Healthy Buildings

Until recently no one thought about their homes as a potential health problem, but in fact the problem has been brewing for a long time and only recently has it gotten so bad that it has received a lot of attention.  There is a common perception that unhealthy houses and "sick building syndrome" are a byproduct of modern hi-tech construction methods and materials, and to some degree this is true, but pollutants, particularly smoke and mold have plagued occupants ever since humans started building houses. Older houses do contain less materials that emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), but often contain lead based paint, sometimes have lead piping (and almost certainly lead based solder on copper piping), and possibly asbestos in various places.1

Why is this suddenly such a problem, and what can be done about it?  Read more...

The first line of defense is to prevent contaminants in the first place. This involves knowing what they are, and what healthier substitutes exist. Details are in the toxics section.

While prevention is the best strategy, contaminants inevitably arise from everyday activities like cooking, so there needs to be strategy for removing them.  This is done by ventilation and filtrationRead more...

Mold is an ever-present contaminant that only presents a problem when it has water to grow, and since its everywhere and impossible to keep out the strategy is moisture control to keep it from growing.  The complete details on how moisture moves in a building and how it affects health is in the moisture issues section. The strategies for dealing with those issues are in the moisture control section


A Guide to Planning, Building & Maintaining a Healthier Home, Dan Morris,
Columbia Design Group, 1999

Prescriptions for a Healthy House, Paula Baker, Erica Elliot & John Banta, Inword Press, 1998

Healthy by Design, David Rousseau & James Wasley, Hartley & Marks, 1997

Understanding Ventilation, John Bower, The Healthy House Institute, 1995

Moisture Control Handbook, Joe Lstiburek& John Carmody, John Wiley, 1994

Builders Guide to Cold Climates, Joe Lstiburek, EEBA, 2001

American Lung Assn. Health House site: contains lots of good links


1: the good old days were often less good than is often thought.