Episode #16 Building Biology and Rewilding Your House
In this episode, Stephen is a guest on the Rewild My Bio podcast by Shawn Slade. This is a great conversation about how to connect nature within your own home and the importance of integrating Building Biology and nature in your life.
Please be sure to check out Shawn’s podcast Rewild My Bio wherever you listen to podcasts and his website is www.rewildmybio.com
Show notes are below:
Welcome to Your Healthy House. I’m Stephen Collette. In this podcast I explore your indoor environmental quality concerns and opportunities. We look at the facts and debunk the fiction. We will discuss examples you can relate to and the doable actions you can take in your own home or apartment. We will also look at the history of how our homes are the way they are and the future of healthy housing for everyone. I promise to make this fun and interesting for both of us.
Episode number 16 Building Biology and Rewilding Your House.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the latest episode. I appreciate you tuning in. Today’s podcast is an interview I did with Rewild My Bio podcast. Shawn Slade runs that one. It’s a great podcast. I think you should check it out. I know you’ll really enjoy it. It’s an alternative health podcast, focusing on reintegrating our biology and psychology with her wild nature for the benefit of Earth, as well as for individual physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Well, that’s a mouthful, and it definitely piqued my interest. And when Shawn reached out to me, I was all over this and really wanted to be a part of his podcast. I was introduced via a mutual friend, Richard, who is also his co-host. And so we had a lot of fun. They both had questions about their buildings. You’re going to have similar questions about your buildings, and we really tried to make that connection that Shawn’s 15 years of work exploring the philosophy and practice of lifestyle medicine, looking at rewilding and connecting with nature, I think you’re really gonna enjoy it. There’s a lot to take away, and it was a ton of fun. So enjoy. Cheers.
Hello and welcome to another episode of ReWild My Bio. Today my wild and wonderful guest is Stephen Collette. Steven is a Building Biologist and the host of the podcast. Your Healthy House. You can check out all of Stephen’s content over there at www.yourhealthyhouse.ca I’m joined here in this intro with my co host and good friend Richard. What’s happening?
Oh, just hanging out it home.
Yeah, at home, right. It’s Ah, here we are, I think, timely releasing this one. Given that we are in the middle of quarantine, everyone’s you know, working from home. Everyone’s spending a lot of time indoors right now. So what a perfect time, I think to throw this one out there talking about building biology and how our homes affect our biology. It was actually you who had introduced me to Stephen. So thanks for that. May be good. Yeah. Like, what do you think’s awesome with this episode and releasing it right now? I mean, I think it’s great because, uh, you know, we might not under may not realize, but there’s certain things about our homes that might not be the best for us. So I think it’s a timely episode for sure.
Yeah. I think it just brings the lens to, uh you know, a lot of us are sort of cooped up and, um, aren’t necessarily really thinking about how that affects our biology and how we really want to be able to maximize our our health at the moment. Right? Right. And, uh, so part of this, you know, there there might be some information in here. Well, there’s nothing I can change about my situation. And, you know, um, I’m gonna feel overwhelmed.
The boat, that right, It’s not right now, Amazon’s not. People aren’t showing up with, say, a new fancy air filter that stuff that we’re talking about in this episode, for sure.
But hopefully, there’s a couple of things in there that you can you can pick up about. Other is, you know, how to minimize exposures to certain enough radiations. Or, you know, just opening your window,
definitely opening your window, putting zip, tying your wires together to a grounded outlets so that you’re not yet again letting off so much, so many easy, quick tips. I think we could do, you know, talking about standing desks and things like that. There’s a lot of good resources here, for sure
and also just kind of highlighting the importance that if we are living in certain situations where we do have an opportunity to respect this physical distancing but also get outside that really, really important.
Yeah, I know, Actress did. I’ve been posting a lot of the, you know, stay at home stuff online and everything. That and it’s it’s always pictures of me out at the beach, which I’m lucky that we have this join or Miss Beach, where I can practice social distancing and still be outside. I also unlucky that have a backyard. So you know, I But I understand it’s not the case for folks living in urban centers. Right. So
right. But here we are. Spring is emerging, and hopefully you have a window.
