Category Archives: green

How healthy is your home? How to start going green gradually and over time

Jim Gramata - Healthy Homes ChicagoHow healthy is your home? or perhaps better… how healthy is your entire home lifestyle? I have researched thousands of articles, blog posts, white papers, books and websites studying the concept of sustainable, ‘green’, safe and healthy homes. I’ve seen the impact unhealthy choices have had on people, families, neighborhoods, communities and our environment through research and stories told. I’ve been appalled at the ‘green washing’ efforts the public is facing from the media which is only adding more confusion to the question of what is true, who can be trusted for a consolidated collection of information of the best path to healthy living.  I am committed to providing an honest introduction to the concepts of living in healthy homes.

Most of us can agree on what makes a home unhealthy. Poor indoor air quality, mold, lead or radon in a home etc. But each definition of what is a healthy home should be self-constructed because each persons efforts and vision may differ, but I believe in order to make educated decisions we must first know what questions to ask in order to define our vision and awareness of what is a healthy homes.

This blog is my effort to share my knowledge, thoughts and resources with homeowners who are unsure about where to begin on making your home (present of future) healthy. It can be so overwhelming.

Many choices were made for you from the previous owners of your home who were stewards of the home. Or they were made by the developers who built your home and who (along with the architect and designer) made so many of the choices of the components that make up the house. They made decisions related to healthy living whether they framed the decision matrix in this light or not. In some cases they did and in others I am sure they did not.

This blog will also focus on current (or future) homeowners who continues to make maintenance decisions or improvements decisions which may unknowingly be having a harmful effect on your health without you knowing it. This is where the awareness factors is brought to light for readers or followers.

To me as an architect who makes material choices for renovated or newly built homes I know the consequences are very real on many levels.  As I continued to watch designers and builders make the choices many of them are making, I became committed to publishing a message that these poor choices have consequences. This hopefully will be a wakeup for someone who will take the message to heart and take small steps (or large) to make their homes and neighborhood healthier and safe places to live.

So, I have started to organized my thoughts of how to start going towards a fully healthy lifestyle by breaking down the healthy home choices into four separate categories we can consider when establishing our own baseline goals for healthy lifestyles.

Each must be taken into account when pursuing the goal of a healthy life. Environment, neighborhood, office environment, commute and so many other factors come into play but in terms of healthy homes lifestyle at the home you must consider all four categories to better understand and define a complete healthy homes lifestyle.

Category 1- Food & Nutrition–  the way I eat – food and nutrition and products I use to maintain and clean my home. The consumables both of my family and me but also products used to clean and routinely maintain the home on a daily basis. If my diet is poor then clearly I cannot live and sustain my life in an active and healthy manner.

Category 2: Furnishings & Finishes – the products and services that I bring into my house. Such as the couches, tables or chairs I sit on or the furnishings I bring into my home.  Also, the  finishes of my home including including the bathroom tiles, the paints and flooring finishes I use in my home. If the finishes or furnishings are made of unhealthy or unsustainable products then we must ask why are they a part of our healthy homes lifestyle.

Category 3: Systems – this category gets more into the  mechanical systems, the type of delivery of the heating and air-conditioning and mechanical and water delivery systems of our home as well as the plumbing systems and ventilation systems; Also it should consider and understand the new sustainable delivery methods such as geothermal energy sources, wind and solar as well as the higher velocity mechanical systems which can deliver warm comfortable well filtered air which will significantly improve the indoor air quality and healthy living environment. If this is sounding too complex I will explain all this in detail later.

Category 4: Building Structure & Shell – this category focuses more on the shell of the building;  the building envelope and the exterior walls – the structure itself. If I am eating my organic apple on a non-fire retardant treated couch with my high-efficiency furnace creating healthy air quality levels but the plywood under my floors is emitting formaldehyde off-gasses or there is an ongoing leak in the basement allowing mold to grow, then I believe three out of four does not constitute a complete healthy home life.

How healthy is my home lifestyle? Well the point is that the goal should be to incorporate all four categories into the healthy homes lifestyle design.

The way I look at it is that if I am eating really healthy and nutritious and getting my exercise and if any of the other three categories are not living up to the healthy way they should be or could be then I am not living a healthy lifestyle. I would then by my definition be living in an unhealthy home.

So where to begin? Because that really is the question  all who think about this stuff are asking. First we each need to individually ask ourselves what kind of life do we want to live and how far do we want to take this? I think the only way to really answer this is to be informed and made aware about the consequences and options available for each of the four categories outlined above.

