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Pioneering building for patients suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)


The City Council of Zurich has approved the construction of an unusually designed residence at Rebenweg 100, in Zurich-Leimbach, with a total of 15 apartments.

Those with environmental illnesses can hope to alleviate their suffering there: the building site itself, the architecture and the building materials all keep environmental pollution to an absolute minimum. Occupation is planned for the autumn of 2013.

The small building plot with an area of 1214 m2 has already been carefully selected according to ecological safety criteria and has almost no environmental impact.

All of this in the service of those afflicted with MCS, who react to the slightest chemical concentrations or electromagnetic fields in their environment with physical discomfort and even chronic fatigue.

This project, emerging from a study assignment amongst five teams in 2010, will be implemented by the Andreas Zimmermann Architects. The housing cooperative "Gesundes Wohnen MCS" [Healthy Living] celebrated the ground-breaking ceremony in May 2012.

Complex material selection process
In terms of the ecological construction aspects, low emission is ensured through a complex selection process of the materials to be used. Possible building materials are specified in detail and their chemical composition determined. The risks of excessive emission are assessed on the basis of the installation situation. A selected group of environmentally afflicted persons then test suitable material samples and examine these for their compatibility. Previous tests offered partially surprising results: those afflicted by MCS evaluated window frames consisting of PVC - by rights a biologically safe "non-material" - as being significantly better than clay plastering.

Consistent implementation of the "onion skin principle"
Although the residence will exist on a material level after completion, its interior will offer air quality normally only found on a green meadow. The objective of low emission can, among other methods, be achieved by the consistent implementation of the "onion skin principle": the stairway located in the core of the building, surrounded by the highly-equipped and therefore potentially polluted zones. The external relaxation and recuperation areas are then only accessible after passing through a dirt barrier. A further characteristic of the building is its concrete reinforcement. In order to minimise electro-biological influences, the relaxation and recuperation areas are reinforced with fibreglass bars.

Special construction processes for low emissions
The building process on the construction site also influences the emission level. No chemicals are used during assembly, if at all possible, on-site smoking is prohibited, and. mounting foam and spray cans may not be used. Requirements for "MCS-compatible" construction were specially developed and those working on the construction site were trained and instructed in the special assembly regulations.

Scientific project evaluation
Scientific project evaluation will take place under the management of the BWO [Federal Office of Housing]. The city, the federal government and cooperatives expect in-depth findings regarding low emission construction.

Source: BWO (Federal Office of Housing), Town of Zurich, Switzerland