It is important that houses are pleasant and healthy places in which to live. There are many factors to be considered in a house design to make it a healthy place.
Protection from the weatherA house should keep out the rain and strong winds. It should keep out as much heat as possible in hot weather and keep in the warmth during cold weather. If the house meets all these requirements it lowers the chances of people getting sick from too much heat, cold or dampness.
Size of roomsEach room in the house should be large enough to allow the people living there to have enough space to live comfortably.
Rooms that are too small can lead to overcrowding and this can make it easier for diseases to be spread from person to person. Overcrowding can make people annoyed and depressed (downhearted). Rooms that are too small can result in the people using them not getting enough air.
Even a large house can become overcrowded if too many people live in it.
VentilationAll rooms should be well ventilated. This means that air should be able to flow into and out of each of the rooms. This is important so that fresh air can get inside all the rooms and stale air can get out. Ventilation also allows heat, steam and odours (smells) to escape, particularly from the kitchen, bathroom, laundry and toilet. This is important for the good health of the people living there.
Open windows and doors allow the house to be well ventilated. Sometimes air vents are placed in the walls or the corners of the ceiling to provide ventilation when doors and windows are closed.
Toilets usually have a window with one part always fixed open, or have an air vent in the ceiling which opens to the outside air.
Cooking areas also should be well ventilated so that any cooking smells are blown or sucked out of the house.
Sometimes houses do have plenty of windows but the people living in the house rarely or never open them. These people should be encouraged to open their windows, especially on days when a breeze is blowing. Fly screens allow for windows to be open while protecting people inside from flying insects (flies and mosquitoes).
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LightingAs well as providing ventilation, windows also let natural light into the house. There should be enough windows to let in plenty of light. It is difficult for germs and insects to live and breed in light, airy rooms. When plenty of light can get into the house, it helps to make the home a cheery place to live in.
When electric power is supplied to the house, each room usually has electric light. Electric light is one kind of artificial light (not supplied naturally by the sun or moon). Gas, kerosene and candle lights are also artificial.
Where possible, electric lights also should be positioned outside to light up areas such as verandahs and outside toilet blocks at night.
PowerIf it is available in the house, electric power can be used for many purposes. For example, it can be used for lighting, heating water, cooking and for running many appliances such as refrigerators, TV sets, radios, kettles, toasters, and vacuum cleaners.
Water supplyEvery house should have clean drinking water supplied to it. Plumbing carries the water to taps in different parts of the house.
The kitchen, laundry and bathroom should each have water supplied. Water must also be supplied to the toilet if it has a flushing mechanism. Outside the house, water can be used on gardens and trees. Care should be taken to avoid wasting water.
KitchenIf possible, the kitchen should have:
- a window or vent to let in fresh air and to allow cooking odours to escape. Sometimes a mechanical fan will ventilate the room
- screens covering the windows to stop flies from coming in
- a sink with water supplied to wash food and dishes
- if possible, hot as well as cold water should be available to the sink
- a workbench area which can be used to prepare food
- a ventilated storage cupboard in which to keep dry and canned foods
- storage areas for crockery (cups, saucers, plates, glasses), cutlery (knives and forks), kitchen utensils (saucepans, frying pans, billies) and cleaning equipment
- a stove for cooking
- a refrigerator for keeping foods cold to stop them from going bad too quickly
Fig. 3.3: A well designed and equipped kitchen.
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BathroomEvery house should have an area where people can clean their bodies. The bathroom should have a basin and a shower or bath with water supplied directly to each of them. If possible, hot as well as cold water should be available at these places.
Many families have small children or babies who need to be bathed regularly. If there is no bath in the bathroom, the shower recess may be deep enough to plug and use as a bath. If the shower recess is to be used in this way, the water must be drained out immediately after use and the floor of the shower kept very clean.
The bathroom should also have towel rails, hooks to hang clothes on, a mirror and a cabinet for storing toiletry items such as soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, and toothbrushes.
Fig. 3.4: A bathroom with shower, basin, cupboard and towel rail.
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LaundryThis is the room or area in which clothes, bedding, towels and other linen are washed.
The laundry should have a deep tub. Cold and hot water should be supplied to it. There may be a washing machine. The tub can be used for soaking and washing clothes and linen when there is no washing machine. A large tub can also be used as a baby bath if there is no proper bath in the house. However, the water must be drained out immediately after use and the tub kept very clean.
Fig. 3.5: Laundry with tub and washing machine.
ToiletEvery house or other type of dwelling (place in which people live) must have some type of toilet provided or at least there should be one close to the house. Modern houses have toilets under the main roof, while older houses may have them in a small separate building located nearby. In some Indigenous communities, several families share toilets in an toilet block.
The toilet may be a full flush water type, a dry septic tank type or a borehole toilet. The toilet is important as it removes faeces and urine, and their disease-causing germs and parasites, from the environment in which people live.
It is important that water and soap are nearby so that people can wash their hands after going to the toilet. This water may be provided by a tap connected to a house water supply or a sealed container with a tap.
Fig. 3.6: A flush toilet with ventilation.
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Sewage disposalThere must be a way of removing the sewage produced in a house. The sewage comes from the toilet, bathroom, kitchen and laundry.
There are two main disposal systems. These are:
- on-site septic tanks and leach or French drains
- community effluent or full sewage systems
Fig. 3.7: Plan views of sewage disposal systems
(a) Septic tanks
(b) Community effluent system.
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Rubbish disposalEach house should have a way of properly disposing of the solid waste produced by the people living in the house. This solid waste is called rubbish and includes things such as food scraps, tin cans, plastic containers, glass bottles and jars, papers, cardboard and disposable nappies. If this rubbish is not properly disposed of it will quickly attract pests and germs.
Solid waste disposal for a house should include:
- a small bin inside the house for daily use
- a large bin in the yard into which all the household rubbish is placed. This rubbish should be collected and taken away at least once a week by a rubbish truck
Protection from pestsThere are many pests which carry disease-causing germs and parasites and are therefore a danger to health. Such pests include flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and rodents.
Houses can be made safe from these pests by:
- putting flyscreens on all windows and vents, and fitting doorways with flywire doors or hanging strip barriers
- sealing (closing) all gaps where pipes pass through walls
- sealing all gaps, such as cracks and crevices, around food storage cupboards which allow entry to the cupboard
Fig. 3.8: Kitchen with a window flyscreen to keep out pests.