One of my clients researches widely, thoroughly and tenaciously. He thinks deeply. My job is to somehow hang a building onto a hook that not only moves, but constantly changes shape. I'm convinced he would be doing this anyway, some people are just creative, but he does have a good reason. And it's a reason that effects all of us without knowing.
My client has been on a journey involuntarily experimenting with various living conditions to see how it effects his health. It began by accident. An undiscovered leak in his bathroom had grown a hidden spewer of airborne toxins - mould spores. Upon moving out he immediately noticed a difference to his health. The Americans were called in. Two amazing experts who know, scientifically, how buildings make us ill. Bill and John. Could they have been called anything else?
I'm designing my clients own home. We've already been out to tender. What do you do when you find that what you've specified will make your client ill?
The Americans want men in spacesuits to clean everything. To create an airtight, sterile environment. None of the new materials can have anything in them that could become food. Getting these materials in the UK is proving to be very difficult. It's looking like my client's family in America will buy the materials there and ship them over. The Americans sympathise with poor me for having to live in such a backwards country suffering its lack of healthy materials. I feel a twinge of shame and say god bless America.
My client then moves into a new build house in Manchester city centre. He has it tested it for mould. All clear. After a week his health plummets. The Americans aren't surprised. A lot of the materials we regularly specify are full toxins. Over time they off gas into the spaces we live and sleep in.
What's kind of interesting is that this process has forced a more rigorously beautiful design. We can't use ply (formaldehyde) or glue in the floor. This has lead to a beautiful solid oak floor screwed down to the joists. Glued floating engineered boards are out. We're going to work with an enlightened carpenter for furniture and kitchens etc. who only uses natural methods and materials. The bathrooms will be made from a material that's inherently antibacterial - the tiles and the sanitary ware. There's a clarity and solidity that comes from cutting out all the unseen nasty padding materials.
And my client will be able to live in a sanctuary where his immune system is not constantly on the back foot. Although I don't apear to suffer from exposure to these toxins, who knows how it might be affecting me? When the project is finished it will be interesting to see if it feels any different. I'm predicting it will.