Building biology

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Building biology (or Baubiologie) is a field of building science investigating the indoor living environment for a variety of irritants. 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 (EMFs) and radiation (EMR) and indoor air quality (IAQ).[1]

According to the Building Biology Institute (BBI) and the Institute of Building Biology and Sustainability (IBN), there are 25 principles which govern the decision making of building biologists.[2][3] These principles are broadly grouped into the following categories by the BBI: Site and Community Design, Occupant Health and Well-Being, Natural and Man-Made Electromagnetic Radiation Safety, and Environmental Protection, Social Responsibility and Energy Efficiency.[4] The IBN uses the following five categories in guiding the creation of healthy, environmentally sustainable and community-connected buildings: Healthy Indoor Air, Thermal and Acoustic Comfort, Human-Based Design, Sustainable Environmental Performance, and Socially Connected and Ecologically Sound Communities.[5]

Effects of poor building[edit]

After World War II, new houses were rapidly built in Germany to accommodate the growing population. Studies[6] 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 instead harmed the occupants. The illness is also attributable to problems with the electrical systems of the homes.

From these discoveries a study[6][7] began in earnest among a few individuals to catalog and characterize these VOCs. What emerged was a Standard of Baubiologie Method of Testing,[6] 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. The 'Building-biological Measuring Standard'(see above) relies on physiological impact on biological systems, when determining threshold values. This is in difference to most government standards that use thermal impact (for microwaves) and other quantifiable measures, as advised by the relevant industries. This explains, why the recommended threshold values of the Building-biological Measuring standard are considerably lower than the values advised by government standards.

Architect Helmut Ziehe, Dipl.Ing., graduate of the original Baubiologie training, introduced Building Biology to the United States. In 1987, he founded the International Institute of Building Biology & Ecology (IBE) (, now operating at Building Biology Institute (BBI) (, which presently offers seminars in building biology. Four trademarked certification streams are available: Building Biology Advocate (BBA), Building Biology Environmental Consultant (BBEC), Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist (EMRS), and Building Biology New-build Consultant (BBNC). Mr. Ziehe's non-profit environmental education organization is now in its thirty-first year of continuous operation, under a volunteer board of directors.

Another Graduate of the original Baubiologie training and also Architect, Reinhard Kanuka-Fuchs, introduced Building Biology to New Zealand. In 1990, he founded the Building Biology and Ecology Institute of New Zealand. During the 1990s The New Zealand Institute continued to deliver the original Baubiologie training. In the year 2000, Reinhard passed the directorship of the New Zealand Institute to Alexander Greig. The original training then slowly evolved into an on-line course "Certificate in Ecological Building and Design" This new course was edited and compiled mainly by Jenny Rattenbury.

The three groups of most sensitive individuals that reap the greatest benefits are: Infants, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised.[1] Some people become environmentally hypersensitive, and although conventional medicine suggests that the problem(s) may be psychological, there is growing acceptance that there is an environmental cause. One aspect of this problem is known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).[8][9][10]

The 25 Principles Guiding Building Design[edit]

These are the 25 principles guiding Baubiologie, according to the IBN:[11]


  1. Supply fresh air; reduce air pollutants and irritants
  2. Eliminate dust, allergens, and toxic organisms (mold, yeast, and bacteria)
  3. Build with materials having a pleasant or neutral smell
  4. Minimize exposure to outside sources of electromagnetic fields and radio frequency radiation
  5. Build with natural, nontoxic materials that have low radioactivity


  1. Balance thermal insulation and heat retention to control indoor surface and air temperatures
  2. Build with hygroscopic or humidity-buffering materials
  3. Minimize the moisture content of new construction or dry any wet materials
  4. Use passive solar heating strategies or thermal radiation for heating when possible
  5. Optimize room acoustics to control noise and vibrations


  1. Design with an eye to harmonic measure, proportion and form
  2. Create spaces that foster the use of the senses (sight, sound, smell, and touch, specifically)
  3. Maximize natural light and keep any illumination sources free of flickering or unnatural colors
  4. Design both interior spaces and furniture for physiological and ergonomic health
  5. Promote local building traditions and craftsmanship


  1. Minimize energy consumption in construction and building occupancy by using energy-efficient design and renewable energy
  2. Avoid causing environmental harm through the use of sustainably-sourced materials
  3. Consider the environmental impact on plants and animals when constructing by minimizing use of natural resources
  4. Choose materials with the lowest environmental impact over the course of the building occupancy, favoring locally sourced and sustainably harvested building materials
  5. Assure quality of drinking water is superior, using purification technology if necessary


  1. Design the surrounding community for well-balanced mixed use (i.e., short distances between homes, work, shopping areas, schools, essential services, and recreation)
  2. Create a community that meets human needs and promotes environmental protection
  3. Make green space accessible to residents in rural, suburban, and urban areas
  4. Strengthen regional and local supply networks as well as self-sufficiency
  5. Build far from potential sources of contamination, radiation, pollutants, and noise


Some practitioners of building biology argue that lobbying by the insurance, building material, chemical and telecommunications industries keeps unhealthy building practices in legal building.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b IBE
  2. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-06-14. External link in |title= (help)
  3. ^ "25 Guiding Principles of Building Biology". Institute of Building Biology + Sustainability. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  4. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-06-14. External link in |title= (help)
  5. ^ "25 Guiding Principles of Building Biology". Institute of Building Biology + Sustainability. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  6. ^ a b c IBN
  7. ^ Maes
  8. ^ See MCS referral service at
  9. ^ Johnson, Allison, ed., Casualties of progress, Personal histories from the Chemically sensitive
  10. ^ Kipen H., W. Hallman, K. Kelly-McNeil, and N. Fiedler. 1995. "Measuring chemical sensitivity prevalence: A questionnaire for population studies." Amer J of Public Health, Vol.85, No.4, 574-577
  11. ^ "25 Guiding Principles of Building Biology". Institute of Building Biology + Sustainability. Retrieved 2019-06-14.

External links[edit]