The relationship between buildings and human health
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, these aims can be achieved. In most situations, buildings should satisfy the following:
- Buffer the impact of adverse external conditions (e.g. extremes of temperature, wind, moisture).
- Make use of natural light during the day (with windows, skylights, reflective interior surfaces).
- Provide appropriate artificial light (without glare, with appropriate intensity and wavelengths).
- Maintain good air quality inside (e.g. through ventilation, indoor plants).
- Minimise pollutants/toxins (e.g. fumes, dust).
- Control acoustics (stop unwanted noise; avoid interference/distortion of desirable noise).
- Provide unimpeded movement and access to all areas.
- Provide rapid response to environmental controls (e.g. ability to raise or lower temperature quickly, ventilate rapidly if necessary).
Study building biology
Learn about building materials, construction techniques, electrical wiring, temperature & light control, ventilation, plumbing, ergonomics and psychological factors; and how all of these things impact upon human health and wellbeing.
This course helps to develop the skills needed to determine the impact of building construction characteristics upon human health, and to recommend innovations in building design to improve habitability.
There are 10 lessons in this course:
- 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
- Building Materials
- Dangerous Building Materials
- Chemical Effects on the Human Body
- Formaldahyde Adhesives
- Masonary and Concrete
- Insulation Materials
- Soft Furnishings
- Timber Treatments, stains, polishes, etc
- Roofing Materials
- Roof Gardens
- Roof Construction
- Reasons to Choose Different Floors or Floor Coverings
- Pests in Buildings
- Dust Mites
- Termites, Flies, Mosquitoes, Wasps, Cockroaches, etc
- Rodents, Birds, Snakes, etc
- Electrical Fields
- Measuring Electricity and Exposure limits
- Power Supply Systems
- General Waste Disposal
- Waste Water
- Introduction to Heating and Cooling
- Principles of Temperature Control
- Heat Loss
- Types of Heaters
- Cooling Effects
- Air Cleaners, Filtration, Circulation, Air Conditioning
- Energy Conservation
- Solar House Design
- Active and Passive Solar Heating Systems
- The Internal Environment: Ventilation
- Scope and Nature
- Natural Ventilation
- Mechanical Ventilation
- Air Conditioning
- Humidity Management
- Internal Light in Buildings
- Natural Light
- Artificial Light
- Electric Light
- Internal Acoustic Control
- Improving Internal acoustics
- Noise Insulation
- Ergonomic Considerations
- Scope and Nature of Ergonomics
- Form, Shape and Spatial Dimensions
- Furniture Design
- Interior Layout
- 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.
Why is it so Important to Understand Building Biology?
We are biological organisms, surrounded by biological organisms -many of which are microscopic. Everything around us influences us; our state of mind, our health, and our ability to live a full and productive life. There may have been a time when people spent most of their time outside, in the natural world. For most of us today though; the bulk of our lives is spent inside building are around buildings.
These studies are all about understanding how buildings affect us, and learning how to make them affect us more in a positive way, and less in a negative way.
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 60's contain asbestos cement which is known to be carcinogenic and old piping systems are frequently painted with lead paints. In addition 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.
- 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
- 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.
Who Benefits from a knowledge of Building Biology?
Studying building biology is relevant to everyone in their private lives; and to many in their work.
- Some may use this course to move onto a new career path
- Anyone involved in land or property management can apply what they learn here
- Anyone involved in environmental assessment will broaden their perspective and perhaps the scope of work they might undertake.
- Health professionals will become more holistic in their diagnosis of health problems
- Builders, engineers and architects will develop buildings more sympathetic to human health and well being
- Interior decorators and suppliers of household goods will understand the health implications of products they use
- Employers will understand and better manage the work environment to improve employee well being and staff productivity
These are just some of many applications for this course.