"Healing Homes" with Feng Shui and Ecology
by Janus Welton, A.I.A., Architect, EcoArch DesignWorks
How can Feng Shui and Ecology transform any home or office environment into a healing one?
Feng Shui is best viewed as a Science- but it is interpreted as an Art Form. It is based on underlying Principles of Universal Cycles of Change. Classical Feng Shui is a System of Design that embraces harmony and balance and is used by leading edge professionals in Architecture, Interior Design, and Natural Healthcare.
Building Ecology and Biology is the study of Ecological and Biological methods for detecting and eliminating sources of Environmental Pollution that cause Biological Stress and contribute to ill health and disease. This study is sometimes referred to as "Bau-Biology" in German or "Building Biology."
The powerful combination of Feng Shui and Ecology and "Building Biology" provides us tools to discern and detect and therefore diagnose and problem solve to create harmonizing, healing, and healthy environments.
A holistic overview and "tool-kit" of Feng Shui and Ecological principles are available to incorporate into new homes and offices and to heal our existing home and work environments. We have the technology to build in harmony with nature, that is the good news. Now it is our challenge to use it!
What is Feng Shui?
Feng Shui is about the Flow (Wind) and the Containment (Water) of Energy or Chi in our environments. Good Feng Shui creates a balance of both flow and containment, or rather of Yang and Yin. Good Feng Shui also deflects harmful energies and maximizes positive energy flow. It is an understanding of the cyclical nature of energy patterns that creates a harmony between earth, human life, and the heavens.
In its literal translation Feng means Wind and Shui means Water, but Feng Shui was originally known as KAN YU. Kan refers to the Big View or the Cosmological order of The Universe, or Heaven, while Yu refers to the Earth, to geology, landscape, ecology, the study of mountains, sun, air, water, agriculture, sacred ness of the land energy lines called dragon lines. Feng Shui practitioners in the "classical sense" are practitioners of the these polarities of the Invisible and Visible Form, and thus work with their clients to harmonic balance between heaven and earth
Why is the significance of Feng Shui?
Because Feng Shui links us as Humans to our Environment ; It links Ancient observations of Nature with our Modern Lives. Most of us are so busy in our contemporary lives, we have very little time to observe, and have therefore lost the "Way" or the "TAO" or the patterns of our universe.
Feng Shui is an Art and Science that interprets a "pattern language" of natural forms and phenomena, man-made buildings and symbols with the workings or patterns of the universe. It should come as no suprise that these patterns are closely linked with the phases of the Sun, Moon, Seasons, Time, and the alignments of the Stars.
Classical Feng Shui is "key" to understanding the relationship of Man to Nature and to the Built Environment, and provides tools for healing our own home and work environments.
History of Feng Shui
While we have heard a lot of popularized New Age bits and pieces about Feng Shui symbols, rituals, and chi patterns in recent years in The United States, the fact is that Feng Shui is not a religion, nor is Feng Shui a passing fad.... It is a classical tradition that dates back over 5,000 years and is derived from its early form as SIMPLE OBSERVATION. The Ancient Chinese observed that some surroundings are better than others, luckier than others, easier to survive in, more comfortable and more harmonious. Most of us still observe this in our lives today- we know we are affected for good or ill by our surroundings and by the layout and orientation of work places and homes.
These Early Observers of Nature, or "TAO' ists, are the Chinese Sages who studied the Natural Cycles and Patterns of the Universe and layered these principles and cycles of time on the calendar and perfected these concepts into a great Classic Book entitled the I Ching... Often referred to as the book of Changes.
And so these Natural Observers of the Ebb and Flow of Nature and The Sun's Cycles, and Universal Star Patterns of the Universe developed the Study of Classical Feng Shui. From it's original roots as the earliest form of Ecology; through 5,000 years of Chinese history of site planning, the building of cities, design of buildings, and even the lay out of grave-sites, these ancients have shaped the Art and Science of Classical Feng Shui as it is still practiced in the Orient and worldwide today.
