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Healthy Buildings II (Building Environment and Health)

Course CodeBSS300
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Discover how to manage the environment of buildings to benefit health

To properly engage in the field of building biology/health it is important to understand the impact that the surrounding areas and the building itself can have on our health. 

As well as construction materials, 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.


Enhance your skillset

Develop skills to evaluate, describe and explain how physical characteristics of a building and its surrounds have an impact upon the habitability of the building and human health. The course covers how weather systems and garden design influences the internal environment of a house, health aspects of different furnishings, paints, pesticides and chemicals (and alternatives), alternative methods of pest control, managing building surrounds and interior environments.
What Building Materials are less safe, and what can be done to reduce negative health impacts of a building on human health?

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Environmental Impacts On Buildings
  2. Chemicals
  3. Building Surrounds
  4. Furnishings
  5. Finishes
  6. Pesticides & Alternatives
  7. Managing Interior Environments
  8. Consulting

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 impact of the macro-environment (location) on health.
  • Explain the impact of building surrounds, including a garden, on the interior environmental conditions.
  • Choose interior furnishings which are not likely to damage human health.
  • Explain the health implications of using different types of finishes, including sealers, paints, preservatives and stains.
  • Explain the health implications of using alternative methods of pest control inside buildings.
  • Plan health conscious management systems of interior environments.

What You Will Do

  • Explain how proximity to different bodies of water can affect human health, including:
    • Sea/Ocean
    • Freshwater lakes
    • River
    • Ground water.
  • Explain how different aspects of prevailing weather patterns may influence house design in different regions, including:
    • Temperature
    • Rainfall
    • Winds
    • Day length.
  • Explain in a summary, how proximity to electromagnetic radiation may impact on health.
  • Explain in a summary, how proximity to different types of pollution can impact on health inside a dwelling.
  • Compare the impact of different garden treatments upon temperature inside buildings, including:
    • Tall trees
    • Lawn
    • Paving
    • Mulched surfaces
    • Climbers on walls.
  • Explain how different garden design decisions can affect ventilation in a house, including:
    • Earth shaping
    • Planting
    • Constructions
    • Water features.
  • Compare the affect different garden components on light inside a building, including:
    • Plant types
    • How plants are grouped
    • Walls
    • Topography
    • Pergolas.
  • Explain how the visual characteristics of two different gardens influence the inside environment of a building.
  • Analyse two different gardens for the impact they have on buildings they surround.
  • Compare health aspects of different materials used for furnishings including:
    • Metals
    • Plastics
    • Timbers
    • Upholstery
    • Curtains.
  • Compare health aspects of different floor coverings including:
    • Tiles
    • Carpets
    • Vinyl
    • Cork
    • Slate
    • Timber.
  • Explain health aspects of different electrical appliances including:
    • Televisions
    • Computers
    • Refrigerators
    • Microwaves
    • Heaters
    • Air conditioners
    • Ovens.
  • Evaluate the furnishings in a building inspected by the learner, to determine recommended changes to improve building habitability.
  • Compare the health affects of different types of finishes including: sealers, paints, stains, preservatives and varnishes.
  • Compile a resource directory of ten sources of healthy alternatives to traditional finishes.
  • Describe the characteristics of three different specific products which are healthy alternatives to traditional paints and finishes.
  • Explain the toxic affects of ten different pesticides commonly used in buildings, both during and after construction.
  • List alternative "healthier" methods of controlling pests in buildings, including:
    • Rodents
    • Ants
    • Termites
    • Flies
    • Cockroaches.
  • Develop a detailed pest control strategy for a building, in the learners locality, which includes:
    • Structural treatments during and post construction
    • Preventative measures for anticipated problems
    • Eradication measures for existing problems.
  • Explain issues of building usage which can impact on health with respect to different factors including:
    • Number of people
    • Electricity
    • Windows and doors
    • Cooking
    • Smoking
    • Curtains
    • Hygiene.
  • Analyse the way two specific buildings including a home and a workplace are used; to determine health risk factors in that use.
  • Recommend guidelines to the way in which different buildings, including an office and a workplace, are used to minimise negative impacts upon health.

Tips for Choosing Safer Building Materials

Some construction materials have no known impact on a person’s health, but others can have a very serious impact. One of the best examples of undesirable building material would be Asbestos. Though used widely in the mid 20th century, it is now widely recognised that asbestos can cause cancer. In 1979, James Hardie Industries made a conscious decision to cease the company’s heavy reliance on asbestos based products. The wide use of asbestos by other companies in the USA actually led to the downfall of those companies.

