Health and Buildings

We all have an awareness no matter how small, that the buildings we live in or visit have an effect on us. Think of the visit to a monastery or medieval cathedral and how uplifted you felt. Compare that to a building where you felt unhappy or lacking in energy – you may even experience this in your place of work.

My specific interest in exploring this was heightened by a colleague on the course when he said to me one day that his grandmother once said to him that humans can never have excellent health if they live in an unhealthy house, no matter how healthy a lifestyle they lead. As an engineer practicing in the area of old buildings and having a knowledge of old buildings and the traditional crafts I somehow saw a possible link and with the encouragement of Doug our teacher on the course I decided to explore the subject area of Vastu shastra.

To my amazement and joy the subject matter which was unknown to me at the time provided a means to link architecture, engineering, medicine, health, maths, physiology, pathology, music, colour and so forth into a model that I can now use to explore the subject area of healthy buildings and their influence on peoples health. This combines my professional knowledge and experience of over 30 years with the world of human health.

I have known that ancient builders who built the pyramids, the medieval cathedrals in Europe andmany other buildings has a ‘hidden knowledge’ that is unknown to us today and sadly in many cases not even suspected. They understood buildings – design, architecture, engineering , materials, craftsmanship etc. They also had a deep understanding what it meant to be a Human Being and combined this knowledge in their creations – some may call these buildings creations of an Objective Art. These Western traditions and Eastern traditions have been suppressed for millennia and are now finding a way back into our consciousness through the work and efforts of some extraordinary human beings.

Vastu Shastra

Vastu Shastra is an ancient knowledge of ‘architecture’. Vastu, Ayurveda and Jotish form 3 legs ofthe one stool. Unfortunately ‘Vastu Shastra’ has nowadays come to be related to the mere design principle of locating the bedroom and kitchen inside a built space and very few think beyond this point. Almost like ‘Feng Shui’ has become in many ways.

It is so much more than that and relates to light (sunlight vs artificial), direction (each direction has a different vibration), and this influences the layout and orientation of a house. The ancient myth of Vaastu Purusha (demon lying face down) sets out rules that take into account various geomagnetic and solar energies. Simply put the floor plan of a house is divided into 9 quadrants and the various rooms are best located according to these rules – e.g. meditation room in NE corner.

If a room is located in the wrong area of the house it can lead to illness in the medium to longer term, or it can influence the wealth of a family. This applies to the location of a house on the site as well as the orientation of the site and the location of the various outdoor facilities. The porinciples also apply down to the micro level as in the desing and layout of a particular room e.g the kitchen should be in the SE corner of a house and the cooker should be on an external wall in the SE corner of the kitchen.

I have often wondered about the effects of our modern buildings which are being designed with the‘environment’ in mind. We have a common medical condition called SBS (Sick Building Syndrome)that is poorly understood by the building and medical professions. SBS is often used when the exact cause of a sickness is not easily discerned or diagnosed. NZEB (near zero energy buildings) is changing the way we design and build houses. The aim is to have a building with a very high energy performance.

What is to say that in the long term this drive to NZEB buildings will not result in a whole generation of buildings that will be seen as unhealthy and maybe condemned in years ahead. No account is being taken of the effect of technologies like wifi on the human being – vata aggravation resulting in different illnesses.

Food for serious thought and time to step back and take account of the ancient knowledge that is now only beginning to emerge after centuries of suppression.

By David Humphreys (a recent graduate of our Diploma of Ayurvedic Studies)