AN ALLERGY-FRIENDLY APARTMENT BLOCK
High quality of living
The first apartment block in Europe designed for people who suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) was built in Zurich. People with MCS experience an allergic reaction to the chemicals and heavy metals that are added to almost all conventional building materials to make further processing easier or to optimise the properties of the materials. Even very tiny amounts of these chemicals can poison. The symptoms experienced by sufferers include dizziness, pains in the arms and legs, and skin and respiratory tract problems.
High demands – reasonable budget
The special needs of the residents were considered from the outset, and the future occupants were involved in the project. Nevertheless, one of the requirements of the project was that it be economically viable. g Many MCS sufferers live in financially modest situations and the apartments had to be affordable. The Gesundes Wohnen MCS [“healthy living”] housing cooperative, together with the city of Zurich and the housing cooperatives of Zurich, executed the pilot project as a building with 15 living units.
A building material with no harmful off-gassing
The initial concept was always going to rely on mineral and, therefore, natural materials, because they do not present off-gassing issues, non-toxic and therefore suitable for allergy sufferers. The choice of clay blocks was made quickly: a block filled with perlite granules, which was used in a purely monolithic massive construction for the outer walls. Additional insulation is not required when using high thermal insulation blocks, thus excluding another potential source of pollutants.
Many building materials are modified by adding chemicals to make construction processes quicker and easier for the workers. In the MCS house, natural building materials were used exclusively, making it compatible also for allergy sufferers. Clay blocks contain no chemical substances and were therefore perfectly suited for the MCS-compatible residential house.
Architect Andreas Zimmermann
Protection and sound insulation
Furthermore, clay blocks meet the highest requirements in terms of static, sound insulation and protection from electromagnetic waves. When used together with other building materials, this keeps the indoor air free of odours, radiation and other emissions, and contributes to a healthy living climate.
Timber materials were almost completely avoided in this project because MCS sufferers react very sensitively to the resins and other components in wood.
To achieve the best possible quality of living, all the rooms in the MCS residential building feature a multi-shell layout. The more one advances into these apartments, the “cleaner” they become. There is an airlock at the entrance to each apartment, which houses the wardrobe and washing machine. Here, harmful external and environmental influences are removed from clothing before one accesses the actual apartment. The bedrooms are located at the very end, next to the outer wall.
Project nameMCS-compatible residential house, Zurich / Switzerland
ArchitectAndreas Zimmermann Architekten AG
ClientWohnbaugenossenschaft Gesundes Wohnen MCS
Year of completion2013