Yes, and I think most people do so and that just it will be again. Everything to me right now seems so timely with this podcast I want to release literally. I’ve got, like, two months worth of podcasts. I just wanna release them all because I feel like it’s so, you know, beneficial right now. Um, and I thought it was even forgetting where Oh, no, I do remember. I was going that that is, in regards to, Ah, my interview with Michael Moore Talley, the author of Re Wilding. And he had we had gone through a great, um, window meditation. You could do a nature connection medication? Yes, it was lovely. And that one will be coming out, you know, probably next week, actually. So, um yeah, so stay tuned for that, um, that I just want to say Yeah, I’m totally grateful for this podcast right now as kind of a kick off this show was something that I’m grateful for It it’s just this platform. I felt motivated, Re motivated yet again. Um, because I had started the podcast. I work really hard on launching it, um, finally launched it and then kind of got into a flow and started getting busy with school and marking. And so here I am, kind of feeling reenergized in putting these together and trying to do it in a way that’s gonna give you guys the tools and strategies that I think you want. And we all need it now to reconnect with nature for our health and just a kind of de stress, right?
So, yeah, I’m grateful for that. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to connect with you, Shawn, right now and with those of you listening and, um, you know, connections important right now, and, uh, you know, it’s taking, uh, different shapes and forms right now. And I’m grateful for this one.
Yeah, Yeah, I’m grateful for the actual again. The physical, uh, connection without a doubt. And I think it’s again. We’re saying I think the term social distancing is not doing us any justice from a I know, it might sound like I’m arguing semantics, but from a mental health standpoint, I don’t think it’s doing much good, because what we’re technically doing is practising physical distancing. And we’re working on our social cohesion through means of Internet and technology. And I think that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. So, um, true that, shall we get into this one? Then, without further ado, let’s do it. Yeah, let’s do it. All right. So, uh, please check out Stephen’s work. His podcast has much more nuanced and focused episodes than what we chat about today. Richard and I had our specific questions, and I truthfully, I think there could be, Ah, future episode with Stephen back charting but more things. But I hope you guys enjoy this again. Please check out all of Stephen’s work. If you have a minute, stop by www.rewildmybio.com to, um, leave a review, leave a rating, leave a review. And actually, I think Stephen has a awesome new episode. It’s Episode 14 and that’s social distancing and keeping your house healthy. So again, Stephen’s got us covered right now. Please check out that episode and enjoy the show.
Welcome to Re wild My Bio self help and alternative health podcast. I’m your host, Sean Slade. Join me as I share stories, science and strategy to help you re wild your biology and redefine your biography.
This is an exciting episode today because this is my first remote guest I have here on the line with me. Stephen. Collette. How you doing?
Great. I’m glad to be here.
Thank you so much for being here. I’ve also got my co host, Richard Viksinuc, in here in the studio with me. So, Richard, please say hello to the folks. Good, everyone. And hopefully if you heard all three of those voices that everything worked technologically. And I have to say thank you to all my friends who have helped me set up at this point because it’s, uh there’s a long time coming for this. So yeah, really excited to get into today’s topic, though, because what we’re gonna talk about is building biology. And Stephen Colette is a building biologist and is the host of the show. Your Healthy House And I’m excited to pick his brain because Stephen actually also does teaching for the Building Biology Institute, which will chat about at the end. But overall, Richard, I We actually talked about this on an episode. His first episode. What? His journey back to the land and actually hiring you, Stephen, to come in and do a full on assessment before there was even a house there on the land. So, um, yeah, I kind of wanna touch on that, too. But I guess before we go any farther, Stephen, what exactly is building biology? How did you get into it? And yet tell us a little bit about that whole journey.
