A Biological Approach to Healthy Building Envelope Design and Construction




A Biological Approach to

Healthy Building Envelope

Design and Construction


by George Swanson, Oram Miller

and Wayne Federer, Editor


Spiral-bound, 304 pages

Pre-publication draft, April 2008


Welcome to the website for our building manual, which is available for sale. Our print version was first released in April 2008. Since then, we have sold or distributed our manual to readers throughout the USA as well as in such countries as Canada, Mexico, Ireland and Greece.

Breathing Walls offers practical alternatives to conventional modern building practices that keep homes airtight. Walls built today are energy-efficient but cannot handle the inevitable intrusion of moisture, resulting in mold, ill health for occupants and structural damage. Instead of "build tight, ventilate right," we say make your envelope "waterproof but vapor permeable." We work with, not against, the forces of nature.

Healthy, nontoxic alternatives are provided in our manual for building walls, foundations, slabs and roofs that allow moisture to dry out before mold can grow while effectively insulating your house and saving energy. Contractor-friendly choices include various thick, “breathable” materials, including low-density fiber-cement wall forms or blocks, autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC), and wood log. We also offer a thin-wall option that employs magnesia-based boards, a material extensively used in Asia. Detailed protocols explain the application of these materials on the job site.

Written by building biologists, this is a helpful reference manual for builders, architects, designers and homeowners wanting to build green and healthy.

To see comments from our readers, click here.

If you would like to purchase a copy, you may order the print version by clicking here or by clicking on the "Breathing Walls Online Store" button in the upper right hand corner of this page.

CD Graphics
For those of you waiting for our eBook and CD-ROM versions, we appreciate your patience. We ran into technical difficulties in June 2008 with the security software, and those versions are on hold for the immediate future. If you want the information contained in our manual now, we suggest you purchase a print version at this time. If you
order a print copy now, a $10 rebate will be applied off the price of the eBook when it does become available.

If you also want the electronic versions in the future, please sign up for notification when the eBook and CD-ROM are ready. If you want to view the cover art, both inside and outside, for the CD-ROM cover when it does become available, click here.

Click any of the highlighted entries below to view sample portions of our manual.

TABLE OF CONTENTS IN BRIEF (Click here for the full version)


  • Chapter 1. Historical Background
  • Chapter 2. The Origins of Building Biology
  • Chapter 3. Our Offer to the Building Trade
  • Chapter 4. Our View of “Green Building
  • Chapter 5. The Basic Principles of Bau-Biologie

  • Chapter 6. Desired Properties of a Wall System
  • Chapter 7. Water Intrusion and Condensation Problems in Conventional, Energy-Efficient Wood Frame Construction
  • Chapter 8. Breathable Envelope Materials
  • Chapter 9. How to Construct a Breathable, Thermally Massive Envelope
  • Chapter 10. Breathable Options for Thin-Wall Construction
  • Chapter 11. Slab
  • Chapter 12. Foundation
  • Chapter 13. Roof and Attic
  • Chapter 14. Additional Design Considerations
  • Chapter 15. Examples of Homes Built with Low-Density Fiber-Cement Wall Forms

  • Chapter 16. Worker and Environmental Protection during Construction
  • Chapter 17. Below-Grade Envelope
  • Chapter 18. Above-Grade Envelope