our building stock to a better energy performance level, e.g. by increasing thermal insulation, installing better energy performing windows and improving energy efficiency of heating, cooling and ventilation systems. On the other hand, improving the energy performance of buildings should not result in a negative impact on health, wellbeing and comfort of building occupants. A successful design or redesign of a residential building should aim at the best health and comfort performance in addition to good energy performance. It is important to remember that dwellings are primarily meant to provide a safe and enjoyable living environment for their inhabitants. In that context, it is also important to consider that the primary purpose of Building Regulations is to provide for the health, safety and welfare of people in and around buildings.

The principles and guidelines in this document can be used to guide and improve the design of residential buildings of all types, including apartment buildings, and are applicable to both new and existing dwellings.