Healthy Buildings

By ACS Distance Education on January 31, 2019 in Careers, Health & Jobs Success | comments
Construction and design of buildings has a significant impact on people than inhabit those buildings, Air quality can be compromised by bad design. Toxins can be introduced in construction materials, paints, and even furniture. Temperature, light, electro magnetic radiation, mould, and many other factors can be managed well or poorly in buildings. By understanding the environmental impacts on human health, it is possible to better manage the health of people using buildings.

Scope of Work

Building health is something which may be part of the role of designers, architects, planners, builders and others involved in the construction of properties, whether commercial or residential.

Whilst different people may have different specific roles, there are some common themes which run through the daily activities of most professionals involved in the design and construction of healthy buildings, including:

  • Drawing up building designs
  • Choosing environmentally appropriate materials and finishes
  • Avoidance of toxic materials and chemicals
  • Consideration of the thermodynamic properties of buildings i.e. insulation against temperature extremes
  • Consideration of electromagnetic properties e.g. location of fuse boards and wiring
  • Consideration of radiation e.g. light
  • Use of solar and renewable energy
  • Planning for water usage and recycling

In some cases those involved in building health may also be called upon to retrofit or redesign elements of existing buildings to make them more user-friendly.  

What You Need to Learn

  • Building design - taking measurements & site information, drawing plans & sketches, principles of building design
  • Building science - understanding stresses and loads, cement & concrete mixes, depth & width of foundations, construction techniques
  • Healthy buildings - building biology, green architecture, biophilic principles, EMR, thermodynamic building properties, etc
  • Materials - types of materials, characteristics of stone, clay, brick, timber, etc
  • Services - water, electricity, solar, gas  
  • Project management - overseeing small to large scale projects, ordering materials, arranging labour & equipment
  • Earthworks - surveying, drainage, flood mitigation
  • Communication skills - liaising with other professionals & clients
  • Writing skills - writing reports, submitting tenders & estimates

Starting a Career

Building health is a relatively new area of work and those who end up in this field often do so having built up knowledge and experience in building design and construction more generally.

For example, some people start by taking an apprenticeship in a trade or start out as a general labourer on a building site without a clear vision of where they want to end up. As they get exposure to building work, they get to meet other professionals and learn things here and there from them.  Then, with growing experience they may be given a foreman's role supervising workers and planning building construction schedules. From here they become interested in how they can make buildings more healthy, and so a new pathway is forged.     

Other people might gravitate towards this field of work from related professions e.g. landscaping, or because they become concerned about the environment and wish to be involved in doing things which improve the health of people and the planet. Whatever the reason, you can boost your chances of working in this area by:

  • Taking relevant foundation courses - you'll learn a lot more from being assessed than by simply reading
  • Looking for general labouring jobs on building sites - get to see construction in action
  • Volunteering your time - if you can't find paid work, volunteer (e.g. one day a week); all experience is useful

Progressing a Career

In order to progress a career, you will need to keep learning. There are many different theoretical approaches to building health and it is worth being well informed about all of them.

Other things you can do include:

  • Top up existing knowledge and skills - take workshops, seminars or courses
  • Arrange to visit building sites - talk to designers, architects, etc. to share ideas & design tips
  • Observe new constructions and find out how they have achieved healthy building designs
  • Join a professional or trade organisation - read their publications
  • Network - mingle with other like-minded people, use social media
  • Research & read - keep up to date with current technology and trends in design
  • Attend trade shows - see what's new

Also, don't be afraid to diversify  - building design, construction and attitudes towards public health are continuously evolving; you should be too.