The physical design and construction of a building can also impact on a person’s health. Different construction materials and techniques can, for example, affect such things as temperature regulation, ventilation (in turn oxygen levels, mould growth, moisture retention etc), opportunities for pests to invade a building, opportunity for dust to settle and a variety of other different impacts.
Modern construction methods have abandoned the use of natural building material and methods. New technologies have significantly altered both the structural characteristics of the materials used and the design components of buildings – to the detriment of the end-users. One of the most significant problems in many new buildings is that they are designed as “sealed” units, effectively operating as closed, non-breathable, and mechanically dependent, suffocating construction systems. These systems result in significant health problems for the end-users, particularly as a result of reduced air quality. Air quality is compromised significantly by the trapping of toxic gasses released by building materials and the growth of moulds resulting form poor moisture control.
The construction of a building can be thought of in terms of the “building envelope”.
Reasons for moisture and fungal growth problems in modern buildings are complex and involve considerations such as the integrity of the building envelope and the susceptibility of construction and finishing materials to bio- deterioration. Trim, fittings, furnishings, carpets, floor coverings aside, the most important aspects of a healthy building are linked to the building “envelope”. The envelope plays a critical role in moisture control, ventilation, and heating/cooling.
What materials can influence indoor air quality?
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): chemical substances that become airborne, or volatile, at room temperature. They are given off by most paints, paint strippers, wood preservatives and glues;
  • Formaldehyde, a common VOC, is released from some manufactured wood products such as plywood, wall panelling, particleboard, fibreboard and furniture made with these products;
  • Respirable particles from fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, tobacco smoke and other combustion sources;
  • Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from unflued kerosene and gas space heaters, leaking chimneys and boilers, gas water heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, gas stoves, automobile exhaust from attached garages;
  • Xylene and toluene solvents in paints, glues and carpets as well as polyurethane;
  • Vinyl chloride monomer styrene in vinyl floor coverings, blinds, textiles, synthetic rubber underlay, two part fillers and paints;
  • Isocyanates in polyurethanes, glues and fillers;
  • Glycol Ether and derivatives used as solvents in water based paints, varnishes and glues;
  • Epoxy resins used in tile, wood and metal glues, cement and surface binder ‘Natural’ materials are generally preferable to synthetic, however some natural materials can have significant environmental and health impacts; and
  • Timbers can be treated with chemicals against biological attack and to increase durability.


Study a Distance Education Course (Healthy Buildings I BBS200)

Learn to describe and explain the impact of building construction characteristics upon human health; and to recommend innovations in building design to improve the habitability of the building.

Duration  100 hours

Upon completing this course you will be able to:
    There are ten lessons as follows:
    1. Introduction To Building Biology
    2. Building Materials
    3. Construction
    4. Services
    5. Temperature: Heating & Cooling
    6. The Internal Environment: Ventilation
    7. Light
    8. Acoustics
    9. Ergonomic Considerations
    10. Psychological Considerations


    More from ACS

    Need Help?

    Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.