Classical Feng Shui is considered one of the 8 Rays of Traditional Chinese Medicine which includes 1.Acupuncture, 2.Food Energetics, 3. Herbs, 4.Chi' Exercises, 5.Meditation, 6.Moxa, 7.Astrology, 8. Feng Shui. These very concepts are the Basis of Chinese Medicine and Diagnosis...interpreted in the environment as the influence of Earth, Humanity, and Heaven on the Human Experience. We are all effected by the energies in our Environment. And it is our challenge to identify with and harmonize with this flow of energy or Chi.
The Principles of Feng Shui
1. Oneness, Unity, and Eternity are the first principle of Universal Order in Feng Shui. The Circle represents it. The Daoists did not believe in any dogma or religion. They simply observed the phases of energy and their natural progression in cycles and waves.
1. Yin and Yang express the polarities of life and are represented by the Tai Chi symbol. Yin Energies of Stillness and the Yang energies of Activity, Earth and Heaven, Feminine Energy and Masculine Energy, the Visible World and the Invisible World , Dark and Light, Form School Feng Shui and Compass School Feng Shui are all expressions of the Unified Whole.
3. Balancing the Wind or the movement and flow of Chi' with the Water or the containment and gathering of Chi' is an important defining principle of Feng Shui.
4. Maximizing "Sheng Chi' or the vital life force or auspicious energies and Minimizing or deflecting the turbulent "Sha Chi" Energies are the principles used in Feng Shui cures.
1. The "3 Treasures" or San Chi' is the principle of harmonizing all three levels of Earth , Man, and Heaven in Classical Feng Shui. To harmonize the human element with heaven and earth, we must practice Feng Shui on many levels.
The Three Treasures ( "San Chi") Earth, Mankind, and Heaven
The first level of "San Chi" is Earth. On the Earth level ,we practice Form School Feng Shui. This is your ordinary "garden variety" common sense intuitive observations and balancing of the flow of the Physical Chi, the limitations of the landform, geography, shape and contour of the landscape as well as man made objects such as streets, building shapes, rooms and furnishings. Good Form School is Good Design. It is uncluttered , flowing and balanced.
Form School Feng Shui- The "IDEAL"
Let's look at the "Ideal Energy Map" In Form School Feng Shui, it is represented by 4 symbolic animals attributed to each of the 4 compass point directions.
- The "Black Tortoise" symbolizes the Mountain or Taller buildings in the back. It is the dark warrior with the protective hard shell and the most "Yin" and is ideally in the North protecting our backs from harsh winds, enemies ,or inauspicious energy.
- The "Red Bird" represents opening up to the to the Sun and to the Fire energy that warms us and is the most Yang"
- The " Green Dragon" is from the East and represents the auspicious fresh morning energy and symbolizes wealth.. Businesses like to have a gate or entry in the East to usher in the fresh spring energy and morning Chi.
- The "White Tiger" sits in the west and symbolizes lower land and the sun as it lowers in the western afternoon sky.
Thus Our "Ideal Feng Shui "setting changes from climate to climate but is essentially locating the building in a classic armchair embrace with the mountain behind and the river in front. Other factors such as Geo-Biology also are important to identify in Feng Shui and harmonizing Site Design. The underlying energy and water currents also effect our sense of place. This is best noted by watching the movement of the animals and patterns of vegetation to identify areas with the best energy or "Chi" . Dowsers also use a variety of simple tools to locate such currents within the Earth's crust.
The second of the "San Chi -3 Treasures" is the Human Level, we practice The Feng Shui Methods of "Ming Kwa", 9 Star Ki, and the "4 Pillars" to determine the Vibrational Energy of the Occupants and their Personal Destiny patterns so these can be harmonized with their surroundings.
- Such information as their Lucky Directions for Sleeping and Health, for Business and Wealth, For Relationships and Family Harmony, and for Clear Thinking and Study are then used to set up the occupants in their home and office in the most harmonious directions.
- Other important information such as the Occupant's lucky and unlucky cycles, their character, strengthening and weakening elements, color schemes, and Personal Feng Shui is revealed . The Feng Shui Professional uses these methods to access an accurate system of Character Analysis that forms the Basis of fine tuning specific advice for the client's needs.
