The first apartment block in Europe intended for persons who suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) was completed in 2013 in Zurich. Wienerberger’s Porotherm blocks were selected for the structure, as the blocks do not contain harmful additives and they have been certified by the eco-label natureplus to meet demanding embodied energy and indoor air quality standards.
MCS is described on the Allergy UK website as follows:
Chemical sensitivity is not a mere dislike of a smell or a chemical in the air, it is the fact that a person feels unwell or ill, suffers with sudden debilitating weakness, lethargy, nasal congestion, headache, muscle aching, confusion, brain-fog, nausea, perspiration, acute anxiety, panic attacks or acute depression and sometimes collapse. In MCS the physical suffering is sometimes interwoven with a strong psychological component: in an attempt to minimise contact with other people’s perfumes and environmental pollutants some patients are forced to live in a reclusive environment and socialising becomes problematic. From a psychiatric angle these syndromes are akin to some psychiatric diagnoses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute anxiety states or phobias and even schizophrenia.”
The special needs of the residents were taken into account from the very beginning and the persons concerned were involved in the project design. However the cost effectiveness of the build was also paramount, as many people suffering from MCS live in financially modest situations and the apartments rented as subsidised living space, had to be affordable. The Gesundes Wohnen MCS housing cooperative, together with the city of Zurich and the housing cooperatives of Zurich, were the clients for this pilot project, comprising 15 living units.
The choice of healthy materials played a decisive role and Wienerberger’s Porotherm clay blocks filled with perlite granules were used in a purely monolithic massive construction for the outer walls. The bricks also offered excellent acoustic properties and shielding from electro-magnetic waves.”
Andreas Zimmermann, Architect