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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).
Effects of poor building
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 instead 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. 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.
Helmut Ziehe, Graduate of the original Baubiologie training and an Architect, introduced Building Biology to the United States. In 1987, he founded the International Institute of Building Biology & Ecology (IBE) (http://buildingbiology.net) 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. 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).
Some practitioners of building biology argue that lobbying by the insurance, building material, chemical and telecommunications industries keeps unhealthy building practices in legal building.
- See MCS referral service at http://www.mcsrr.org/resources/articles.html
- Johnson, Allison, ed., Casualties of progress, Personal histories from the Chemically sensitive
- 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
- Media related to Building biology at Wikimedia Commons