- The Feng Shui Astrology of the occupants can then be compared with the Energy Blueprint of their specific home or office to create the maximum conditions for harmony and decrease the Sha Chi Energies.
On the " Heaven Level" of "San Chi" The Compass School Feng Shui techniques are used to determine the Sun's Movement, the Cosmological Patterns, and their influence on a building. The most advanced forms of Feng Shui, compass technique utilizes a "Lo-pan" or Chinese Compass (or any western compass) to determine the exact Magnetic Direction of the Building in question.
- The "Ba Zhai" Feng Shui method or 8 house Method is often used to see if the layout of the residence or workplace in is harmony with the destiny of the Occupants. This method allows us to plan and design functions for the space in the most beneficial parts of the building and identify' the areas of least harmony to be avoided or minimized.
- The "Flying Star Feng Shui" is the most highly developed Feng Shui technique incorporating the unified field of time and space, and is able to trace the patterns of energy and change over the cycles of time. This advanced technique makes it possible for the Feng Shui Practitioner to assess the fortune of the building in specific time frames and predict the happenings and occurrences within it. The Flying Star Astrology Feng Shui identifies the most specific energy blueprint of buildings based on the date of construction.
All of these Traditional Feng Shui Methods have been integrated and used for many Centuries to attain Harmony between Mankind with the Forces of Heaven and Earth , and are still practiced in the Orient today and by Classical Feng Shui Practitioners worldwide.
Other more recent Feng Shui methodologies such as the use of the Bagua, Transcendental Symbols, and Westernized techniques have also been practiced in recent U.S. history and have become popularized and commercialized by books and teachers in the "The New Age Movement", but are not widely practiced in Europe or the Orient.
Feng Shui Diagnosis and Cures
Traditional Feng Shui Methods focus on Diagnosis and the Treatment Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine applied to the environment. In traditional Chinese Medicine, the theory of the 5 organs or the identification of each organ system with one of the five elements, is the basis of all diagnosis and treatment.
Problem solving and solutions or cures are made with the 5 Element Theory utilizing the cycles of "Mutual Creation"or the "productive cycle" and the "reductive cycle" which is the Principle of Minimizing a negative condition or chi pattern.
Rarely is the 5 Element Cycle of "Mutual Destruction" or the "dominating, controlling cycle" used in Feng Shui cures as it is too harsh to foster balance . Prescribing an element or cure to dominate another is often compared to the Western Medicine Tradition of the use of antiobiotics to kill viruses and thought to be "overkill" in Feng Shui and Chinese medicine. Instead, the treatment Principles are to Strengthen the positive elements or to weaken the negative elements.
The 5 Element Theory really is a representation of the 5 Phases of energy from our early Taoist Sun Dial Mandala . In effect , the energy expands and contract like a "cosmological jellyfish" as the sun continues on its daily path and the yearly path of the seasons . The energy rises in the East in the early morning and the Springtime, denoting fresh green uplifting Wood energy. Then the Sun and the energy flow rises to its full zenith at Noon or in Summer Solctice and denotes the scattered energy of Fire in the South like the rays of the sun. The path of the Sun then starts descending in the early afternoon , a downward motion denoting Earth. In the West and in early evening or Autumn, the sun's energy is the most contracted and gathers in on itself much like Metal. After Autumn, the Sun reaches its lowest point at Winter Solstice, or at night and this most Yin condition of Energy denotes Water.
We still see the energy flow as it relates to the path of the Sun as the Five Energy Transformations or The Five Elements as did our early Feng Shui counterparts, the Taoists. The cycles continue in the Cosmic Breath of life. Each of the Elemental cycles either supports the following element ( Mutual Creation) or Controls or Destroys the energy of the element. Thus our means of relating the elements dictate how we use Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood to harmonize and balance an environment. Each of the 5 Elements correspond to Shapes and Colors and Body organs and Body parts and determine a "vocabulary of cures."
