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 & light control, ventilation, plumbing, ergonomics and psychological factors.

Who should do this?

  • Architects, builders, developers
  • Building and health inspectors
  • Engineers, landscape designers
  • Building supply and manufacturing companies
  • Health practitioners, wellbeing consultants
  • Environmental consultants
  • Anyone else concerned with how building structures affect 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, etc).
  • Provide appropriate artificial light (without glare, with appropriate intensity and wavelengths, etc).
  • 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, etc)
  • 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).

Course Content

  • 9 lessons
  • 9 assignments
  • 100 nominal hours

The course is divided into 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


  • 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.


Example of work in this course:


Research the composition of a range of different building materials, including:

  • 3 different brands/makes of paints
  • 2 different sealants, glues or varnishes
  • 3 different types of timber
  • 2 different types of synthetic cladding (e.g. cement-based sheeting, plastic-based "weatherboards")
  • 6 other building materials (ie. fittings, plastics, adhesives or structural materials)

-Find out the composition of each of the materials you research.

-Determine any possible health concerns with the materials you researched, including problems with initial installation (e.g. drilling, sanding, fumes), and with subsequent maintenance or removal.

You may need to contact a health or medical department for some technical information.


1. Assess (in a summary for each) problems associated with different dangerous building materials including:   *Asbestos *Plastics *Insulation materials *Treated pine.

2. Compare the characteristics of the different commonly used building materials you collected information on in your set task.

You should comment on a range of factors including (where applicable): *Rate of deterioration *Thermal qualities *Chemical properties *Acoustic qualities *Dust collection/repellance *Light reflection.

3. Develop a checklist, for evaluating how healthy different building materials are.

4. Evaluate how healthy different building materials are, in a building you are familiar with (e.g. home or place or work). Name the building (ie. we want to know if it is a home, office, factory, or something else). Inspect the building using the checklist you developed.


Understand Building Diseases

  • Chemical - As mentioned above due to their fumes.
  • Electrical - The human body is sensitive to electrical frequencies. Wiring should be minimal, not placed closer than 1 metre to the sleeping bed, and the 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 originates 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 utilises 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 allow 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 plants as much as possible to complement the house not only aesthetically but also functionally.


Why Study 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.