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Health and Building Construction

Choose building materials that enhance the health of people.  Avoid building materials that damage health.

Preferred building materials will have the following characteristics:

  • Regulate temperature as desired (e.g. trap sun, insulate, etc.).
  • Chemically safe - usually being chemically inert (i.e. do not produce damaging fumes.
  • Physically safe - no sharp or hard surfaces in places where a person might hurt themselves.
  • Do not attract/harbour pests.
  • Have a desirable affect on humidity - some materials absorb moisture, some don't.

Some people are more affected by certain materials than others.  Sensitivity may be no more than a mild allergy, or as much as life threatening allergic responses.  In other instances, a body may be poisoned by toxins found in building materials. Exposure over a long period of time can result in a cumulative affect which eventually builds to levels with serious consequences.

Different chemicals affect the body in different ways. Many are specific (i.e. affecting a specific physiological process in the body). Others may have a broader, more general affect, perhaps causing cell growth to become abnormal, leading to cancers.


There are many different types of materials used in buildings. These can include wood, masonry, ceramic tiles, plaster, concrete, metal, plastics, fibreglass, glass, glues/adhesives, paints/sealants, etc. Each of these has distinctive characteristics, some of which may be detrimental to health.   Any material chosen for a building should be considered in terms of the following characteristics:

Rate of deterioration
  • Some materials will deteriorate fast, others virtually never deteriorate.
  • Deterioration can lead to the need to dispose of, and replace parts of a building. Waste is not only costly but can cause negative environmental impacts.
  • Deterioration may also lead to greater use of chemical treatments such as pesticides or preservatives.
Thermal qualities
  • Some materials will absorb heat, others do not.
  • By selection of materials for thermal qualities, you can reduce heating and cooling requirements for a building.
Chemical properties
  • Many building materials have some toxins in their make up.
  • Sometimes these toxins are fully stable and pose no threat. Other materials contain unstable toxins which may be released into the building environment slowly (i.e. some paints). These can find their way into the human body and have a cumulative affect over time.
Acoustic qualities
  • Insulating against unwanted noise (e.g. neighbours or a road), may be desirable.
  • Avoiding echoes may be important.
  • Some materials are more suitable for absorbing, or insulating sound, than others.
  • Some materials (e.g. impermeable hard surfaces such as tiles) will bounce sound around a room.
Dust collection/repellence
  • Some materials will collect dust, which can be a problem for allergy sufferers
Light reflection
  • Some materials may absorb light energy, helping heat a building (providing a heat store).
  • Some materials (e.g. glass) are translucent allowing light to penetrate indoors.
  • Some materials reflect light. This can create glare and heat where it is unwanted; or it may help improve lighting where it is wanted.
Waste Created during Construction
  • Particles created by cutting plaster, timber, metal etc. during construction is unlikely to find its way off your property. Even if floors are supposedly cleaned first, dust and other particles will often remain under carpets, inside walls and roofing, under cupboards or buried in the garden.

You can see here that you should not underestimate the importance of a buildings contribution to your health and well-being. For anyone involved with building and maintenance we offer some great courses to improve your knowledge and offer the potential for you to improve your work. Our courses are studied by distance learning and give you the freedom to study where and when you want to, whilst still carrying on with your work commitments. To find out more, take a look at the courses listed lower down this page. If you have any questions, get in touch with our specialist Environmental tutors, they be pleased to help.

[17/08/2022 17:05:43]

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