Application of Feng Shui Design Services
Feng Shui Design is important in Site Selection and Site Planning for projects of any size. Concentration on the LandForm School can enhance the future of any design or community and ensure it's harmony with natural site features. Both the cities of Ancient Beijing and Modern Hong Kong are designed with great attention to Feng Shui principles.
Buildings can be best sited based on a Flying Star Feng Shui Analysis to encapsule the most auspicious energy pattern for the time cycle in which it is built. This can prevent siting buildings that will have stagnant and "locked chi" during your lifetime . This Feng Shui Concept is particularly important as we approach the end of the 7 cycle and enter the 20 year cycle of 8 beginning in Feb of 2004. Many buildings built since 1984 will start an energetic decline in this new time cycle and all new buildings can be sited to prevent that 20 years of stagnation which can occur either in the family and health area or the prosperity and financial sectors..
When purchasing or taking occupation of a new premise for home or office, where a selection does exist, Feng shui can play a critical role in selecting and customizing the best option for the occupant's profile and goals. Enhancing a property for sale with Feng Shui Principles is a sure way to activate and get property sold fast., and particulary helpful in a slower real estate market.
And of course existing homes and offices, can be harmonized and enhanced with Feng Shui Principles and interior design and space planning to best support the business owner or homeowner, to increase business flow, and to ensure the most harmonizing and healthful possibilities for family home living.
(Segway from FengShui to Ecology and Healthy Buildings)
OR New Article Sha Chi'
-Physical Pollutants Increasingly in Today's industrialized and densely populated world, the effects of "Sick Buildings" are being felt at home and in the workplace. The Modern Feng Shui practitioner must have a kit of tools to test for, shield, and eliminate sources of these harmful pollutants or "Sha Chi" created from the many thousands of chemicals and energy waves that have been unleashed in our ecosystem and building materials since WW II.
It is a well known fact in the Health Community these days, that chemicals, organic compounds, electro-magnetic fields, molds and allergens, etc. cause Biological stress to the body and promote disease and ill health .
It has now become an integral part of the Feng Shui Practitioners job to address the biological and ecological aspects of Sha Chi' in our environments and provide testing and strategies for eliminating the sources of environmental and building pollution .
ECOLOGY-Healthy Building Design Principles
Indoor Air Pollution The Problem:
Until 25 years ago- indoor air pollution was a limited phenomenum. Two things have basically changed to contribute to this increasing health problem.
- First of all, thousands of chemicals and plastics have been incorporated into building materials since WWII.
- And secondly, Since the Energy crisis of the 70's , super- insulated and sealed buildings were built with the intention of energy efficiency, and could not "breathe" out the chemicals and in with the fresh air.
The Solution: Two basic Schools of Thought have arisen to solve Indoor air pollution.
- The first concept known as isolation and filtering is best applied to isolate from a toxic outdoor world. There are some people with such severe health problems living in areas where the outdoor pollution is magnified where this technique makes a good deal of sense. The concept is to eliminate the pollutants from the building envelope and seal the building tightly from within. Then clean , filtered air is mechanically pumped in -keeping the structure under slightly positive pressure to control air infiltration.
- The second concept has been the natural and historic approach in indigenous buildings through-out the world. This has also been re-introduced and popularized by the German Bau-Biologie (Meaning literally Building Biology)movement. In this approach, the building is thought of as a third skin and viewed as a permeable organism and constructed of natural, non-toxic materials that breathe. Thus the building skin interacts with the natural world and facilitates a balanced exchange of air and humidity. This methodology is preferred by Environmental Architects and Building Biologists.
Common Sources of Pollution in Standard Construction
Standard building and construction materials have been developed that contain toxic, volatile organic compounds , and petrochemicals that will out gas when newly constructed or installed . Such common building materials do have non-toxic , but these need to be specified by the architect and it takes a TEAM committment from the Developer/ Owner, Architect Designer, and Construction Contractor to achieve the goals of creating a non-toxic project that is healthy and free of sources of indoor air pollution. Specifications can be made by certified Environmental Architects or Bau-Biologists and Costs for such substitutions can run anywhere from 0 to 25% over standard construction costs depending on the strategies and specifications.
