Build a home that’s better for you! The ultimate healthy building blueprint


“Leafy plants absorb indoor pollutants. Lilies, Zamioculus or Boston Ferns are good choices”

Olga Turner, Ekkist

The following is an extract from an article published in the May 2018 edition of Grand Designs magazine. You can read the full article via the Grand Designs website (subscription required).


Could your home be making you ill? Building materials, heating, windows and ventilation all influence our physical and mental health. According to research 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.


Structural improvements


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.’


Remove Impurities


The negative effects of outdoor air pollution are well-documented, but what about the air inside our homes? Poor indoor air quality has been linked with sick building syndrome, with symptoms including dry or itchy skin and headaches. And a recent report by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health suggests that those susceptible to indoor air pollutants might also be at risk of more serious conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory-related illness.


Mould is prevalent in older homes in the UK’s damp climate, especially in bathrooms. According to Asthma UK, three to four per cent of the population and 10 per cent of allergy sufferers, who come into contact with mould spores experience symptoms.


Although not acutely toxic, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can ‘off-gas’ pollutants over the long-term. Many interior paints are now low-VOC, but look out for VOC-free ranges.


Latest Developments


Ekkist and Studio McLeod have joined forces to launch Ori House, a self-build home designed to enhance health. It incorporates non-toxic building materials, air and water filtration, a reliance on natural rather than artificial light, and multigenerational, flexible design. Plans for a townhouse and affordable housing are in the pipeline.