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HEALTHY BUILDING BASICS

P lanning & Design: Educate yourself about energy, designs, styles, building techniques, financing. Consult with people who have built "healthy" homes; try living in one for a while. Select a building site, based on solar and wind factors, easements, drainage, pollution sources, future development, etc. Choose a building type, size, and plan, based on needs rather than "wants," material availability and suitability, and solarization and wind. Open architecture maximizes air flow. Choose a designer experienced with energy-efficient designs and sustainable/healthy materials, bearing in mind that "healthy" and "sustainable" considerations may conflict. Ignore protests about "resale value"; there will always be a market for healthy housing. Keep your plan as simple as you can; strive for minimal upkeep. Consider building a temporary shelter for another, future use; or build only what you can afford now, and expand later.

Materials & Methods: Choose a designer familiar with sustainable techniques & healthy materials. Select sustainable products and materials whenever possible over high-energy materials, but use safer materials when necessary. Select the systems you need: water, air, power, wiring, ducting, waste, cooking, flooring, walls, sheathing, roofing, sealers, etc. Test all possible materials for reactions, then prepare a list of specific materials. For a good solar home, you will need a collector, mass, and insulation. Building materials can be as simple as earth from the site. Other simple designs include strawbales, or a large garage kit. Insulate adequately. Open architecture maximizes air flow. Berm the north wall for insulation. Eliminate or reduce northern windows and doors. Place less-used rooms and closets along north walls. Don't overdo southern glazing. Wall vents can guide air flow for cooling and heating. Save or plant trees on the south side of the building, or put in a trellis with deciduous plants. Place your garden on the south side to reduce Summer reflection in arid areas. Consider solar, water, or wind power for electricity. Eliminate termiticides in favor of metal shielding.

Materials & Methods. Forms should be metal, or wood painted with vegetable oil or aged latex. Tint solar heat storage floors and walls. Non-storage floors and earth walls can be covered with rugs woven of untreated plant materials. You may be able to use your roof as a solar and water collector. Grey- and black-water systems might be substituted for conventional septic or municipal sewage systems. A high-powered kitchen ventilator might take the place of a fancy air cleaning system. Use sun-powered vents and incidental lighting. Use twisted-3 wiring to eliminate or reduce Electromagnetic fields. Poplar is a well-tolerated wood for EI's. Air out vinyl and other synthetic products. Consider filtering windows. Metal roofing will last longer than shingles. Install unpainted or baked-finish metal goods, and clean well before installing. Scavenge for fixtures and furniture. Open windows when "baking out" or applying volatiles inside.

Construction. Work with your designer, and contractor if you use one. Do you want to build yourself or hire a contractor or subcontractors? Can you safely and legally do all the building yourself? What will your lender allow? Select and hire any needed contractors. You or they must arrange all deliveries, inspections, etc. You must pay them for their services. Keep yourself available for consultations or problem solving. Try not to change things after construction starts: this adds to your costs.

Healthy Construction Site. (Make this a big sign for the property entrance.) Vehicles & petroleum-powered machinery to be located downwind of property. Put tarps under powered machinery, vehicles. No cleaning of tools or vehicles on property. Spills to be cleaned up.

Written by: Healthy Habitat News


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