Healthy Building Materials and Appliances
This blog expands on an earlier post about the 25 Principles of Building Biology and the Healthy Home Standard Checklist. Here we’ll dive deeper into the Indoor Air Quality Checklist, and focus on best practices for healthy appliances and building materials. This is part 3 of 3 – IAQ Checklist.
Here is what Building Biologists thought were the most important IAQ rules of thumb for selecting healthy appliances and building materials.
Healthy Building Materials – Part 3 of 3 – IAQ Best Practices
- All construction, materials & job site activities to conform to USGBC, Building Biology™, EPA Indoor Air Quality and the American Lung Association Healthy Home guidelines.
- In wet areas with ceramic tile such as showers, tub surrounds, sink areas etc a cementitous backer board such as Durock, Hardibacker Board, Permabase or the Georgia Pacific DensArmor products (not gypsum wallboard or green board) is installed. This is a mold prevention requirement.
- Water tolerant solid surface flooring is used in bathrooms and kitchen. Do not use carpeting or vinyl (PVC) sheet goods or vinyl tiles.
- Solid surface flooring appropriate to room function is used in all other areas.
- There is a Moisture Management Plan (provide a copy in writing). [Note: This is essentially a written plan indicating where water shut-off valves are located and what to do in case of a moisture event. Included in this plan should be a water restoration company (or 2) that you’ve already vetted and could call quickly in an emergency.]
Healthy Appliances for IAQ
- Water heaters, furnaces and boilers inside the building envelope or in the basement are either electric or sealed gas combustion type units.
- If gas fireplaces are installed, they are direct-vent, sealed-combustion type.
Healthy Building Materials and Appliances Resources
There are some great new resources for those searching for healthy building materials. The Healthy Home Network has a database of alternatives to PVC. Pharos and Health Product Declarations are well on their way to becoming more mainstream and useful. I’m a big fan of using the Perkins and Will Precautionary List as a screen for materials going into healthy buildings. If material ingredients on this list we try out best to find suitable alternatives.
One of the more flushed-out databases of Appliances and Electronics without PVC or Brominated Flame Retardants was put together by ChemSec. Unfortunately, many of the appliances on this list are not available for the US market at this time. England started an innovative electronic and appliance labeling program called RoHS which mainly focuses on known-toxic heavy metals. EPEAT is for sustainably produced and more “healthy” electronics too. Finding appliances without heavy metals, PVC or Halogenated Flame Retardants is not easy!
It’s important to note that we’d never advocate substituting a material or appliance that the designer AND builder do not support. Performance and user satisfaction is of the utmost importance. It’s not sustainable or ecologically friendly to continually buy and discard appliances… as their production footprint is quite heavy on the energy and toxicity side.
Please take a chance and get to know the Healthy Home Standard. It’s a great way to frame healthy building projects and steer the team toward a more health-supporting building. We’ll get more into the Water Quality section next time!