Yeah, sure. Thanks. So, building biology is ah, German school of thought. It looks at the built environment, how it interacts and impacts occupant and environmental health. So basically, what happened is post World War Two. Uh, Germany was kind of in a mess, right? They had destroyed a lot of buildings and they needed to put people back in their homes as quickly as possible. And so they had to build these homes Not to the greatest standards. Certainly not the typical German, you know, 800 year construction standards. And so by the 1960’s, doctors were associating illness with these neighborhoods, and so they did something very German like a that point was get everyone together. Get the architects, the city planners, public health, everybody all together and realize that crappy homes make people sick. And so they decided to come through on the building code and look at public health. And one of the outreach pieces was this building biology institute to help teach people how to create house your homes. And so one of those graduates and architect came to North America translated into English, and, yeah, um, once the people all over the world or building biologist,
Right. So how long has it been, I guess profession, or how did you get into it? Really? How did that house? It’s something that you don’t know. What? Your journey.
Yeah. So I used to be an aircraft mechanic, and I used to crawl around inside fuel tanks, which, if you have a chance, I don’t recommend it. Um, and, you know, I got kind of sick. I couldn’t tell the difference between diesel and gasoline. Um, my wife and I backpacked around the world. We came back. We want to build a natural healthy house. Ended up building straw bale homes for a few years, and I thought I knew everything about healthy and natural and green, and we didn’t actually live in a straw bale. We lived in an old century home, and my family got sick from old, and I realized I didn’t know enough to even protect my own family. So I came across building biology that resonated with me and took the training. And so that’s 15 16 years ago. Now I’m you know, one of the instructors. I’m passionate about healthy buildings and making sure people don’t have to go through what I went through
right well, and it really has become more popular. At least I’ve become aware of it in recent years with friends like Richard, you know, building homes and other friends of mine that are, you know, buying land specifically to kind of get back in touch with nature. It’s how how am I gonna build my home in a way that’s also kind of allowing me to get in connection with the land? So, um, yeah, it’s been on my radar anyways, and I find it fascinating. Where exactly did you do your training at? Like where does one do training for something like this.
Yes. So the building biology Institute is located in the U. S. It is mostly a virtual institute. They run three. They run a variety of physical in person seminars, typically in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Um, there are some seminars in Ottawa, Ontario, this year for a new build construction. Um, and then there’s a lot of online courses you can take some little, uh, self learning packages. And, uh, yeah, mostly online.
Mostly online. Okay, cool. And I know, uh, before this, you had let me know that there are, like, obviously like, someone guidelines say, to building biology or principles of building biology. I know you said there was a lot of them, but could you touch on those, I guess, a little bit or what? Exactly? Yeah, exactly.
You guys doing well in the in the 21st century, when it comes to the green building industry were kind of understanding that there’s checklists that there’s, You know, if you do all of this, you get so many points, you’ll get a you know, gold or silver platinum. Err on obtaining a, um, environmental building and billing. Biology doesn’t work on checklists. That works on principles, So the idea of just nature is the gold standard. So what’s the very best we can do? How can we incorporate nature into our construction? That’s durable resilience long lasting, healthy for the occupants, healthy for the planet and using those, uh, using those principles doing the best that we can
s o those principles really resonated with me or still resonate with me as the naturopath IQ doctor because essentially we’re applying that same sort of principle based model to the body. Right? And the building be an extension of our biology. And that’s really what led me to you in the end was just that whole principle. And I’m fortunate, sort of the double edged sword. As a naturopath, I was fortunate in the sense that I didn’t get sick with mold, and that’s not what motivated me to build a house in a particular way. It was more the patients that I would see in the exposures that they came across and how that affected their health, and that really put things on the radar. For me, the double edged sword there is Well, there’s no more of that. Ignorance is bliss thing right. So you can’t really charge forward and build a home in a particular way once you kind of start thinking in thes principles. And so,
yeah, I know, Richard, you’re absolutely right. The idea that our home is our third skin, So we think of our bodies. We think of our clothing. This is it’s an environment. And in German, they call it bau biologie and ecologie. And I’ve butchered the German translation. But it’s building biology and ecology. And when we think about it, our house is a fish tank, right? Like if you don’t feed the fish, they float. If you don’t change the water, they float. If you don’t give him oxygen, they flow. If you put chemicals in it, they float. And it’s an environment, and we have to treat it in a way and created in a way that actually can be life sustaining
right for sure. Well, that’s one of the things, I guess, before we get into the health. That’s obviously what we’re most keen on. Picking your brain about in regards to building biology is how can we, you know, re wild our biology through our homes. So but what?What? Some ofthe other benefits before we get too into the health stuff. What some of the other benefits of you know, having a building biologist, obviously things like, economical like that. You can help with energy efficiency, obviously. But what are some other benefits to having building biologists help you?