Common Building materials in standard construction that that can cause health problems are broken down in the following categories:
The main sources of such pollutants are:
VOC's = Volatile Organic Compounds are chemicals with carbon hydrogen bonds at the molecular level. These chemicals found in carpets and all kinds of products out-gas and release a slow dose of chemicals into the indoor environment and continue to do so for months. Most VOC's are synthetic petrochemicals used in formaldehyde, phenol, acetone, etc. and are used as adhesives in plywood, particle board and other wood composite products. Composite wood products are chemically treated woods such as particleboard, chipboard, plywood, sill plates, and chemically treated manufactured sheathing products. Presently about 80,000 synthetic Voc's are commercially available and found in standard products:
- Solvent based Paints, sealants, finishes, adhesives, solvents
- carpets and carpet pads
- plywood , particle board, wood paneling
- Asphalt and products containing asphalt such as impregnated sheathing, roofing tars, asphalt driveways, etc.
- Building materials containing mildew, mold, or particles which will create an environment that prevents mold growth.
- Toxic Cleaning products and Solvents
- Pollutants from Combustion By-products such as gas, oil, coal; woods and fuels burned indoors consume valuable indoor oxygen unless outdoor air is added. All combustion appliances contribute to indoor air pollution especially in airtight energy efficient buildings. Fireplaces, woodstoves can give off hazardous fumes and need to be well ventilated. Garages should be isolated from the living spaces to prevent noxious fumes
- synthetic fabrics, dry cleaned garments
- air fresheners, aerosol products o cleaning products and body care products
- insecticides , moth balls , pesticides are classified as Voc"s but are even more of a health threat
Health Risks: Can create toxic overloads in any organ of the body and threaten the immune system. Some of the more common symptoms include :
Common symptoms include rashes, headaches, eye irritation, chronic cough, chronic sinus infections, joint and muscle pain, memory loss, inability to concentrate, irritability, fatigue , anxiety, depression, and increasing number of allergies
- Also immune system disorders for the more sensitive and neurological problems, especially with babies on new carpets, are recorded .
- Alternate building materials, techniques, and finishes should be designed and specified and constructed to minimize Voc's o Use of natural and non-toxic materials - Replace finishes with non-toxic ones o Discontinue use toxic household and personal care products
Insecticides, Mildew-cides, Herbicides, Biocides
Insecticides, mildew-cides, herbicides, biocides,both found in building materials and applied on site can present very dangerous health risks. These are poisons that were first developed as offshoots of nerve gas in WWII. Most are synthetic and made from petroleum and are designed to kill a variety of plants and animals. They are odorless and often invisible and difficult to detect. They are composed of active ingredients to kill the target organism and inert chemicals to deliver , preserve, or make application easier. Many people assume that they are " safe " and that government and the EPA are protecting them. In fact the EPA bases approval on "EFFIACY" or the ability to kill the targeted pest , and not on SAFETY. Pesticides and herbicides can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled, or swallowed.
The health risks have been well documented.
- The National Cancer Institite study indicated the likelihood of of a child contracting leukemia was more than 6 times greater in a household that uses herbicides for lawn care.
- The American Journal of Epidemiology reports more chidren with brain tumors and cancers were found to have more exposure to insecticides than healthy children.
- According to the new York State Attorney general's office, 95% of pesticides used on residential lawns are considered probable Carcinogens. by the EPA.
- Pesticides have been linked to the alarming rise in the rate of breast cancer.
- Besides causing cancer, pesticides have the the potential to cause: infertility, birth defects, learning disorders, neurological disorders, allergies, and multiple chemical sensitivities, and immune system dysfunction.
- In new construction you can lower pesticide exposure by not treating soil under the building and by eliminating standard building products containing biocides and instead create construction techniques that create physical barriers.
- In all projects, eliminate the use of pesticides.
Electro Magnetic Fields Electromagnetic Energy is ubiquitous. Sunlight produces natural electromagnetic waves. But there are a variety of man-made sources that are not benign.
