Originating from Germany, Building Biology is a science that provides a holistic examination of the built environment and provides realistic solutions to create buildings that support the mind, body and soul.

Building Biology considers all aspects of the indoor environments in which we live and work for an average of 90% of our lives. The buildings in which we live and work should support and enhance the wellbeing of everyone in that building.

Building a healthy home comes down to basic principles that were developed by Professor Anton Schneider, founder of Bau-biologie.

These are summarised as follows:

  1. Building site without natural and human-made disturbances
  2. Residential homes away from sources of emissions and noise
  3. Low-density housing with sufficient green space
  4. Personalized, natural, human- and family-oriented housing and settlements
  5. Building without causing social burdens
  6. Natural and unadulterated building materials
  7. Natural regulation of indoor air humidity through humidity-buffering materials
  8. Low total moisture content of a new building that dries out quickly
  9. Well-balanced ratio between thermal insulation and heat retention
  10. Optimal air and surface temperatures
  11. Good indoor air quality through natural ventilation
  12. Heating system based on radiant heat
  13. Natural conditions of light, lighting and color
  14. Changing the natural balance of background radiation as little as possible
  15. Buildings without human-made electromagnetic and radiofrequency radiation exposure
  16. Building materials with low radioactivity levels
  17. Human-oriented noise and vibration protection
  18. Buildings with a pleasant or neutral smell and without outgassing toxins
  19. Reduction of fungi, bacteria, dust and allergens to as low as possible
  20. Best possible drinking water quality
  21. Causing no environmental problems
  22. Minimizing energy consumption and utilizing as much renewable energy as possible
  23. Using building materials preferably from the local region without promoting exploitation of scarce and hazardous resources
  24. Application of physiological and ergonomic findings to interior and furniture design
  25. Consideration of harmonic measures, proportions and shapes

By definition Building Biology is “a field of building science investigating the indoor living environment for a variety of irritants” and building biologist’s role is described as follows: “Practitioners study how the environment of residential, commercial and public buildings can affect the health of the occupants, producing a restful or stressful environment. Important areas of building biology are building materials and processes, electromagnetic fields and radiation and indoor air quality ”.

After World War II, new houses were rapidly built in Germany to accommodate the growing population. Studies of these new houses found an unusual patterns of illnesses. It was concluded that these patterns could be attributed to the rapid construction of the buildings. The rapid construction had given materials insufficient time to outgas various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and these VOCs in turn harmed the occupants. The illness is also attributable to problems with the electrical systems of the homes.

From these discoveries a study began in earnest among a few individuals to catalog and characterize these VOCs. What emerged was a Standard of Baubiologie Method of Testing, with recommended threshold guidelines for sleeping areas, where one is most susceptible and spends a large amount of time. A small cadre of individuals was formed, and Anton Schneider, Wolfgang Maes and the Institut für Baubiologie und Nachhaltigkeit IBN started a training system in Building Biology.

Building Biology is practiced in Europe since the early 1970s but is relatively new and under-utilised in Australia. Here in Australia we have Australian College of Environmental Studies, which provides the most comprehensive training in the country and is the only college to offer Government accreditation. We also have the Australasian Society of Building Biologists that has helped educate the public, businesses, health practitioners and government about Building Biology since 2007.

The World Health Organization states, that about 75% of all diseases are caused by environmental factors. Knowing that, wouldn’t you choose to live and work in a building that instead of causing any health issues would support and enhance your wellbeing? Most people would agree to that. Yet, we don’t pay too much attention to what materials we bring to our homes, what household and personal care products we use, what technologies we play with every single day. Most people believe that the products available on our supermarket shelves have been rigorously tested for any harmful health effects. Unfortunately this is not the case with most of these industries such as the cosmetics industry being self-regulated. While the argument remains that concentration limits are low, so therefore deemed safe, given the amount of chemicals now in common use there is no way the synergy of this cocktail of chemicals could be taken into account.

Statistics show that there has been an alarming rise in childhood asthma, which has trebled in the last 30 years, with ADD and childhood allergies increasing by 400% in the last 20 years. Children are very susceptible to their environments and the pollutants within them due to immature immune systems, higher metabolic rates and the amount of food and water they consume relative to their body weight.

All this information about toxic chemicals in our everyday products, harmful radiation from mobile phones and everything Wi-Fi, illness-causing building materials and poor building designs – can be quite overwhelming.

But it doesn’t need to be this way. We just need to realize that Building Biology is not too expensive, but includes the real costs up front, which in conventional building methods are passed on to the general public, the next generation and the environment. Is not just about reducing the toxicity of individual building materials, but calls for a total approach to a healthy living environment. Is not an additional luxury item for only a few, but will form the foundation of future building activities worldwide. And finally – does not limit itself to advantages of individual occupants, but also shows consideration for fellow humans and the environment as a whole.

As a building biologist, I don’t look back on a seemingly ideal past, but see the vision of a future worth living.

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