Yeah, the idea of building biologists what a lot of building biologists do who is looking existing homes. So people focus on trying to fix the problems that are going on Looking at the health looking at, I do hate the word, and I know we all use it, but a holistic approach to the house. So looking at at all the aspects, chemicals particular, it’s biologicals, electro magnetics. Um, And if we’re doing that on existing homes, what are the process problems? What are the process is what are the exposures? What are the solutions when we have the opportunity to new construction, we can look at the idea of, like, how can we make this as healthy as possible out of the gate, right? Yeah,
And that’s a really fortunate position to be in. Is that building from scratch, right and not having to re mediate all these problems that are out there in some conventional builds, for example?
Yeah, Richard, you had that opportunity, and some people do. And when I was building natural homes, people had, you know, I could make that connection. The challenge is 99.9% of the population lives in existing homes and will for their whole lives. And so we need to be able to help them, uh, from a majority perspective and the opportunities do the fun stuff in the really creative opportunities to create health positive homes in new construction straight.
So health positive is a really kind of cool way of looking at it. Right? Um, in naturally medicine. We talked a lot about removing obstacles to cure, and so are we. You know, when When you’re building remediating Ah, old home to make it more healthy or building a healthy new home. What are we actually doing? Are we, um, putting things in it that actually fix us and make us healthy, or is it more of ah, decreasing our burden in our load? Right. So what do we actually do doing when we’re revolving? Like, are we just kind of trying to step back in time a little bit here and mitigate some of these influences on our biology that have kind of, you know, not correcting. But like smashed us over the head in the last 150 years. Yeah, for sure. And calm, calm, pounding quick to as we create Maur, you know, things like five G technologies and different paint chemicals and as we’re not conscious about it and we’re looking for obviously the cheapest product out there sometimes when you’re building a new home, um, if, say, someone’s even coming back to the land like just buying lane these days is very expensive. So it’s obviously important to kind of make sure, you know, I guess where your values are. But we’re talking about how we can make our homes healthier. How exactly do conventional homes where they fail or how are they not helping? You know, how are they working against essentially our evolutionary biology? Or what is what are some of the things with conventional homes out of the problems?
Yeah, um, I guess, Ah, brief history of conventional homes to just get a sense of it because it’s not like they’re evil. you know, it’s just done that of small steps. Basically, pre World War Two, we were building with natural materials. We were building with laughing Blaster and brick stone and you know, trees. And you know, our flooring was either solid number or was linseed oil for linoleum and post World War Two happened. And what happened at that point is we lost the second generation of apprentices to the wars. We lost the first generation World War, one second generation of World War Two. We lost a massive skill set that we couldn’t actually now do quality work because we didn’t have the people anymore. And so and then, on top of that, the factory’s making all the weapons of mass destruction. We’re out of work. And so they stopped making weapons of mass destruction, started making weapons of mass construction. Right. And that’s where we get all these factory built materials, drywall and no sheath ing and and all these materials and the the industries of chemicals creating, you know, the June Cleaver. You know, pearls and an apron and a sparkling spackling 19 fifties homes, right, because they just needed to keep the business is going and that consumerism was created the University of Cincinnati professor, just to keep the economy from tanking after World War Two. And so we had to start looking at disposability and and that cadre of cost down which drove the addition of more chemicals reducing raw materials, you know, natural materials. And so it was just economy that drove us towards that. No maintenance that, you know, ease of life. The the wonderful world of the modern jet age. Raynham. And so it was a compounding. It was a variety of things. And so the homes just became easier and easier to the point today that you don’t even have to have a skill to build a house. As long as you got a credit card, you can do it. We can help, right? Right. Here’s your credit card. Here’s all the materials of build a house. It’s just that talent.
