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Builder Magazine calls healthy homes – the next big thing

January 6, 2017

TreeHugger has been on a healthy homes kick this fall (see them all here) but now the building industry is catching on to the trend. Robyn Griggs Lawrence writes in Builder Online:

Across the country, home builders large and small are working to determine whether healthy building standards are important for their buyers. Many building pros have been reluctant to offer health and wellness features because they think they will cost more, interfere with schedules and budgets, and lead to conversations with clients about things they don’t understand. But builders who have already stepped into the healthy home arena say these concerns are becoming non-issues.

Health, like comfort, is hard to quantify and there is a lot of confusion. However there is not much argument about the basic principles: “ plentiful fresh air, nontoxic or low-toxic building materials, and moisture control.” (TreeHugger goes a lot further than that in our post What is a “Healthy” home?)

healthy home

People are still going to have to pay more for homes less likely to make them sick, but it is also a lot easier and cheaper than it used to be. Back when TreeHugger started covering these things, low VOC and less toxic products were hard to find and a lot more expensive. But as Living Future Insitute founder Jason MacLennan notes,

It’s best not to make assumptions and recognize that the costs are changing rapidly and for the better. Builders need to stay current and realize there are more and more healthy products out there each year and more and more with no premium.

A good example of how things have changed is fibreglass insulation. We used to rant about it and its formaldehyde based binder; now formaldehyde free acrylic binders are standard. The market spoke and industry actually listened in this case. Robin Griggs Lawrence talks to Stacy Glass of Cradle to Cradle (and on TreeHugger here) who points out that young buyers really care about this issue:

“Millennials are so conscious about what they buy. They want to know what’s in it, how it’s made, who made it, and that they were paid a fair wage” Glass, a former green building materials distributor, confirms that the birth of a baby causes a lot of women to seek out low-emitting and chemical-free products and homes. “The most feverish calls I would get,” she says, “were from new moms.”

It is very easy to be blasé and skeptical of builders being serious about health as they pave over farmland to build bungalows with three car garages, But it is a start. For many years the builders pushed energy efficiency, but you can’t insulate and seal a house up without thinking about the health of the people bottled up in it. That’s why fresh air, non—toxic materials and moisture control in particular are so important- Energy and health go together.

By Lloyd Alter

(Source:; December 13, 2016)

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