How to Enhance the Indoor Environment in a Modular Home

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An average human being spends 90% of their time indoors. Symbolically, the new “natural” environment for us is eventually indoors. With this large number of percentage, it is of utmost importance to prioritize the air we breathe, the water we drink, the panorama we gaze and the materials we surround ourselves with.

On the contrary, when you reside in a modular home that has already been manufactured and constructed, there might be challenges and doubts that arise if the major wellness issues have been looked upon. Some of the major parameters that foster productivity and positivity are well-planned design, lighting, acoustics, appropriate ventilation, and temperature and air quality.

Ever since we are tucked indoors due to the Pandemic hitting us hard, human wellness has emerged to be a priority. From Indoor Air Quality to accessible drinking water and direct connectivity between nature and humans, a positive and healthy environment is what requires to be considered. When building a cost-effective structure, it’s quite likely that the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) might get affected. Building a modular home is a cost-effective technique – yes, It saves you quite some bucks! But does it offer a healthy and productive environment?

Strategic Planning: Good Architecture and Design

The indoor environment is indeed comparatively polluted than the outdoors. Harmful contaminants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Radon and Particulate Matter (PM 2.5, PM10) become a potential threat for the building user’s that can also lead to affecting the overall productivity. Installed ungraded interior paints, adhesives, flooring, insulation and furniture are responsible for off-gassing harmful carcinogens (benzene) that constantly lead to irritation in the nose and long-term lung diseases. Now, knowing these scientific theories, we don’t want to be caught up in a space that is killing us at our backs. So, how do we enhance the indoor environment of our prefab homes?

Good architecture and design are foremost for a cleaner and healthier environment. Modular homes have been largely responsible for saving the planet by cutting down on material wastes and required reduced energy for operation. They are intentionally preserving the surrounding community while offering safer conditions. Hence, the use of building materials varies from module to module. This factory-based production generally offers a longer period for the off-gassing from VOC’s to occur. As compared to the traditional style of construction, these modular homes carry the potential to negate the high amount of moisture being collected in the materials. Well, that’s good – no moisture – no off-gassing – aesthetics remain for a longer time – no sooner renovations – and big-time money saving!

But you still need to incorporate external elements to further enhance the indoor environment. After all, nothing is permanent! So, let’s have a look at some of the factors that can enhance the environment of your modular home.

Let the Outdoors In

Plants are humans’ best friends. By introducing the outdoors inside, you feel more in nature, which in return will boost your productivity, motivate you, and also freshen the constantly circulating air in the indoors. They imbibe a fresh and wholesome vibe while brightening up the space and also fostering natural aesthetics indoors. Plants are known to tranquilize and relax a stressed mind after a long, hardworking day (especially in the present-era since we have been working from home).

Placing an indoor potted plant on your work desk, a few hanging planters and a tall 6 or 7 feet high faux-tree in the corner of your home would automatically enhance the indoor environment. Using a Fig-tree in specific will attract all the moisture that has been collected so far in your modular home and thus, leading to lesser indoor toxins and contaminants – that indirectly are contaminating you.

However, remember to avoid the entry of insects and pests. Standardized pesticides and herbicides should be allocated indoors that reduces the presence of pests and negates human exposure to harmful contaminants. Check your local equivalent for the same.

The Most Crucial – Prioritizing Thermal Comfort and Ventilation

Creating a comfortable and cozy environment is undoubtedly the most important factor when enhancing the indoor environment. Building acoustics, insulation values and wall-opening materials are primary when buying your new modular home. Depending on your geographical location, manufacturer and local topography, remember to keep an eye on the specifications of the materials used to build the modular home.

Appropriate ventilation is important. Ventilation rates should comply with all the set requirements in ASHRAE 62.1-2013 or an equivalent in your country (WELL Building Standard). Remember to ensure that all the wall openings are well-sealed and there is apparently no leakage and entering of outdoor air. The building envelope should be as tight as possible (Bruce Hanson). However, in such a case, with an envelope that tight, it also important to filter and exchange the air as frequently as possible – at least 6 times a day. Well, nobody wants to breathe the same stale air over and over again, right?

The specification for the glass frame is equally important as the frame itself. Is it double or triple glazing? Does it have low-E or infilled argon? If yes, it’s energy-efficient and will not let the unwanted noise disturb you or even exchange the outdoor-indoor air! Similarly double-check the insulation (R-values) for the homes and let yourself out comfortably!

Quality assurance should be required when using gas-burning appliances, chemical storage closets and ventilation for bathrooms and kitchens as it is crucial to directly expel these – rather than re-circulating the same air. On the other hand, natural ventilation too is crucial for wellness. It is important to sometimes let the cross-ventilation happen!

Upgrade the Building Products

For many years, manufacturers around the world have been designing products that are specifically targeting the improvement of Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ). One of the most effective techniques includes the smart mechanical or ventilation and air-conditioning systems that offer proper ventilation and heat and cold recovery. Meanwhile, air filtration in modular homes is equally necessary. MERV Filters are a way to go for that! Depending on varying standards, home filters might typically range around 4 or 5 filter levels. And of course, with the advancement in technology, we are now fortunate to have a high level of air purifiers and fresheners that can help create a positive environment.

