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Building Health Into Homes : Part 2 of 2

Building a home to a high level of indoor air quality starts at the very beginning with framing materials, glues, and plywood. It is not simply a wait to the finish stage and use Low VOC paints. We did a lot of legwork to find the best materials to reach our goal of maintaining excellent air quality for the Passive House project. Throughout construction, we meticulously researched how the products we used might affect air quality. We were able to use GreenGuard certified products for most of the materials used on the home. If a GreenGuard certified product was not available, we turned to other third-party certifiers of air quality. Some products we used were lab tested to ensure they would not negatively affect the air we breathe. Some materials we used not only protected air quality, but helped to actively improve it. One example is the drywall we used. CertainTeed Air Renew drywall is a GreenGuard Certified product that actively absorbs volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and aldehydes, including the well known enemy formaldehyde. It then breaks these compounds down to a nonvolatile state and stores it them in a safe way for years. This is a great example of a forward thinking product that is helping to make healthier homes a reality. Not only do the materials in the home play a role with air quality, but also the mechanical systems can make a dramatic difference. Such is the case with our state- of-the-art Zehnder ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator), which helps bring fresh air in and remove stale air from the Passive House. The Zehnder system takes air...

Chicagoland’s First Certified Passive House: Part 2

Following the last blog post on Chicago’s First Certified Passive House, built by WBD, read on to hear common Q&A surrounding this type of home (See April 2013 Archive For or scroll down forPart 1): Shouldn’t My House Breathe? Your house should definitely breathe, but that breathing should be controlled.  A code built home as well as traditional construction methods of letting a home breathe through gaps, cracks, and drafts have proven to be outdated. Since the widespread use of insulation, uncontrolled “breathing (really leaking)” is undesirable.  It is an excuse for builders to be lazy, cut costs, or build homes as fast as possible without attention to details.  Not to mention that way of thinking also leads to a lot of moisture problems in the wall cavities which can lead to mold. Do you really want to be breathing in air that contains dirt, insulation fibers, and passes over mouse droppings or do you want clean fresh filtered air? A home should have a controlled path of breathing.  In Chicagoland’s first Passive House project, we used an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to manage controlled air exchanges.  This system exhausts air out the rooms that tend to contain moisture and smells, such as the bathrooms, laundry room, and kitchen.  That air passes through the ERV box where the incoming fresh air (lets assume winter – it will pre-cool and dehumidify in summer) is pre-heated and humidified before entering the home.  The heat recovery is rated at 85% so it recovers most of the energy from the outgoing air.  It is also filtered before it enters the ERV as well...

Building Health Into Homes

Improved indoor air quality is one of the most important factors in building a healthier home. As today’s homes are being built to comply with stricter, more energy efficient standards, it becomes even more important to prioritize clients’ overall health. When building Chicagoland’s first certified Passive House, I had to ask myself, what good is a super-energy-efficient house if the materials used to build the house could potentially compromise the homeowner’s health? Many building materials contain toxic chemicals that can off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Unfortunately, most people do not know that there are potentially hazardous materials in most drywall, hardwood flooring, carpets, plywood, glues, caulks, cabinets, insulation, countertops, and furniture. Fortunately, we can make better selections by choosing products that are third-party certified for indoor air quality such as GREENGUARD Gold (formally known as GREENGUARD Children & Schools), CRI Green Label Plus, or products meeting State of California’s Department of Public Health standards for VOC emissions (California section 01350).  While some certified products cost more, others do not. A Passive House is a well-insulated, extremely air tight structure built to meet the most stringent energy standard in the world, so it was hugely important to me and my client to use as many third-party certified products as possible. Just as important as building an energy–efficient, healthier home is the ability to do this cost effectively. All it takes is a builder who is truly committed to your health and well-being. Written by Brandon Weiss / Co-authored by Victoria Di Iorio Stay Tuned for Part 2 for “Building Health Into...