Healthy Buildings I (Building Construction & Health)

Learn to create a healthy building with the minimum toxity from the ground up. This unique home study course will help you make the right decisions for building a healthy interior environment.

Course Code: BSS200
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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LEARN TO MINIMIZE HEALTH IMPACTS OF BUILDINGS

  • Leaders in Eco Building Education -teaching environmental health and sustainable building through this and other courses since the early 1990's
  • Personal tuition from expert environmental scientists and environmental health experts
  • Learn to minimize toxic affects caused by chemicals, radiation and even negative psychology found in the design of a building

This unique home study course will help you make the right decisions for building a healthy interior environment.

USING TOXIC MATERIALS OR ILL ADVISED CONSTRUCTION METHODS CAN BE VERY HAZARDOUS

Learn about the skills involved to determine the impact of building construction characteristics upon human health, and to recommend innovations in building design to improve habitability. It covers building materials, construction techniques, electrical wiring, temperature & light control, ventilation, plumbing, ergonomics and psychological factors.
  • Perfect for the modern age of home improvement
  • Explore ways of making a home, office, or any other building; healthier for its occupants.

A building should provide a pleasant, efficient and healthy environment for its occupants. Its primary purpose should be to protect from adverse conditions found outside; but in doing so, not loose the beneficial conditions found outside. If a building is properly planned and built well with properly selected materials these aims can be achieved.


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction To Building Biology
    • Scope and Nature of Building Biology
    • Building Diseases -Chemical, Electrical, Cage, Location
    • Environmental Law
    • Biological Damage to Buildings
    • Environmental Considerations
    • Clean Interiors
  2. Building Materials
    • Introduction
    • Dangerous Building Materials
    • Chemical Effects on the Human Body
    • Timber
    • Formaldahyde Adhesives
    • Plastics
    • Masonary and Concrete
    • Insulation Materials
    • Soft Furnishings
    • Paints
    • Timber Treatments, stains, polishes, etc
  3. Construction
    • Roofing Matrerials
    • Roof Gardens
    • Roof Construction
    • Floors
    • Reasons to Choose Different Floors or Floor Coverings
    • Pests in Buildings
    • Dust Mites
    • Fleas
    • Ants
    • Termites, Flies, Mosquitos, Wasps, Cockroaches, etc
    • Spiders
    • Rodents, Birds, Snakes, etc
  4. Services
    • Electricity
    • Electrical Fields
    • Circuits
    • Measuring Electricity and Exposure limits
    • Terminology
    • Power Supply Systems
    • General Waste Disposal
    • Waste Water
  5. Temperature
    • Introduction to Heating and Cooling
    • Principles of TemperatureControl
    • Heat Loss
    • Types of Heaters
    • Cooling Effects
    • Air Cleaners, Filtration, Circulation, Air Conditioning
    • Energy Conservation
    • Solar House Design
    • Active and Passive Solar Heating Systems
  6. The Internal Environment: Ventilation
    • Scope and Nature
    • Natural Ventilation
    • Mechanical Ventilation
    • Air Conditioning
    • Humidity Management
  7. Light
    • Internal Light in Buildings
    • Natural Light
    • Artificial Light
    • Electric Light
  8. Acoustics
    • Internal Acoustic Control
    • Improving Internal acoustics
    • Noise Insulation
  9. Ergonomic Considerations
    • Scope and Nature of Ergonomics
    • Form, Shape and Spatial Dimensions
    • Furniture Design
    • Interior Layout
  10. Psychological Considerations
    • Scope and Nature
    • Physical and Psychological Affects of Colour
    • Stressful or Calming Environments
    • General Principles for Interior Design

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Explain the concept of healthy buildings including its relevance to human health.
  • Select building materials which are safe to human health.
  • Evaluate the health impact of different building techniques, including construction and design.
  • Explain how the way in which services are installed, can impact upon the health of people using a building.
  • Explain how building design can impact upon the quality of the physical environment inside.
  • Explain ergonomic considerations in building design.
  • Explain psychological considerations in building design.