I can say with certainty that we all want to live a healthy life. No one would disagree with that statement. However, I  know for sure that most people are not aware of what it means to make healthy choices in each of these four categories. You might be eating well but if you buy a couch that unknowingly has fire retardants on its surface that you absorb each time you sit down that can cause cancer would you do so? Or when you buy a home and you’re told the furnace works are you also told how well it performs? How much better it would perform if the air it filters went from filtering dust to filtering dander and even viruses. Do you think most homeowner’s know to ask their mechanical contractors how to improve their indoor air quality? Not most because it is not really a hot sexy topic.Wanna talk energy audits? Won’t see that on television. Wanna talk organic natural pure life improving green products? The airwaves are full of it.

Most believe the choices they’re making are healthy and some may be. But I know in my own experience many choices I make or have made I did without knowing they were compromising my health or the health of my children.

Yikes. That is not good.

It’s not so much redefining what it means to live a healthy but becoming aware of the choices available to live a healthy life and on this blog specifically about how to make our homes from the interior walls and woodwork, to flooring and foundation and structure and roofing and siding and finishes and appliances and mechanical systems and new energy methods. The complete package mostly related to categories 3 and 4 above. I will be focusing on how to do this primarily in existing homes but also in new construction since I am a designer and architect I want to understand not only how to improve our existing housing stock (reuse) but also I want to improve the standards by which we build our new housing and establish much much higher healthier standards which take into account the materials and methods used and the sustainable path to making sure the resources are renewable and available for the next generations to come.

Enough about this – let’s start moving forward. Let’s get our entire lifestyle from food and nutrition to the furnishing we fill our homes with to the systems within our homes to our actual built structures and the shells of our homes.

Becoming aware is the first step. Let’s take a look together and begin the first step to a healthier, happier, more comfortable and sustainable place we call home.

Next post: the First Steps

Jim Gramata

GREEN Real Estate Broker

The Gramata Realty Group – @properties

2214 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL 60614

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Illinois EPA – Information Statement on the Removal of Lead-Based Paint

The next time you see an old house being torn down look to see if the contractor is making the necessary precautions to prevent lead-based contaminants such as chips or dust from the paint from getting into the soil and the air. Chances are close to 100% that you won’t see any precautions even though they are required to do so by Illinois and Federal law. I saw a house being torn down on Wrightwood a few days ago as I was walking by with my kids and knew the air we were breathing would almost surely be tested as positive for high levels of lead an obvious known hazardous substance. We won’t see the results of this fleeting moments today or tomorrow but they can easily manifest themselves into something significant in terms of negative health effects. Why doesn’t the city enforce the laws when they issue demolition permits? My guess is because the citizens do not know the law. This is a cut/paste direct from the Illinois EPA website on the subject. What do you think? 

Information Statement On The Removal Of Lead-Based Paint

http://www.epa.state.il.us/chemical-safety/lead-based-paint/analysis-disposal.html

What is Residential LBP Waste?

Residential LBP waste is waste generated by a homeowner or contractor through LBP removal activities from a household. Solid waste that is generated from a household is exempt from being a hazardous waste under Section 721.104(b)(1). Household is defined in Illinois’ Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations at 35 Ill. Adm. Code Section 721.104(b)(1) as: “. . .single and multiple residences, hotels and motels, bunkhouses, ranger stations, crew quarters, campgrounds, picnic grounds and day-use recreation areas. . .” Residential soil contaminated with LBP also meets the definition of household LBP waste.

Handling and Disposal of Residential LBP Waste

LBP waste removed from a household by the homeowner or a contractor meets the household waste exemption and may be disposed of as municipal waste. LBP waste derived from a household must be sent to a landfill, incinerator or other waste facility that is permitted by the Illinois EPA to accept municipal waste. If LBP is removed from the original substrate to which it was adhered, precautions must be taken to properly containerize the waste in order to prevent releases to the air, land and water. If the contractor/generator collects the LBP waste at ground level, an impermeable base or liner must be placed on the ground to prevent soil contamination.

During precipitation events, or if liquid wastes are generated during removal activities, measures must be taken to ensure that water contaminated with waste is contained and does not contaminate surrounding soil and surface water. In addition, precautions must be taken to prevent releases to the air which may result in soil and/or surface water contamination and exposure of LBP removal worker(s) and the general public.

