The Building Biology Approach to a Healthier Home

The Building Biology Approach to a Healthier Home

Here’s a disturbing fact. Around one third of all illnesses can be traced back to environmental factors. And yet, many of us pay little attention to how our own homes and work spaces, the very places we spend a big proportion of our lives, affect our health and that of our loved ones.

 That’s where building biology and biologists, like my recent guest on the Spaces podcast, Bronwyn Bennett from Creating Healthy Spaces, come in. Using the principles of building biology, Bronwyn showed us that there are sometimes small, yet significant, changes that we can make to the spaces that we live and work in to make them healthier for us all.

 Here are some key thoughts that came out of our conversation.

 What is Building Biology?

 Haven’t heard of building biology? Well, it’s probably not surprising, as Bronwyn points out, the science of building biology came to Australia from Germany only about 10 to 15 years ago.

 “It’s basically how the environment in which we live, or work, how it affects our health, whether that’s positively or negatively,” Bronwyn says.

 “There are a few different arms to the whole building biology concept. There are some fantastic people out in the field that are looking at the design of a house from the ground up,” Bronwyn says.

 “Most of my work, personally, is with people who are unwell. They’ve tried diet, they’ve tried supplements, the treatment they are on hasn’t made a great difference, or they’re not getting the results their practitioner thought they should be getting, and that’s where, I think the statistic is a third of all disease is environmentally linked, so it’s so important to consider where we are sleeping, where are we working during the day, what are we being exposed to, and that’s the crux of building biology. It’s just looking at what is in the built environment and how it affects us and our children and so forth,” Bronwyn explains.

 In essence, “when I’m helping clients, and, quite often, as I mentioned, the people are already unwell we look at where they spend time, their lifestyles, where do they sleep, most importantly, and what are they being exposed to,” Bronwyn says.

Consider the Air you Breathe

 From Bronwyn’s perspective this is huge. And a lot of the problems stem from what’s coming from the outside, particularly for those who live close to traffic or industry. Ventilation and maintaining air quality inside a home is crucial.

 There are a variety of mechanical ways you can help prevent stuffiness inside your home. Bronwyn recommends considering filters or air purification systems, such as HEPA and carbon filters. Trees are also a fantastic natural filter for air quality.

 However there is an important caveat here. And in the podcast, Bronwyn explains why simply sticking a filter in the corner of a room is often a Band-Aid solution, and why we need to consider the basics of ventilation and airflow more carefully.

 Consider How Heating and Cooling Affects Your Health

 During the podcast we discussed a variety of detrimental effects that poor heating or cooling can have on a home’s occupants. In Bronwyn’s experience poor heating can lead to things like rising damp. Open fireplaces can lead to poor lung health. Modern ducted systems can blow dust throughout the house.

 “Whatever system you have, it is so important to have maintenance. The common sense of regular maintenance is not happening across the board,” Bronwyn says. “It’s seen as another chore, another expense, but it certainly makes a big difference to the health of the occupants from a building biology point of view.”

 Be Mindful of What You Bring Into Your Home

 A lot of creating a healthy home comes down to awareness, particularly about what you bring into your home, such as personal care and cleaning products. “It’s being mindful of what you bring into your house, your home, your workplace. So it’s being aware of the different chemicals and what products you bring in that can cause health issues, or are associated with health issues,” Bronwyn says.

 “We can still walk into any hardware store or any supermarket and buy products and known toxicants that are known to be associated with cancer, but we can still buy them and still use them in our homes. That is a problem as well,” she says.

Be Aware of The Toxins in Common Building Materials

 The same kind of careful thinking needs to go into what we use to build and decorate our homes. “We build a house and we’re sold that idea that when you walk into a new house it smells like a new house. You can still smell the gloss paint six months after it’s been applied. You buy fantastic soft furnishings or a new couch and you take it out of the plastic bag and it stinks for months. And that’s all the different chemicals that we treat our products with,” Bronwyn says.

 “I often have people say to me we don’t need your help as a building biologist because we’re not sick, but just because we’re not sick and we don’t show symptoms, it doesn’t mean that we’re not being affected by it, Bronywn says. “So if you’re in a home where you can smell the paint or the MDF boarding that you just had installed in the kitchen, just because it doesn’t make you sneeze, doesn’t mean it isn’t affecting your health negatively.”

 You can hear the entire conversation with Bronwyn Bennett here.