How to build a healthy home

We investigate the impact the environment has on our health and home by delving into new possibilities for safeguarding our wellbeing to build a healthy home.

By Gemma Parkes | 20 April 2018

With awareness growing that good health begins at home, we reveal the new possibilities for safeguarding your wellbeing when carrying out a self-build or renovation project to construct a healthy building.

white scheme dining room with purifying paint filters

Image: Lakeland Paints’ Air Purifying Paint filters out 99 per cent of indoor air pollution including solvents, VOCs, chemicals and deisel and petrol fumes, from £48.38 for 1L, Lakeland Paints

Could your home be making you ill? Building materials, heating, windows and ventilation all influence our physical and mental health. According to research carried out by Velux, one in six Europeans lives in an unhealthy building. Damp, a lack of daylight, inadequate heating or overheating can all contribute to asthma, allergies and sleep disorders.

Proponents of Baubiologie – or ‘building biology’ – believe that certain design ideas and materials can have a positive impact on wellbeing, making them an advisable choice for self-builders and renovators. The movement began in Germany in the 1970s, where the Institute of Building Biology + Sustainability IBN administers the Healthy Home Standard, and now its ideas are gaining ground with architects and manufacturers here.

We look at the impact the environment has on humans and the measures you as self-builders can take to ensure you build a healthy home.

Make structural improvements with natural materials

white scheme living room with navy velvet armchairs and solid hardwood floors

Image: Solid hardwood floors, pre-finished in oil or ultramatt lacquer, from £50 per sqm, Junckers

Baubiologie promotes the use of natural materials such as timber, rammed earth floors and hempcrete. ‘Wood is renewable, ages beautifully and has been linked with positive psychological responses,’ says Olga Turner, director and co-founder of architecture and design consultancy Ekkist.

‘Consider fitting timber-frame windows, having exposed beams and joists or installing interior timber cladding.’

It’s also possible to combat the potential adverse effects of existing materials. British Gypsum’s ACTIVair technology decomposes formaldehyde emissions, which arise from products such as wood composites incorporating resin, into non-harmful compounds and is used in some of its plasterboard and plaster products – and it even works through emulsion paint.

But finding healthy building products in the UK is a challenge. ‘There is no comprehensive register of products to use or avoid, so it takes some detective work,’ says Simon Corbey, associate director at The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products.