What You Will Do

  • Explain the concept of building biology, in accordance with the international building biology institute.
  • Explain the history of building biology institutes, in Germany, America, and New Zealand; with relevance to Australia.
  • Explain the current status of bio-harmonic architectural practices in Australia.
    • Assess problems with different dangerous building materials including:
    • Asbestos
    • Plastics
    • Insulation materials
    • Treated pine.
  • Compare characteristics of different commonly used building materials, including:
    • Rate of deterioration
    • Thermal qualities
    • Chemical properties
    • Acoustic qualities
    • Dust collection/repellence
    • Light reflection.
  • Develop a checklist, for evaluating the health impact of different building materials.
  • Evaluate the impact of different building materials on health, in a building inspected by you.
  • Develop a checklist of building design factors, to assess the affect of design on human health.
  • Develop a checklist of building construction factors (other than materials) which may impact upon human health.
  • Explain how design can impact upon different aspects of the internal environment, including:
    • Thermal comfort
    • Light intensity
    • Humidity
    • Condensation
    • Acoustics
    • Control of pests
    • Noise insulation.
  • Study two specific buildings and compare the impact of building techniques, including construction and design, upon human health.
  • Explain the impact of electric fields on human health in a building you inspect.
  • Explain how electrical fields can be minimised by the way in which electric wires are laid in a specific house plan.
  • Compare differences upon the impact on health from different power supplies including:
    • Mains power
    • Self generated systems
    • Different voltages.
  • Compare the potential impact on health, of different waste disposal systems including:
    • Chemical treatments
    • Reed beds
    • Settling ponds
    • Combustion systems
    • Land fill.
  • Explain potential impact of different water supply systems on human health, including:
    • Mains water
    • Ground water
    • Different types of rain water tanks.
  • Explain possible impacts of gas supply systems on human health including:
    • Mains gas
    • Bottle gas
    • Self generated bio gas.
  • Compare the impact of different types of artificial light sources on human health, including:
    • Electric light
    • Combustion systems.
  • Compare the impact of different types of heating systems on human health.
  • List ways temperature can be controlled inside a building by design.
  • Explain health impacts of air conditioning in a building you select and study.
  • List ways acoustics can be controlled, by building design.
  • List ways light can be controlled, through building design.
  • List ways ventilation can be controlled, by building design.
  • Explain solar energy applications in a specified building.
  • Evaluate the impact of the design of a building you select and study on the interior environment.
  • Redesign a building from a specified building plan, to improve the quality of the physical environment inside.
  • Evaluate the heights of three different kitchen benches for ergonomic suitability to the people who are primary users of those benches.
  • Explain the importance of clear and easy access into and through the building for all users, including the disabled.
  • Explain health aspects of the relationship between the human body and the interior of a specific building.
  • Explain the affect that four different colours may have on human health.
  • Explain the affect of space perceptions may have on human health, in a visited interior workplace.
  • Evaluate the psychological impact of the interior environment in two distinctly different offices, upon the people who work in each of those offices.

 
 
 

How Does a Building Potentially Affect our Health?

Building biology, bio-house design, biological architecture and ecological building all refer to the construction of a building along lines of more natural, renewable resources and health of the occupants. In other words buildings become more people-friendly. It aims to establish a balance between technology, culture and biology.

"Building Biology deals with the study of living organisms in and around the building environment which have direct or indirect effect on the health of the building fabric, its materials, structures, environments and occupants." Jagjit Singh (1993)

To a human-being the walls of a building can be regarded as a third skin (the first is our own skin, the second is our clothing). Most buildings do not breathe like our natural skin and unfortunately in the USA this has been shown to lead to a build-up in radioactive radon gas and reduce the benefits of passive solar energy in spring and autumn. If a building is to be sealed (which most are) then it needs to be well ventilated to remove unhealthy pollutants.

Many buildings contain hazardous materials or substances without the owner's knowledge. Freshly constructed cement homes have high levels of moisture, homes built in the 1960's contain asbestos cement which is known to be carcinogenic and old piping systems are frequently painted with lead paints. In addition to the household disinfectants, fly sprays, paints, varnishes, and other fumes released from a large range of furnishings and commodities are of no benefit to the occupant's health.

Environmental costs are considered from the very first stage of planning. If products need to be transported a good distance, then they are usually rejected due to pollution, energy and costs for transportation. Even non-renewable resources are avoided.

Building Diseases

  • Chemical - As mentioned above due to their fumes.
  • Electrical - The human body is sensitive to electrical frequencies. Wiring should be minimalised, not placed closer than 1 metre to the sleeping bed, use of T.V. and other appliances should be reduced. Even static electricity from synthetic floor coverings can cause problems.
  • Cage - This occurs when concrete and steel buildings screen out natural radiations which help regulate life systems.
  • Location - This covers geobiology which is concerned with natural radiation that originate within the earth. It is a new science based on traditional principles.

Building Biology also deals with the environment in general and the climate of living. The climate of living can be determined by things such as: 

  • installations and furnishings
  • noise and acoustics
  • lighting and colours
  • radiation, avoiding disturbed areas
  • radioactivity
  • space, form and proportion
  • physiology and psychology of living and working
  • city planning with biological, ecological and sociological aspects.

