Healthy Buildings I (Building Construction & Health)

Learn how buildings can impact on human health from the materials used to build them and those used in furnishings, to the use of heating, ventilation and other systems. Find out how to make a building healthier to occupy.

Course CodeBSS200
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Is Your Building Healthy?

Many people live and work in buildings which can be having a detrimental effect on their health. The links between building materials and systems on the health of its occupants can be quite dramatic.

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. 

Learn about building biology

This course develops skills 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 and light control, ventilation, plumbing, ergonomics, and psychological factors.

  • Study building biology
  • Improve the health of your own building
  • Improve your own health
  • Help others with their health by raising awareness

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.


  • 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 different countries.
  • Explain the current status of bio-harmonic architectural practices.
  • Assess in a summary for each, 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 an inspected building.
  • 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.
  • Compare the impact of building techniques, including construction and design, upon human health, in two different specific buildings.
  • Explain the impact of electric fields on human health in an inspected building.
  • 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 studied by the learner.
  • 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 visit, 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.

What Makes a Building Unhealthy

There are lots of ways in which a building can have a negative impact on human health, for example:
  • The materials used in the construction or furnishings may contain toxic chemicals, that may over time, find their way into the human body
  • Chemicals that are used to clean, or to control pests, are toxic or create toxic fumes
  • Noise or air pollution contaminating the building from the outside (eg. fumes from heavy traffic on an adjacent road).
  • Electomagnetic radiation from electrical wires, appliances or other sources
  • Dust, animal dander from pets or wildlife, or other contaminants finding their way into the building.
  • Psychological impact created by colour light, interior decoration or other characteristics

The way in which you manage a building can be just as important as the way in which it is constructed. Being aware of issues is the first step toward healthier buildings, at home, work, and during leisure activities. This course is the first step toward building that understanding.

Is Carpet Safe?

Synthetic carpets and rugs are made from acrylic, nylon and/or polyester fibres. They are also frequently treated with formaldehyde based chemicals.  Wool carpets usually contain various pesticides, which can be harmful. Some people will complain of pungent fumes from new carpets.

There have been documented cases of toxins being released from carpets and causing serious health effects (e.g. Glenn Beebe of Kentucky, had carpet from his home business analysed and various chemicals released from the carpet were detected including: ethyl benzene, formaldehyde, methacrylic acid, toluene, amines and styrene. Reference: "The Non Toxic Home and Office" by Dadd: Publisher, Tarcher). 

  • Be suspicious of any floor coverings with a strong smell and check the cause of the smell before using.

  • Always read labels and/or literature, to determine any chemicals used in the manufacture of floor coverings.

  • Safer choices for carpets include natural materials such as cotton or wool.

  • Avoid jute or latex backing if possible.

  • Moth proofed animal skins (e.g. sheepskin) or sea grass matting may also be safe alternatives.

Linoleum is generally a safe product. It is made from a mixture (i.e. powdered cork, wood resin, wood flour, linseed oil, chalk), spread over a hessian or jute backing. It has all the advantages of PVC floor coverings, but none of the health hazards. There is however a potential hazard in the material which is used to seal the surface below the linoleum. It must be laid on a damp proof surface and often petrochemical adhesives are used which are toxic and should be avoided. It is preferable to use wood lignin paste as an alternative.

A further problem with carpets is that they may encourage insects, in particular dust mites (and fleas in some situations - particularly if pets are kept inside).

A vapour barrier sealant (available in the United States) may be used to seal a carpet and reduce the emission of fumes (if it is impossible to live without carpet). Areas containing carpets with any dangerous components should be well ventilated. A breeze through the house, or extraction fans, may remove a significant proportion of toxic fumes before they become a serious problem.

Benefits of Studying This Course

This course is aimed at people who are interested in the impact of buildings on the health of their occupants, whether from a personal perspective e.g. an allergy sufferer. or a professional one e.g. builders or architects who would like to make better decisions about construction materials and design. Use what you learn here to:

•Make better decisions concerning fixtures and furnishings in homes
•Help you decide how to replace unhealthy materials
•Examine existing buildings with an eye for health risks
•Add to existing building design and health knowledge
•Forge a foundation towards further study

The course can be studied independently or as part of a learning package.




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Jacinda Cole

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

Teacher and Researcher, Marine Scientist, Tourism and Outdoor recreation guide, Health and Safety Coordinator & Production Manager for Fisheries, National Park Staff/Farmer, Laboratory technical aide, Zoo, Wildlife and Marine Park assistant. Barbara has w
Jade Sciascia

Biologist, Business Coordinator, Government Environmental Dept, Secondary School teacher (Biology); Recruitment Consultant, Senior Supervisor in Youth Welfare, Horse Riding Instructor (part-completed) and Boarding Kennel Manager. Jade has a B.Sc.Biol, Di