Questions concerning the certification of special waste should be directed to the Bureau of Land’s permit section at (217) 524-3300.

The requirements for the management of solid waste in Illinois are identified by statutes in the Environmental Protection Act and regulations adopted thereunder by the Illinois Pollution Control Board. The purpose of the statutory and regulatory requirements identified above is to protect human health and the environment by ensuring that wastes are handled in a safe and responsible manner in order to prevent the contamination of air, water, soil and groundwater in Illinois. For a copy of the statutes or regulations, please write to:

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Bureau of Land (#33)
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276
or call (217) 524-3300

via email from

Jim Gramata
The Gramata Realty Group
2214 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60614
www.GramataRealtyGroup.com

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5 Steps to a Healthy Home Healthy  Home 2012, a designer showhouse that proves that green and healthy  can be stylish, opened last week in Lincoln Park. We asked one of the project’s  organizers, Victoria Di Iorio, for some easy tips to … Continue reading

Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

http://homes.yahoo.com/news/sustainable-style-rebuilding-renovating-home-reclaimed-wood-194316399.html

Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

reclaimed wood article freshome Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

I first talked about reclaimed wood, briefly, in my piece 10 Eco-friendly ways to Renovate your Home. Now, on the heels of Hurricane Sandy many of us are looking to rebuild or renovate our homes after suffering severe damage and devastation. At Freshome we are dedicated to giving you the best information and sharing our ideas we have with you. We are also passionate about Green Building and recycled materials as viable and sound options. Reclaimed wood is one such option. Also known as barnwood, it is lumber that has primarily originated from old barns, factories and warehouses. Although less traditional structures which include boxcars, coal mines and wine barrels are often utilized as well. The use of reclaimed, antique lumber is growing in popularity as use for home decoration and home building. This weathered, recycled wood has varying degrees of texture, thickness, nail holes and saw marks. These “imperfections” give each piece of wood character and distinction. The inconsistencies and imperfections found in the wood offer both a uniqueness as well as a sense of history.

Reclaimed timber is environmentally friendly and is considered a green building material. It is a strong and durable choice. By opting to use these recycled woods, our efforts immediately affect our environment by preserving our natural resources and lessening the burden on our landfills. Another very appealing aspect of recycled wood, is the cost, which can be up to 50% less than new wood that has been milled, marked and stained to look old. I think it is time to give serious thought to barnwood.

reclaimed wood barn1 Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed Garage, Barn or Home Office

The elegant yet rustic look of reclaimed wood is a perfect option for those looking to build or renovate an existing garage or other small edifice while keeping spending intact. As reclaimed lumber is incredibly strong and has already been weathered there is no wait time to achieve this popular look. Furthermore there is no need to paint this type of wood unless, of course, you prefer the look of painted wood. The weathered appearance of the lumber lends itself beautifully and seamlessly to your existing landscape.

reclaimed wood mirror frame1 Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

Mirror, Mirror on the wall…

In this traditional yet contemporary living room, the mirror made from reclaimed lumber, adds a rustic charm that seemingly appeals to those who appreciate both the old and the new. Smaller items, such as this full-length mirror, can be easily re-created by those of you with a handy and crafty side. Reclaimed lumber accessories look well in any setting and in any environment.

reclaimed wood coffee table1 Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

Put your feet up and stay a while…

Due to it’s rich color, reclaimed wood adds an element of warmth to your surroundings. Each piece of wood has a history and tells a story. The dents and nicks seen on most items made from reclaimed wood contribute to their uniqueness and make them truly one of a kind. Because reclaimed wood is so strong, it makes for a perfect choice when decorating with young children at home as it’s virtually indestructible. You’ll not have to worry about little scratches and dings as you would with antique pieces. The coffee table, as seen above, gives the room a warm and handsome elegance.

reclaimed wood floors1 Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

Watch Your Step!

Reclaimed wood floors adds a wonderful touch to any room, but in the kitchen, where we tend to spend much of our time on our feet, wood floors are not only visually appealing, but as a soft material they are therefore gentler to your feet and back than stone surfaces. Reclaimed wood tends to be denser and stronger than its freshly cut counterpart. Its strength makes it virtually indestructible, as we know that things tend to fall and get dropped on to kitchen floor all the time. Unlike some surfaces, like certain stones or tile, wood floors won’t chip. Look for wide plank options, and for those of you who live in colder climates, wood floors work wonderfully with radiant heating

reclaimed wood center island Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

A Chip off the Old Reclaimed Butcher’s Block…

Reclaimed wood makes for a wonderful work surface in your kitchen. Smooth, thick and durable it will sand up to spills, splatters, and bangs. A perfect surface for pounding beef, chopping vegetables (though please do so on a cutting board), or rolling out cookie dough. You needn’t worry about placing hot and heavy pans on them either. I think, perhaps, there may not be a more perfect kitchen surface. If your tastes are more modern and streamlined, reclaimed wood works wonderfully when paired with other surfaces such as marble, granite and stainless steel.

reclaimed wood ceiling2 Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a reclaimed wood ceiling!

