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Designing and Building with Healthier Materials

Discover the impact of building materials on human health and the environment, and learn how to make healthier material choices.

An interior courtyard of a building is shown. The building is concrete and glass, with tables in the courtyard with green chairs. There is a tree overhead and greenery throughout the courtyard

Explore your role in creating a healthier built environment

The built environment is all around us, and we are constantly exposed to chemicals through the materials we wear, eat, or live in.

On this three-week course, you’ll investigate the impacts of building materials on our health and surroundings.

You’ll delve into your role as an occupant, designer, or advocate to help you gain knowledge on how you can champion for a healthier built environment.

Unpack the use of industrial chemicals in building materials

You’ll explore the potential effects that chemicals in materials have on our health to help you better understand the communities and populations that are most vulnerable.

With this knowledge, you’ll learn how to evaluate building materials based on human health outcomes, and explore how healthy design approaches can benefit occupants.

Explore healthy and sustainable building materials

You’ll delve into what makes a healthy building material as you explore healthier design approaches and how this contributes to sustainability.

Next, you’ll uncover the role of the occupant and those working on a design project in creating healthier built environments. This will help you understand the strategies needed to implement healthier materials into the built environment.

Learn from the specialists at Parsons School of Design

Having gained knowledge of the strategies and guiding principles for designers, you’ll explore the future of healthy building practices.

Guided by the experts at Parsons School of Design, you’ll finish the course with the knowledge of how healthy buildings benefit both people and planet, and how to advocate for healthier materials in the built environment.


  • Week 1

    Healthier Materials and Human Health

    • Course and Week Introduction

      Welcome to the course, Week 1, and personal introductions.

    • What are healthier materials?

      Explore healthier materials.

    • The relationship between building materials and human health

      Discover how building materials affect human health.

    • Impacts of industrial chemicals on human health

      Discover how industrial chemicals affect human health.

    • Week Wrap up

      Reflect on what you learned in Week 1 of this course.

  • Week 2

    Healthier Materials and Building Practices

    • Week 2 Introduction

      Welcome to Week 2 - Healthy Materials and Building Practices.

    • Best practices for specifying building materials

      Learn the best practices for selecting healthy building materials.

    • Industrial chemicals associated with building materials

      Understand industrial chemicals associated with building materials.

    • Strategies and Guiding Principles for Designers

      Explore strategies and principles for designers.

    • Week Wrap-Up

      Reflect on what you have learned in Week 2.

  • Week 3

    Healthier Materials and Sustainability

    • Week 3 Introduction

      Welcome to Week 3 - Healthier Materials and Sustainability.

    • Healthier Design Approaches

      Learn about healthier design approaches.

    • The Role of Occupants

      Understand the role of the occupant in creating healthier environments.

    • Envisioning Healthier Built Environments

      Explore the future of healthier built environments.

    • Course Wrap-up

      Reflect on what you have learned in Week 3.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain the relationship between building materials and human health
  • Evaluate building materials based on human health outcomes
  • Assess how healthier design approaches impact occupants
  • Debate what can be done to develop healthier environments
  • Identify the relationship between building materials and human health
  • Explore how healthier design approaches impact occupants and what can be done to develop healthier environments

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in health and sustainability in the built environment.

You may work in the industry or you’re simply passionate about the health of populations and the planet.

Who developed the course?

Parsons School of Design

For more than a century, Parsons School of Design has been inspired by the transformative potential of design. Today, the school’s groundbreaking academic programs carry forward that mission, making Parsons the number one design school in the U.S. and among the top three globally. At the heart of a comprehensive university — The New School — Parsons draws on a range of academic fields to deliver a uniquely interdisciplinary education enriched by the resources of its home in New York City


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  • Access to ALL eligible short courses
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  • Discuss your learning in comments
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  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

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  • Limited access to course content for 3 weeks

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Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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