There is growing concern about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. Much research is being done and evidence is piling up. One thing that becomes clearer, while evaluating all of the scientific research in this field, is that we know very little about the electromagnetic processes happening in our body, and in that of all other life forms on earth. Apart from the scientific evidence about the health effects, the rapidly growing number of people who are aware that it influences there health and well being can not be neglected any more. In Sacred Groves we want to be conscious about this. On one side we try to be precautions, instead of ignorant. After all it is better to be safe then sorry. Although we want to promote a simple lifestyle, it does not mean that we want to alienate from the modern world. This means that on the other side we have a minimal need for electrical power and wireless communication. It is a challenge to create a healthy environment, with the integration of modern technology.
The main forms of electromagnetic pollution we want to reduce are the electric, magnetic fields and “dirty electricity” generated by our electrical installation and appliances, and the high frequency electromagnetic pollution generated by certain appliances and wireless communication devices. But also other areas like static electricity and magnetism, radioactivity, and light are being evaluated. Although not electromagnetic from nature the influences of sound can not be neglected.
Whenever there is an electrical “pressure” (Voltage) there will be an electric field. This field can come from the wires of the installation or appliances connected to this electrical installation. Electric fields go from source to drain. The ultimate drain is the earth, but before reaching the earth it may effect everything that comes in between, like our body. The human body is a very good conductor for electricity. The strengths of the electric field depends on the height of the voltage and the distance to the earth, or better to ground potential (for instance our body when it is grounded). Another important aspect is how the field is behaving. An electrical field that is constantly changing in strengths, is much more stressful then a stable field. The alternating voltage (AC) from our electricity grid is changing 50 times per second between +325 Volts and –325 Volts, generating electric fields which fluctuate accordingly. While a direct current (DC) is stable. In Sacred Groves we are taking various measures’ in reducing the electro stress. First we look at the source. Using a 12 Volt DC power supply is much better then a 230 Volt AC. So we decided to use as much as possible a 12 V DC power supply, this can be realized mainly for fixed appliances, like lights and fans. After all our main power supply is 12 Volt DC coming from the batteries which are charged by the solar installation. Since most appliances we buy on the market are designed for a 230 V AC power supply, we have decided to install a few 230V ac outlets, on well thought off locations. Therefor a small power inverter is needed (about this later more information).
Apart from this we will create a shielded electrical installation by using petrol pipes. We have obtained used petrol pipes for recycling. After keeping them some time in the sun, they are released from the petrol vapors. When the metal shield of these pipes is properly grounded, we can effectively shield the electrical wiring, and eliminating the electric field caused by the wiring. Choosing for appliances and other installation parts that can be properly grounded the electric field strengths will be further reduced.
Reducing the magnetic field is a different story. The magnetic field is created by the currents flowing in a system, the Amp’s. It does not need a drain but it will rapidly go down in strengths according to the distance from the source. Shielding against magnetic fields is difficult and very expensive, and therefor not an option in Sacred Groves. This leaves two other means: reducing at the source and keeping distance. Reducing at the source means reducing the complementary current flowing through the wires. This is another reason why reducing power consumption is needed. But also a conscious design and implementation of the electric wiring can be very helpful. Important is to make sure that the electrical installation is made in a way that the currents are leveled out. The current in the live wire should be the same as the current in the neutral, and both wires should be placed closed to each other, preferably twisted. Distance can be obtained by making a conscious lay-out of the electrical installation. To take care that wiring and appliances that use much current are located at some distance (about 2 meter) from places where people spend much time, especially the sleeping area.
Another cause of electromagnetic pollution is called dirty electricity. No matter how well the previous precautions are done, there will always be some pollution. When this pollution is caused by “dirty electricity”, it should be assessed more seriously.
Net pollution or “dirty electricity” is mainly caused by power electronics, the AC electrical signal does not look like a pure sine-wave anymore but is changed into some other periodic waveform. The main culprits in the modern life are electronics that make use of fast switching components. These can be found in CFL and LED light bulbs, compact chargers for cell phones, lap tops and so on, but also compact fan or light regulators. Even coming from wireless devices. But the main culprit in most houses in our region are power inverters and UPS’s. The good news for Sacred Groves is that we want to go for DC power as much as possible, DC has no net pollution. However we do have a few AC sockets, and therefor need an inverter. When reducing this AC power as much as possible we can keep the inverter small, and by choosing a high quality inverter, which has truly a pure sine wave output it can be reduced further. Organizational it can be further reduced by avoiding polluting appliances as much as possible, if this is not possible use them as limited as possible, and keep them at a safe distance from resting areas. Last option is using special net filters, these are expensive and require expert knowledge. If the design is done the way it is intended than there will be no need for these filters in Sacred Groves.
With the increasing amount of wireless technology, we are confronted with an increasing amount of high frequency electromagnetic pollution. At high frequencies the electric and magnetic fields become one and are called radiation. Radiation can travel over long distances and is therefor used for information transmission. Wireless communication has become part of each others live in a few years time. The houses we are building are designed in such a way that it gives people the free choice to use wireless devices, while respecting the wish for those who do not want to be radiated. First we have our two feet thick cob walls, the mass of these walls absorb most of the electromagnetic pollution coming from outside or from your neighbors. Secondly the windows are positioned in such a way that windows do not see the windows of neighbors, (this is also important for avoiding of noise disturbance). Remains the reflection of the signal, which will be reduced a lot since no specifically reflecting materials are used (walls will get a lime plaster). Additionally there will be many plants and trees in the courts between the houses they will disperse the signal.
Additionally there will be provisions inside the houses to stimulate the occupants not to use wireless for there own, and their children’s, health and well-being. There will be outlets for wired communication in all rooms. There will also be a shielded box integrated in the walls near the entrance where a cell phone can be left behind to recharge, with instruction how to forward calls to a land-line. We are used to leave the street dirt outside by taking off our shoes, why not leave the ether dirt outside by leaving your cell phone in a safe place. Nevertheless in order to deal with wireless communication it requires primarily education and organizational measures.
If we increase the frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum we will come to the realm of the radioactivity. All materials emit a little bit of natural radioactivity, but some building materials emit substantially more then what we receive from our natural environment. Suspicious building materials are in the first place materials made of industrial waste like fly-ash or chemical gypsum. Most of the currently used cement in conventional construction is based on fly-ash (PPC-cement) or compressed to building blocks (earocon or “eco”-blocks). The use of these materials will be avoided in Sacred Groves. Some natural stones also have increased levels of radioactivity, when brought into the construction they will increase the levels compared to the natural environment. This is one more reason to stay close to home for gathering construction materials (nothing better than the local earth). In case of suspicion we are able to test the levels of radioactivity of building materials. One more source of radioactivity is radon gas. Everywhere in the world radon gas is being exhaled from the earth. Some houses are constructed in such a way that radon gas is being accumulated in the indoor environment. Two things that can be done, sealing of the possibility that radon gas can enter, and make sure for a good ventilation. In Sacred Groves the floors will be made air tight, since we do not want humidity nor termites (in case of cracks) to enter the houses. And the solar powered ventilation will make sure of a constant high quality of fresh air.
There is no need for panic when talking about natural radioactivity compared to man made radioactivity, however higher levels of radioactivity do increase the amount of free radicals in our body and they may this may speed up the aging process.
All these aspects makes the Sacred Groves housing project one of the first projects in India where these aspects of healthy living are taken into consideration. Next part of “Houses for a healthy and happy life” will put a light on why living in Sacred Groves will be good for psychological, social and emotional well-being.