The German word Bau-Biologie means “building biology” or “the relationship between buildings and life”.
It can be defined as the holistic interaction between man-made structures and the health of all life and all living environments.
Bau-Biologie advocates buildings that contribute to the occupant’s health of spirit, mind and body and have a low impact on the environment.
Practitioners consider the built environment as something with which the occupants interact, and believe its functioning can produce a restful or stressful environment.
There is nothing new about Bau-Biologie. “It is as old as the Earth,” says Baubiologie pioneer Helmut Ziehe. “The movement is only new in comparison to our industrial way of living.”
The three groups of most sensitive individuals that reap the greatest benefits are: infants, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised.
Some people become environmentally hypersensitive, and although conventional medicine suggests that the problems may be psychological, there is growing acceptance that there is an environmental cause. One aspect of this problem is known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.
The origins of Bau-Biologie
After World War II, new houses were quickly built in Germany to accommodate the growing population. Studies of these new houses found a pattern of illnesses not characteristic of the population, but characteristic to the commonalities of the living environments. The new housing, being quickly built, and unable to properly air out (“outgas”, or “offgas”) provided for an environment where the occupants were the recipients of every volatile organic compound emitted from the construction materials. Along with this, other irritations became manifest because of the electrical systems. These two major irritants set to work simultaneously, and enhanced effects arose.
From these discoveries a study began in earnest among a few individuals to catalog and characterize the offending components. What emerged was a Standard of Baubiologie Method of Testing, with recommended threshold guidelines for sleeping areas (the space where and when one is most susceptible to biological irritation and damage). A small cadre of individuals was formed among whom Dr. Anton Schneider, Wolfgang Maes, and the Institut für Baubiologie und Ökologie Neubeurn (IBN) started a training system to educate those that were willing.
One of the architects, Helmut Ziehe, took the program and its possibilities to the USA. In 1987, he founded the International Institute of Building Biology and Ecology (IBE) which presently offers seminars across the USA. Two certification streams are available, the Building Biology and Environmental Consultant, and the Building Biology Practitioner.