- 60 hertz Electromagnetic fields are reffered to as EMF's are generated by all electrical devices that operate off our electric power system. These include power lines, lights, appliances, and computers. Electric fields can b measured in Volts/ Meter and in many cases can be reduced. Magnetic filelds are measured in Gauss or miligaus.
- We also have waves generated from radio and Transmittors, cellular phones and other wireless devices called RF waves.
- Microwaves and microwave appliances are known to change the cellular structure of food. Microwaved food is not recognized by the body cells in the normal way. Health risks: There can be serious health risks from exposure to any of these EMF's while the issues have been hotly debated for many years US studies disagree. Studies in Europe have indicated the following nervous disorders, insomnia, depression , anxiety. But other research suspects EMF's of contributing to Cancer, especially leukemia, Lymphoma, thyroid and brain cancers.
The methodology is too exhaustive for this discussion however, a few tips are suggested:
- Transformers in low voltage lighting put off large magnetic fields- Locate tranformers in a remote location away from human sleeping and working areas.
- Keep a 4-6 foot distance from appliances with transformers on the wall plug and keep safe distances from computer screens, tv's etc.
- The ballasts in flourescent lighting emit EMF fields. Avoid flourescent lighting in work areas or on a ceiling below a bedroom.
- Shield refrigerators and put them on dedicated circuits and away from sleeping . living work spaces.
- We are surrounded by grids of Electric currents that are carried on all improper wiring, conduits and the pulses of current always vary. Avoid sleeping or working over main water , sewer lines , near metal conduit , and avoid metal beds and box springs which conduct electric current into the human body.
- Bau-Biologists take a body voltage measurement of humans in their beds to determine how much voltage is transmitted into the body and provide methods of Grounding and shielding beds.
- Electric currents in existing homes can often be controoled by simply shutting off the circuit breakers at night . There are even devices that can be installed near the bed to do that.
Naturally Occurring Pollutants
Some naturally occuring substances such as radon, radioactive contaminants, trace metals, house dust, molds and pollens can have harmful effects on humans.
- All buildings should be tested for High radon levels are mitigated by radon specialists
- Heavy metal can build up in the body tissues and cause damage to brain , liver, and kidneys. Test drinking water for contaminants and use water purification devices.
- Biological pollutants include pollen, house dust, and mold spores, and pollens need to be detected and eliminated.
- Air filtration systems , cleaning ductwork and preventing moisture / mold build-up are all common solutions.
Strategies for Source Reduction of Indoor Air Pollutants
1. Eliminate sources of pollution
2. Substitute healthier materials
3. Exercise prudence when using unavoidable toxic substances
4. Cure materials before they are installed within the building envelope
5. Seal materials so they will off-gas less
Eco- Design Principles
In this current time of diminishing natural resources and escalating building costs, it has also become the responsibility of those who design and build homes and public or workspaces, to pioneer ecologically harmonizing, responsible, and sustainable buildings and environments.
Strategies and Eco-Design Principles:
- Orientation and Site Design Strategies to maximize solar exposure and utilize wind currents.
- Use of Daylighting strategies and passive Solar design and cooling
- Design building with Climate Design Strategies customized to prevailing climate
- Implement Energy Efficient design and renewable energy strategies
- Specify "Green" and Sustainable Materials.
Feng Shui and Ecology can be defined as being in the right place, facing the right directions, doing the right things, and at the right time or essentially being in tune with and harmonizing your home and workplaces with Nature.
About The Author:
The Author, Janus Welton, AIA is a Feng Shui Design Architect and Certified Bau-Biologie Building Inspector . She is Owner and Principal of Eco-Arch DesignWorks, a local Architectural Design and Consulting Firm specializing in Residential and Commercial Holistic, Harmonizing Environments.
She also co-directs, teaches, and consults with The New York School of Feng Shui In Manhattan.
For Further Information, please contact:
(845) 247-4620 for Eco Arch Design Works
or (518) 448-8600 for The New York School of Feng Shui