How much of a challenge is that? And I know I can speak from my own experience, but do you find in being in the industry and being, you know, right up against sort of the frontier of it? Um, finding those people that can patch this together and you know we can have this information. We know volatile organic compounds do this. This and that. We know it’s better if we use magnesium oxide board instead of drive all these sorts of things, but oh, yeah. Then you got a source it Then you gotta pay for it. Then you gotta have somebody install it. Who knows what they’re doing. So you do, see, So my sense is that this isn’t, You know, this whole building biology profession is something that I hope grows and will continue to grow, and you sense that it is growing. And our, um, some of the trades and materials that are available keeping up with that demand that might be going.
Yeah, great question. I do see the industry of healthy building growing because of the availability of knowledge, you know, through the eighties and nineties was pretty much a vacuum. We sort of really trying Thio. Just forget all of our history of construction and Beth. Best practices for health in all areas. And now, in the 21st century, responding to see that change, right, we have more access, more information you can understand more. Um, yeah. The trades air lacking absolutely. The trades were lacking. And Canada, you know, I can’t get the materials that my colleagues in the U S could get. That’s that’s the truth. Um, and so you have to think be more creative. How can we use materials in a manner that are as healthy as possible and as durable as possible so that they’re not gonna fail if you’re using less than ideal materials in a location? No,
that’s really interesting history of conventional homes and need to see because I’ve noticed through looking at things with the Rewilding lens we see as technology rises, our connection with nature falls right. Here’s another example of our just that right? So it’s agreed. Yeah, yet another exciting time, I guess that we’re living in where yet different different technologies and industries are rising too kind of combat. Some of this blind side in this that we’re now seeing from some of these things where we’re past, you know, letting letting our health go to the waist. I guess so. One thing I’m really interested on that note is the biophilia hypothesis, and we basically says our we need a connection with nature. Human beings need a connection with nature for good health. So it’s kind of a foundational principle, I guess, to the show. But how does that exactly differ from building biology? I don’t know if it does. Er it’s similarities. I see him as the same, but the same time, like I see biophila hypothesis or the biophilia hypothesis as the overall problem as someone who’s a health researcher and I see say, rewilding as a tool to allow us to reconnect with that. So how is, I say, I guess building biology kind of helping us through the bill biophilia hypothesis.
Yeah, So the idea with the biophilia from a built environment perspective is, you know, health outcomes are better in a hospital. If you have a window looking up to nature, health, come outcomes or better, even if you had a TV with nature playing on it. Health outcomes or better if there’s like green oring within the building, you know, productivity’s goes purchase values. People purchase more if they can see daylight of daylight on them in the stores. So that connection the nature certainly helps us. Building biology takes a little step further. Instead of looking out from your cell towards nature filled with nature and creates durable, resilient buildings using appropriate natural materials. And they create an environment inside that is not stale, not rigid. Not, um, formulaic for sure. Right? And that really changes. Once you’ve been inside a natural building and straw bale straw, clay, adobe rammed earth. No matter where you are in the world we have, you know, millennia of of history, of these buildings being very durable. You know, we look at Europe, right? Thes air, all natural buildings. Why do we spend the money and fly to Europe? Because the buildings, they’re beautiful because they’re like, 800 years old and people are still living in them. The average life expectancy of a modern home with no maintenance is 24 years. That’s the life expectancy of your mortgage.