Research was undertaken around this time to develop asbestos free fibro cement, and new improved fibro cement was released onto the market by James Hardie in 1981. Despite the actions of Hardie such a long time ago, the legacy of asbestos has still plagued them with legal compensation challenges well into the 21st century.

Apart from this legal and commercial side to the asbestos story, there is also a tragic personal side. People exposed to asbestos decades ago continue to develop asbestos related illnesses, and all too often, not only the quality of life diminishes, but lives are lost.


Choose building materials that enhance the health of people.  Avoid building materials that damage health. Preferred building materials will have the following characteristics:

  • Regulate temperature as desired (eg. trap sun, insulate, etc);
  • Chemically safe - usually being chemically inert (ie. do not produce damaging fumes;
  • Physically safe - no sharp or hard surfaces in places where a person might hurt themself;
  • Do not attract/harbour pests;
  • Have a desirable affect on humidity -some materials absorb moisture, some don't.



Some people are more affected by certain materials than others.  Sensitivity may be no more than a mild allergy, or as much as life threatening allergic responses.  In other instances, a body may be poisoned by toxins found in building materials. Exposure over a long period of time can result in a cumulative affect which eventually builds to levels with serious consequences.

Different chemicals affect the body in different ways. Many are specific (ie. affecting a specific physiological process in the body). Others may have a broader, more general affect, perhaps causing cell growth to become abnormal, leading to cancers.


There are many different types of materials used in buildings. These can include wood, masonry, ceramic tiles, plaster, concrete, metal, plastics, fibreglass, glass, glues/adhesives, paints/sealants, etc. Each of these has distinctive characteristics, some of which may be detrimental to health.   Any material chosen for a building should be considered in terms of the following characteristics:

Rate of deterioration

  • Some materials will deteriorate fast, others virtually never deteriorate.
  • Deterioration can lead to the need to dispose of, and replace parts of a building. Waste is not only costly but can cause negative environmental impacts.
  • Deterioration may also lead to greater use of chemical treatments such as pesticides or preservatives.

Thermal qualities

  • Some materials will absorb heat, others do not.
  • By selection of materials for thermal qualities, you can reduce heating and cooling requirements for a building.

Chemical properties

  • Many building materials have some toxins in their make up.
  • Sometimes these toxins are fully stable and pose no threat. Other materials contain unstable toxins which may be released into the building environment slowly (i.e. some paints). These can find their way into the human body and have a cumulative affect over time.

Acoustic qualities

  • Insulating against unwanted noise (eg. neighbours or a road), may be desirable.
  • Avoiding echoes may be important.
  • Some materials are more suitable for absorbing, or insulating sound, than others.
  • Some materials (eg. impermeable hard surfaces such as tiles) will bounce sound around a room.

Dust collection/repellence

  • Some materials will collect dust, which can be a problem for allergy sufferers

Light reflection.

  • Some materials may absorb light energy, helping heat a building (providing a heat store)
  • Some materials (eg. glass) are translucent allowing light to penetrate indoors.
  • Some materials reflect light. This can create glare and heat where it is unwanted; or it may help improve lighting where it is wanted.

Waste Created during Construction

  • Particles created by cutting plaster, timber, metal etc. during construction is unlikely to find its way off your property. Even if floors are supposedly cleaned first, dust and other particles will often remain under carpets, inside walls and roofing, under cupboards or buried in the garden.


Some timbers are preferable to use for various reasons. Other are selected against due to the negative impact they may have upon human health.
Some Considerations
  • Veneer timbers are usually made using glues that are preferably avoided.
  • Treated pine contains chemicals which when burnt will release a poisonous gas.
  • Smooth surfaces are easier to keep clean and dust free.
  • Shrinkage in timber which has not properly been dried will open gaps that can attract pests, dust, etc.
  • Timber with high natural durability may negate the need for using preservatives or pest control measures.

Formaldehyde Adhesives

Formaldehyde may be used in processing products such as plywood or chipboard. It is used as an adhesive. It can produce a vapour which is toxic. The health risk is determined by factors such as ventilation (both in walls and rooms), and environmental conditions. The emission of toxic gas can also vary according to the type of product: some boards producing emissions for a very long time. Sealing the boards with varnish or melamine is one way of reducing (or stopping) the emissions.


Why Study this Course?

The characteristics of a building and its surrounds can impose various health risks. This course will provide you with the skills to evaluate the impact of various environmental factors upon human health and to recommend innovations in building design to minimise these risks.

Meet some of our academics

Jade SciasciaBiologist, 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, Dip.Professional Education, Cert IV TESOL, Cert Food Hygiene.
Lyn QuirkM.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 for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.

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