A house is a system. It is made up of separate systems that have unique functions, but, like we’re discovering in medicine, thanks to Patch Adams and many others, you do best when you treat the patient, not just the disease—the whole rather than the individual pieces. How the individual components interact with each other is critical in the overall success of an organism, or a building. Prescribing treatment for one ailment may cause side effects. Yet, both in home comfort improvement and in medicine, budgets (of money, time and tolerance) may limit the possibilities. We want the house to succeed—but more so for the folks who call it home. That takes thoughtful prioritization.
Like an organism, the way a house interacts with its surroundings—what it lets in and keeps out, and when—determines its comfort, performance, and longevity. Like a body’s skin, the exterior of a home must manage water, moisture, air (and all that’s in it), temperature, light, sound, and even other organisms introduced by its environment. Bodies and homes need fresh air, fresh water, and a healthy amount of sunlight. The respiratory and digestive systems and skin are wonderfully capable of ensure healthy quantities of all of these, but, like a building, it requires proper user input. If not, we know what can happen. Some bodies are able to handle negligence better than others. Homes are the same way, and can easily be designed to control these elements. Or, redesigned, as best we can. If not, deterioration and discomfort move in.
So, if we can’t start over, we still have the chance to make what we have work better. For centuries, as human shelter progressed, keeping critters (the big ones) out was job one. After we got the hang of that, water was next. For some houses, it still is next. We all know if we have a leak in the roof how much more an emergency that is than an air leak! And, rightly so, because water is destructive.
But, once we get water out of the picture, air is next.