Sturdy, rustic, natural, reclaimed wood ceilings give this room a relaxed elegance. They add warmth and character devoid in many ordinary ceilings. The sheer strength of this wood lends itself perfectly to any support beam. Reclaimed wood is so versatile in appearance that it lends itself perfectly to so many styles from modern to traditional to classic.

reclaimed wood stairs2 Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

A (reclaimed) Stairway to Heaven…

Reclaimed woods look wonderful in stairwells in any home. The dark, well-worn wood stairs are well suited to any home from contemporary, traditional to farmhouse or antique. Reclaimed wood is so appealing on its own, in it’s original state, that it’s rarely ever repainted. After all, why cover up all that history and charm? In many cases you will be able to learn where your wood originated. It could have been from the side of a barn, or it could have been from the bottom of a wine barrel. Oh what stories you can possibly tell your guests as you give them tours of your home!

reclaimed wood bathroom countertop Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

Everything Including the Bathroom Sink!

Incredibly creative and unique, this clever use of reclaimed wood gives this bathroom countertop a rich and warm, rustic yet modern appeal. Resistant to spills, strong and beautiful, reclaimed wood countertops need not only be limited to the kitchen. The uses for barn wood are limitless!

reclaimed wood barn door Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

Shut the Barn Door!

Barn doors are popping up all over the place. Their rustic simplicity can be incorporated into any design preference and and living space. Painted yellow, this reclaimed barn door not only adds a pop of color but a sense of charm and whimsy instead. This style of door is clearly trending at the moment. Unlike hinged doors, these sliding ones require and take up very little space. The doors are easily mounted on special hardware.

These doors can act as room dividers, or elegantly cover up unsightly appliances such as washing machines and dryers. When placed along a kitchen wall, they elegantly and discreetly conceal items that are commonly stored in pantries such as baking supplies and spices. These doors offer a perfect solution to those areas where space for swing doors is limited.

reclaimed wood hood Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood

In the hood…

Rebecca Reynolds owner of New Canaan Kitchens sought to use reclaimed wood throughout this kitchen vignette in her showroom. Here we see a mix of reclaimed antique wood floor from the pine flooring, to the cabinetry to very the clever creation of the hood made which was made from from antique cypress. An elegant, modern working kitchen is given personal and historic touches with the inclusion of the restored wood.

I hope I’ve given you some clever and creative ways to incorporate reclaimed, or barnwood, into your home renovation project.

You’re reading Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood originally posted on Freshome.

The post Sustainable Style : Rebuilding or Renovating Your Home with Reclaimed Wood appeared first on Freshome.com.

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Top Ten Green Products of the Year Are Not Sexy, But They Will Make A Difference. : TreeHugger

http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/buildinggreens-top-ten-green-products-year-are-not-sexy-they-will-make-difference.html

BuildingGreen’s Top Ten Green Products of the Year Are Not Sexy, But They Will Make A Difference.

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Proglaze ETA Engineered Transition Assemblies/Promo image

The BuildingGreen Top Ten Products awards remind me of the Oscars. Everybody watches them and talks about them, and pretty much ignores the Scientific and Technical awards given out two weeks earlier. The BuildingGreen awards are like that; they are scientific and technical, are generally not particularly photogenic. I mean, Proglaze ETA Engineered Transition Assemblies from Tremco are not exactly the George Clooney of green building, even if they reduce heating loads and prevent moisture or air quality problems. Others show better on the red carpet.

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Haiku/Promo image

Much sexier is the Haiku Fan. BuildingGreen writes:

Most ceiling fans use low-cost, AC motors that offer poor energy efficiency; the fans themselves are often poorly made, loud, and unattractive. Haiku ceiling fans, manufactured by Big Ass Fans, have brushless, electronically commutated DC motors for increased energy efficiency. Designed for both residential and commercial applications, Haiku ceiling fans use 2-30 watts, significantly exceeding Energy Star requirements.

