What is a Healthy Home?

Healthy home in nature

Indoor air can contain two to five times the level of pollutants as outdoor air. In some cases 100 times as much (Source: EPA). And as air quality has worsened, we’re becoming more highly sensitized to it. Allergies, asthma and the newer condition, multiple chemical sensitivity, have been on the rise in recent years. With North Americans spending 90 percent of their time indoors, and about half their time at home, it’s no surprise then that interest in healthy homes is growing (Sources: EPA and Health Canada).

Healthy home characteristics

Chemical-free – Low- or no-VOC paints and flooring, adhesives and other building materials that contain little to no formaldehyde and other chemicals.

Proper ventilation – Ventilation systems should remove airborne contaminants such as dust and cooking-related byproducts by exhausting to the outside while providing a change of air pressure that ensures proper movement of air. Some other ventilation features of healthy homes include: local exhaust with occupancy sensor; automatic timer that operates a fan for 20-plus minutes post-occupancy; limited pressure differential between closed room and adjacent spaces; sealing all penetrations between garage and adjacent rooms; and space water heating equipment being designed with closed combustion, proper exhaust or located outside.

Moisture control – Mould and moisture triggers asthma attacks and allergic reactions. By maintaining a home at the right moisture level (somewhat dry) through an automatic humidistat controller, these conditions are prevented. As well, cockroaches, dust mites and rodents are kept out.

Clean – Research has shown a connection between dust and asthma attacks. Since approximately two-thirds of dust in homes comes from outdoors, green homes control indoor contaminants through air filtration and central vac systems that exhaust outdoors as well as through permanent walk-off mats at entryways. Green homes are clean homes, designed to avoid dirt and dust buildup through the installation of easy-to-clean surfaces.

Safety – Homes that meet safety requirements. For example, natural gas stoves would have electronic pilots and carbon monoxide monitors would be located on each floor.

Comfort – Green homes are designed to be more well insulated, have better temperature control, insulate sound better, and improve daylighting, making for a more comfortable living experience and quality of life.

Minimal electromagnetic radiation – Green homes minimize EM radiation by: using LED lights instead of fluorescents; maximizing the use of natural lighting wherever possible; wiring the house so that bedrooms have minimal exposure to electrical fields; and locating motorized equipment away from living spaces.

Sources | Further reading:

Health Canada: Indoor Air Pollutants
Toronto Public Health: Healthy People, Healthy Environment
Alliance for Healthy Homes: A Healthy Home Environment
U.S. Green Building Council: LEED for Homes Checklist
EcoNest: Healthy Building

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image: phototouring (Creative Commons BY)

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