‘Building biology’ is one of those terms that you may never have heard of, but one that is actually very easy to understand. Without realising, it is a concept that almost everyone who updates/renovates/decorates their homes will have considered at some point.

Put simply, it’s the scientific study of looking at our indoor living environment and how it can affect us.

Building Biology studies how the environment of homes, commercial and public spaces can affect the health of the occupants, producing a relaxed or stressful space. Most people don’t even know how their indoor environment can (and is) affecting their wellbeing. The good news is, there’s plenty we can do to improve it!

Let’s start with something we ALL have in common wherever we are and whatever kind of home we live in. We need air.

We literally live and breathe in our homes. Some studies estimate that we spend up to 90% of our time indoors. But when you really think about it, how fresh is ‘indoor air’? We can tell you. Not that fresh, usually. When you take into account how much time we spend between four walls, especially how many hours we spend in the same spot while we sleep, the health quality of those spaces becomes super important.

Whether or not we realise it, we are affected by it every day. Notice, one of the first things we do as humans in go into a new space and take it in, we take in a deep breath. I wonder how many times you have made a decision, subconsciously or not, of what house to buy, which coffee house to relax in or what shop to go in based on how it makes you feel. That’s why so many successful companies have spent a lot of time and money getting this right, because there is a real science behind it.

Important areas of building biology include building materials and processes used, electromagnetic fields, radiation and indoor air quality. After all, a building is an eco-system. Our home is our eco-system. If the space in which we live isn’t always giving us what we need for fist-pumping wellness, that’s going to affect the whole of our lives. The air we breathe impacts on everything, from how quickly we get over a cold to our general happiness and performance as a person.

It’s been suggested that some people have become ‘environmentally hypersensitive’ and, although it has been argued that the problem is psychological, there is growing understanding that environmental factors may be an influence.

There are a lot of principles to explore in Building Biology, twenty-five in fact, which you can take a look at here on the Institute of Building Biology website.

If you’ve only got 5 mins, no problem, here are some key elements; good indoor air quality, using eco-friendly materials, electromagnetic radiation and smart insulation.

Fresh, sweet air

Healthy homes need healthy air. Building Biology principles aim to make sure that air pollutants, perhaps from paint, carpet glue, mould or bacteria, are kept to a rock bottom minimum. At Exeter City Living we think about air quality right from the design phase, planning our buildings so that the most natural materials possible are used. This means you aren’t moving into a new home that is still releasing toxins into your air, otherwise known as off-gassing.


We all feel strongly, here, about environmental responsibility. We see ‘eco-friendly’ on many levels, from the air quality in your hallway, to the area you live in, to the entire globe. Building Biology isn’t just about enabling you to flourish inside your home, it’s about making sure the wider environment isn’t harmed by our buildings. We choose to source materials responsibly and choose them for their performance, so that your carbon footprint is as low as possible. We want to lead the way in making building design and development a low impact way of living and growing.

Not making waves

Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) is a fact of life. EMR frequencies that we walk around with day-to-day include radio waves, microwaves, infrared, gamma rays… even visible light is included in what physicists term EMR, so we’ve been living with a lot of it for quite a long time. However, we know that certain types of EMR, especially close-by and for long periods, isn’t all that great for our wellbeing. Some people are more sensitive than others but, all-in-all, Building Biology principles limit exposure.

There is also a lot of research on sleep health that deals with minimising EMR in your bedroom. Exeter City Living has thought about all of this and has come up with building designs that do the work for you. We make sure that the electric wiring is installed in a way that minimises your contact with EMR from the circuits, and we don’t place plug sockets within a metre of the headboard spaces in bedrooms. Little things, when you add them up, make a big difference to our wellbeing.

Time out for the senses

Building Biology coupled with Passivhaus principles makes for some clever insulated properties. We don’t use that foamy plasticised stuff, by the way, our homes are insulated by natural, thick walls. This not only helps keep your heating bill and carbon-debt low, it also gives you the kind of peace that most city centre homeowners only dream of. This blend of thermal and acoustic insulation makes interiors imperceptibly comfier, adding to your long-term wellbeing and happiness!

We think that bringing together Building Biology principles with Passivhaus design is the very best way forward for housing development. Look out for future blogs about what we are up to and how we build our homes with all of the above in mind.

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