Bio-houses and bio-settlements have been sprouting up throughout Europe over the years. They frequently contain solar temperature-control systems or insulated winter gardens for heating. Sites are surveyed with divining rods to ensure the area is free of ground water veins and other electromagnetic disturbances.

Biotechture utilizes vegetation to reverse the harsh processes caused by buildings. Plants usually intercept between 70% and 90% of incoming solar radiation. Deciduous trees can provide a 5 degree C reduction in heat in summer but allows the sun through in winter thereby reducing energy loss by up to 30%.

Many plants have characteristics that can be used for the benefit of construction. Leaves defoliate and remove air pollution, foliage that closes and opens can act like a ventilator, etc. It is advisable to use plant as much as possible to complement the house not only aesthetically but also functionally.


 

Do You Understand Thermal Mass?

The term thermal mass refers to the resistance of building materials to temperature change. This property can be used very effectively to help control indoor temperatures. In hot climates thick walls such as mud brick or rammed earth which have high thermal mass are ideal. They heat up slowly during the day and then as they cool overnight they slowly release this heat warming the house. This property has long been used in many traditional building techniques in desert communities.  

Solid rock, for instance has a greater thermal mass than earth walls, but if the earth is compressed, to remove trapped air, it's thermal mass can improve.

 

Other materials which provide good thermal mass include stone, double brick, concrete, earth mounds, sod/earth roofs.    Note these materials are all heavy with high density; this is what gives them thermal mass. Lightweight materials have low thermal mass.

 

 The property of thermal mass used incorrectly can magnify changes in temperature causing the building to heat up during the day and cool at night.   Thermal mass must be used in conjunction with passive building design. For example a building with thermal mass is aligned to that in winter the sun hits the wall and heats it up, in summer the alignment is such that the eves shade the wall all day allowing the wall to remain cool.

 

There are three main characteristics of thermal mass, these are:

 

  • High density – as mentioned above, these materials are very dense.
  • High thermal conductivity – heat can flow through the material.
  • Low reflectivity – the materials do not reflect heat/light, they are dark and matt textured, thus absorbing more energy

Comparing relative values of different materials (note that water has the highest thermal mass):

 

MATERIAL

THERMAL MASS
(volumetric heat capacity, KJ/m³.k)

Water

4186

Concrete

2060

Sandstone

1800

Compressed earth blocks

1740

Rammed earth

1673

FC sheet (compressed)

1530

Brick

1360

Earth wall (adobe)

1300

AAC

550

While thermal mass can be a powerful tool, careful consideration needs to be given to climate and building type to be used appropriately.


AFTER YOUR STUDIES


Everyone who studies this subject is likely to
discover things that they were previously oblivious to; that may be impacting on themselves, their family or colleagues. Your heightened knowledge and awareness will at the very least, contribute toward improving the health and safety of those around you.

For many graduates though; this course will improve your ability to perform better in your work or business.

This is a course that has the potential to change the way work is done in many professions, including:

  • Health and Safety Officers
  • Health Professionals
  • Architects and Engineers
  • Interior Decorators
  • Builders and other construction industry workers

ACS Distance Education holds an Educational Membership with the ATA.

Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.

Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.


How can I start this course?

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If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
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Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

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This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy
Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head fo

John Mason

Writer, Manager, Teacher and Businessman with over 40 years interenational experience covering Education, Publishing, Leisure Management, Education, and Horticulture. He has extensive experience both as a public servant, and as a small business owner.
J

Jacinda Cole

Former operations manager for highly reputable Landscape firm, The Chelsea Gardener, before starting her own firm. Jacinda has over 20 years of industry experience in Psychology, Landscaping, Publishing, Writing and Education. Jacinda has a B.Sc., Psych.C





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Diana Cole

Diana Cole B.A. (Hons), RHS Diploma in Horticulture, BTEC Higher Diploma in Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C.
In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). She also has skills gained through leading a group of volunteers renovating a local park on behalf of a local council and has been a volunteer leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. She continues to teach the Royal Horticultural Society qualifications (Levels 2 and 3) at her local college. She is a member of The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd.

Jon-Paul Dunne

I am a Bioscience postgraduate researcher at Durham university. I have a degree in environmental science and a permaculture design certificate as well as extensive experience in landscape and habitat restoration as well as sustainable food production and self-sufficiency. My key areas of expertise are climate change's causes, impacts and solutions, as well as ecological principles and design.

Megan Cox

Megan has completed a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Conservation) with Honours from Writtle University College, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Countryside Management from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Her experience includes working as a Botanist, Ecologist, Head Gardener, Market Gardener and a Farming and Conservation Officer.

She has worked in various roles in Horticulture, Agriculture and Ecology since 2005. Megan has worked for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Centre for Environment and Rural Affairs among other organisations in the UK, as well as in Australia and Cambodia.

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