The Haiku is from Big Ass Fans. When I first wrote about them, I titled my post Great idea, Dumb Name and thought that architects wouldn’t specify a product with such a name. Everyone called me a prude and the company sent me a rubber donkey. Interestingly, two websites covering the BuildingGreen products of the year call it Big A** and the Haiku has its own website that downplays Big Ass. Is America getting even more prudish than it was six years ago?

Amorim expanded-cork boardstock insulation

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Amorim expanded-cork boardstock insulation/Promo image

Perhaps these awards are sexier than I gave them credit for. We are big fans of cork for so many reasons; it’s a renewable resource (bark is harvested every nine years), maintaining cork production protects the natural habitat of the short-toed eagle and the Iberian lynx, it employs 62,000 workers in a country seriously hit by the Euro-recession and protects an area half the size of Switzerland from more mindless real estate development.

BuildingGreen also notes that cork insulation is made without harmful blowing agents or halogenated fire retardants.

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Fram/Public Domain

Fridtjof Nansen lined the interior of the Fram with seven inches of cork; it kept him warm for years in the Arctic and kept Amundsen toasty in the south. 120 years later, it still insulates the boat on display in Oslo.

More on cork in TreeHugger:
Yes To Cork — Save Forests, Jobs and the Iberian Lynx
Cork vs Plastic: How Real Cork is Harvested and Why It Matters
Inside the Cork Wars
Corticeira Amorim, Portugese Cork Supplier’s Sustainability Report

Atlas CMU block with CarbonCure

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Atlas Block/Promo image

Wait a second, this is getting sexier by the moment. I have spent years complaining about concrete and how 5% of CO2 emissions come from making the stuff. Now Canadian block manufacturer Atlas Block (which we wrote about earlier for their use of Poraver glass beads) is using CarbonCure technology to actually inject CO2 into the concrete.

[Atlas Block takes] CO2 supplied from local industrial sources and injects it directly into concrete masonry units (CMUs) during production using a specially designed mold. Atlas Block is using the CarbonCure system primarily to reduce the carbon footprint of its products, but injecting CO2 into CMUs during manufacture also improves their strength, reduces the amount of portland cement required, and speeds curing. Atlas Block also offers products with post-consumer recycled glass. Atlas Block / CarbonCure is the first product brought to market that sequesters CO2 without requiring a dramatic change in current manufacturing processes.

That’s a very big deal. I won’t get to the point where I call concrete green, but this is certainly better. See:
Concrete: Can it be Green?
BuildingGreen Tells You Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Concrete

Viridian reclaimed wood

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Viridian Flooring/Promo image

No, science fiction author Bruce Sterling has not gone into the flooring business. But some of his Viridian Design principles certainly apply to Viridian Reclaimed Wood:

Huge quantities of wooden pallets, crates, and packing materials used to ship goods to the U.S. are discarded daily, wasting a valuable resource and clogging our landfills. In its Oregon facility, Viridian Reclaimed Wood processes these materials from the Port of Portland and then creates flooring, tabletops, paneling, veneers, and other products for use in commercial and residential buildings.

Lets just hope that the flooring doesn’t include the Viridian principle of “Planned Evanescence”: “the product and all its physical traces should gracefully disintegrate and vanish entirely.”

GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater from GE

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GeoSpring hybrid electric water heater from GE/Promo image

This isn’t just an efficient water heater (although it is that, being a heat pump that is twice as efficient as a conventional electrical resistance water heater) but it is also at the forefront of a manufacturing revolution in the USA. Charles Fishman wrote a terrific article in the Atlantic Monthly that discusses it:

This year, something curious and hopeful has begun to happen, something that cannot be explained merely by the ebbing of the Great Recession, and with it the cyclical return of recently laid-off workers. On February 10, Appliance Park opened an all-new assembly line in Building 2—largely dormant for 14 years—to make cutting-edge, low-energy water heaters. It was the first new assembly line at Appliance Park in 55 years—and the water heaters it began making had previously been made for GE in a Chinese contract factory.

BuildingGreen doesn’t explain why anyone would want a 50 US gallon water heater, that seems huge to me.

Other Best Products:

OK I take back my introduction. It may be hard to get excited about WUFI software from Fraunhofer IBP and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cyber Rain smart irrigation controllers, (who needs lawns, anyways?) but there are some seriously sexy products in this year’s list after all.

Tags: Awards | Green Building