A gypsum board is available in the market that can be used for the interior walls and ceilings for your modular home that readily pulls the VOCs from the air and converts them into embedded inert compounds. Also, if you prefer a fireplace in your living room, don’t worry! There are gas fireplaces available that easily replace all of the combusted air with fresh outdoor air.

Expel the VOCs

One of the affordable and doable options is to choose the best, sustainable products for the interiors of your modular home. Seek Green Label or Health Certified standards! When buying, double-check with the seller if the products specified have low VOC content.

In terms of furniture and furnishings, ANSI/BIFMA or equivalent sustainability standard sections should be considered. There is also no harm in considering your local standards and abiding by them. Similarly, flooring and insulation could be other products that attract VOCs easily; hence it’s important to seek sustainable labels. Wellness standards like LEED and Energy Star have minimum standards for the use of VOC in the homes. Keeping this in mind, many suppliers are now providing products that are low in VOCs and Formaldehyde – from furnishings to paints to insulation to flooring!

Materials such as Activ’Air ceiling are contaminant capturing and end up diluting 70% of the VOC indoors. These panels offer aesthetically appealing and ultra clean looks. Other codes such as ASHRAE, U.S EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), BREEAM and WELL Building Institute have introduced basics for designing healthy interiors – and we are lucky to have them!

Focus on Designing Healthier Spaces

One of the most exciting parts, when you buy a modular home, is to decorate it! Even though you have the basic structure all ready in a few weeks, with interior and exterior finishes, roof specifications and outdoor decking – the interior decoration still remains the major DIY part for you to focus on. With healthy and sustainability standards in mind, it is not necessary that the space should look monotonous and bland. Instead, it should excite and motivate you! Do you want a minimalistic clean and crisp space? Or a floral, free-spirited bohemian style? You could also like moody contemporary or dark glam! Well, the interior decoration is highly subjective to enhancing the indoor environment.

Painting the walls in whites and off-whites is primary. The lighter the hue – the brighter the interiors – the more positivity and zest to be productive. Understanding the perspective of the space, the overall size and heights are important when designing. While you look forward to starting furnishing the home, look for eco-labeled appliances, and energy star equipment. Decorate the walls with plenty of mirrors and strategically place the furniture keeping in mind the space optimization and user circulation.

Keep your space clean and organized! Use light-weight and bright-hued cabinetries with plenty of glass to let the natural light flow flexibly. Place on a larger rug with various ottomans, end tables and extra seating to add the extra touch of comfort and coziness. In the end, remember, bright space is a happy place! Since you save up ample of time in construction because of the factory-assembled modules; feel great that you have time to decorate your homes! They complement the overall indoor environment to offer you memorable and healthy experiences!

Brighten Up the Home

A well-lit and bright home is a well-designed home. Whether nature itself showers bright natural light on you or artificial lighting seems to play a big game – lighting has always played a major role in enhancing the interiors of a modular home. Since the plugs and sockets are all pre-drilled and demarcated, there is no worry about placing a particular accessory.

The natural way to enhance the indoor environment is the strategic placement of the windows. Large sliding windows that open up to the patio or the majestic skylights over your bedroom – ensure there is ample and ample of natural lighting. Well, nobody wants to live in a dark and dingy space right? That’s the same logic. To well-function our minds and bodies, there is a particular amount of light needed. Hence, if nature doesn’t bless – artificial pendant lights, wall scones, vibrant chandeliers and floor lamps come into play. Aligning more towards the warm white tones, you will observe the enhanced indoor environment of your modular home.

So, what’s the Takeaway?

Creating a healthy indoor environment is necessary for you and your loved beings. If you are already residing in a modular home or planning to buy one, know that you are saving the planet by sustainably contributing to it and also leading a healthy lifestyle. However, there are a few points you must note to assure the quality indoor environment which is enlisted below:

1. Does the home specify low-VOC furniture, paints and insulation?
2. Does the cabinetry provide formaldehyde-free content?
3. Did you install energy recovery ventilators or heat recovery ventilators with pre-installed HEPA filters?
4. In addition, do you need air purifiers?
5. How do you address moisture control in the space?
6. Is the fireplace and gas appliance being directly vented out?
7. How do you avoid the entry of pests and insects? Do the indoors have microbes and molds?

Modular homes are tested for radon and other harmful contaminants. But there still needs to be a regular check-up! Half of the worries are already off the list when enhancing the indoor environment of a modular home. Just some basic planning, use of sustainable materials, indoor plants and regularly performed inspections should be on your to-do list! When custom designing a modular home, you can always be cautious with the specifications and process. In the end, health and safety are important! To avoid long-lasting diseases and health risks, make a few smart choices today and lead a healthy and happy life!

References

1. The WELL Building Standard (v1 with Q1 2019 Addenda)
2. https://a.storyblok.com/f/52232/x/8c8027863e/well-v1-pdf-with-2019-q1-addenda_0.pdf
3. https://www.buildinggreen.com/feature/potential-prefab-how-modular-construction-can-be-green
4. https://www.newhomesource.com/learn/indoor-air-quality-matters/
5. https://foobot.io/guides/iaq-standards-and-guidelines.php
6.https://www.rehva.eu/fileadmin/content/documents/Promoting_healthy_and_highly_energy_performing_buildings_in_European_Union.pdf