Healthy Buildings I (Building Construction & Health)

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

The influence of buildings on health and wellbeing

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).

Learn about building biology

Unfortunately, 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 1960's contain asbestos cement which is known to be carcinogenic and old piping systems are frequently painted with lead paints. In addition to 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.

Study this course to find out better ways to plan, design and construct buildings, as well as how to make changes to existing buildings to enhance the overall health of their occupants.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  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

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.

Aims

  • 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.

More Things Buildings Affect Our Health than What You Realise
 
Building materials, air quality, radiation, chemical pollutants, and even the physical design and construction of a building can 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”.

BUILDING ENVELOPE = WALLS + ROOF + FLOOR/FOUNDATION

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.

Examples of Materials that can Affect the Interior Air Quality

  • Volatile Organic Compounds; known as VOCs, are airborne chemicals that arise from various building products, at normal air temperature. They include most paints, paint strippers, wood preservatives and glues.  Formaldehyde is aa common VOC, that is continuously released from some wood products (eg. plywood, wall panelling, particleboard, fibreboard), sometimes for years after manufacture.
  • Undesirable particles will arise from fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, tobacco smoke, gas burners, and anything else that burns a fuel.
  • 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.
  • Solvents can produce dangerous airborne particles such as xylene and toluene (eg. from paints, glues and carpets as well as polyurethane).
  • Vinyl chloride monomer styrene can contaminate air, from vinyl floor coverings, blinds, textiles, synthetic rubber underlay, two part fillers and paints.
  • Chemicals used to treat timber against rotting or insect damage can contaminate the air.
  • Many types of glues and fillers contain dangerous chemicals such as Isocyanates in polyurethanes that find their way into the air.
  • Water based paints, varnishes and glues can produce chemicals including Glycol Ether.
  • Epoxy resins used in tile, wood and metal glues, cement and surface binder.
The impact of these and other problems can and should be minimised significantly.
 
The knowledge of such problems, and the exploration of solutions to such problems is what this course is all about.
 
Holistic Health Management requires an understanding of both psychology and physical health; and everything that affects those things, and part of that is understanding how healthy a building is!

 

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.

 

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