Sounds way that’s insane. Allow unseen. That really is. Um you have anything there? You want to add their Richard? Question related as I was, I was just gonna Well, I was just gonna switch gears a little bit, but, um well, what? I wanted to chat with those like you. How can How can re wilding our home, then be healthier for us. It’s like, what? What exactly is happening in in a home that’s been inspected? Say, buy a building? Biologists, like I know, having been in Richard’s home just the other day, actually made a comment on the feeling that you kind of get from and I’ve been in straw bale homes also, where it’s just like, Wow, this is This is a different feel as well. So I guess what? Um yeah, What are you seeing as benefits, too? Getting into
Actually, there’s a lot. There’s a lot less physical stress on the body, and the most common thing that causes stress that we don’t think about is actually drywall. The idea that there’s no such thing as a flat, homogeneous white surface with 90 degree corners in nature. You don’t see squirrels making houses that a driver right, and so our eyes actually have a tremendously difficult time. Uh, there’s a physical stress trying to trying to understand the depth of drywall like a plain white wall, right, your your beige whatever ugly stuff. And the idea is that it’s it’s it’s the same texture. It’s the same luster. It’s the same Ope a city, and our eyes have a really hard time and that causes physical stress. We don’t notice that we don’t realize it, but it’s actually subconsciously, really impacting us and patterns as well. There’s no patterns in nature. We don’t have sun dappled rooms. We don’t have any of that right. And But outside, you know, under the trees we get that variation in light. That’s that’s what we love. And so this no single light, single color single tomes wrote to you and 18 degrees everywhere. Our bodies just don’t biologically prefer that we prefer. And we do things like forced air in North America, which is stupid. Hot air rises and we have cold feet. Everybody’s crabby. Go outside. You have. You know, we’re used to that drink big flaming ball in the sky, keeping our bodies warm. We love radiant heat. And so bringing radiant heat into your homes Radiant floor, for example, creates Barmore, uh, biologically preferred comfort because the temperatures moving through the body, that the blood system works a lot better. So yeah, it’s psychologically, physically, mentally, it’s it’s every aspect.
Yeah, all around. Um, how did I guess? I was curious how How did your family’s change family’s health change? Once you guys say you move out of that old colonial home there with mold in that or would you guys do? Yeah. Yeah. What? What kind? Differences. You notice? I guess since you’ve gotten into this profession,
well, we moved into another century home, and, yeah, we were young and relatively poor. And so, uh, we’ve been in this house now for 14 years, and just four years ago, we finally did the major renovation. In addition, we always wanted. So we have in some of our walls, we have plaster, and we have a lot of natural materials. Linoleum, like a more moly, um, brand. So linoleum floor verses, Vinyl made for linseed oil. We have natural woods. We have bees, wax and linseed oil. Honor all there would trims all exposed. And so we have a lot of natural materials. Thermal comfort. Just making sure that it’s durable. So you can you know, we have this image of, you know, a house made out of sticks and the three little pigs and but traditional vernacular local appropriate homes are very, very durable. They just It’s all about the details. As with anything
and there’s yes, seems to be a lot of details. That’s just it. Like saying all this stuff. I couldn’t imagine going through saying old century home and actually having to do all this stuff, so I could imagine it’s quite the quite the task. But what so yeah, exactly how would you start that process? I guess, Say, if someone has a home, Um, let’s actually go back up a little bit. Maybe they’re maybe there’s two ways we can go about this. If you were to come in and do an assessment, what would that look like, say, for somebody who hasn’t even built a home yet? Um and then for, say, someone like yourself who’s moved into a new, older home that wants to do some Reynolds?
Yeah, the within existing home. We try to figure out what the best aspects of that building are and with each decade of construction, because that’s roughly you know, how radical changes within our construction industry by the decade. You know there’s some pros and cons every year, so figuring out what the benefits of that building, our what the challenges are and then if you want to do some renovations, Make sure to think about getting her in a carpet right? There’s a number one air quality concerns. Just carpet Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recommends we vacuum 10 minutes per square meter.
Great. Which on I’m just saying, Yeah, and that’s insane. Then even think of the type of vacuum that you have is gonna make a big difference. It’s funny. My my out of a little side ran here my little out of university days. I was looking for a job right before I became a personal trainer, which it became my profession. For some time. I actually was selling, uh, the rainbow vacuums, which yeah, e like I literally did it for two weeks until I got this job as a personal trainer. I was until I was working on building up clientele. But I was I was sold on it and because it’s actually a really good vacuum, So put that in the shoulders for anybody because, yeah, when standard vacuums are going to suck in these particles, but they’re also going to blow them out despite even&n