living in a healthy HOME
We are passionate about creating and building not just beautiful homes but spaces that are functional and healthy for whoever is living in it and the environment.
Living in a healthy home environment is so important. More than ever now, when we strategise to combat Climate Change and the choices we make impact our lifestyle, the building industry, and economies.
The great thing is so many BuildHers are interested in living more sustainably-minded life and want to reduce their (and their family’s) exposure to everyday toxins as best as possible. We wrote the ultimate Happy Healthy Home Guide for them, and we thought we would share some tips with you.
Now, this blog is not the be all in living a in a specifically Low-Tox home. We are finding out information about the long term effects of materials and chemicals all the time. Things can change rapidly – but we can get the ball rolling on understanding more about it because it can be confusing!
If you are keen to live in an absolutely Toxin Free home, we highly recommend you hire a specialist or do more research because it is a gutsy topic. You will need to investigate the full supply chain of materials and chemical ingredients and integrate it into your design from inception.
Let us start with some of our top tips!
- To us a Happy Healthy Home is broad and about a range of ideas. Sustainability, Low Tox, Passive Design and using renewable / recycled materials. Incorporating all of these may not be feasible or sit in your budget so pick the ones that are the most important to you.
- If this is a high priority goal of yours, make sure you include it in your brief to your designers and be ready to pay a little more for non-standard solutions but also be ready to accept things you cannot change.
- There are many chemicals that are used in construction such as mixing agents, cements, adhesives, tapes, paints, varnishes etc. Be ready to research and work with your design team or builder to achieve this.
- If you are considering hiring a volume builder or buy off the plan, they may not be able to accommodate you. This may be mean that it is not in your price point.
- Our guide will focus on tips for creating a Happy Healthy Home but there are lots of other ways that you can reduce Toxin exposure in your life through the food you eat and cosmetics you use.
- Remember that the Building Industry is a huge cog and has been for decades. Cultural changes take a long time – do not despair! The more times that “us” as clients and consumers ask for what we ‘want’ someone will hear and companies will respond. Hopefully in time there will be new products, methods and solutions.
- Building and renovating is a gift because we can be involved in the decisions that will affect the way we live, but there is a tipping point. You can make the most impact to a new build but depending on the scale and your budget a renovation can be tricky. If you are pretty much gutting the house back to its frame it is practical to think that you can make a big impact. However, if you are just modifying a few rooms, it may not be practical or value for money to make some of these changes.
You might like to figure out where you stand in your existing home
If you are renovating, getting a benchmark for informing yourself is a good place to start. This will inform your scope of work and costs – you can do this before you have a design team or builder on board or when they are engaged.
If you have bought an old home, it may have been painted in lead-based paints and normally painted over many times in newer paints. If you can see new paints flacking and many payers of paint you can get your paint tested for lead.
“I demolished an old tennis club and turned it into a play space recycling the bricks, we suspected lead-based paints given the age of the building, we were lucky the results came back negative – removed lead paint requires a specialist and can be costly as the lead dust is toxic.” Kribashini
Worksafe Victoria have an excellent guide on “Managing Lead-based paint removal” click here
There are different types of Asbestos that were used in past building practices. Asbestos was a great fire retardant and therefore used extensively. There are still small traces of Asbestos in the environment although Asbestos has not been used for many years. The two broad types are called Friable and non- friable asbestos. Both have health risks but removing Friable can required special set up as the friable can reduce to dust easily and therefore the risk of inhaling it his quite high. There is also, Mastic Asbestos which has been commonly (but not always) used as glue behind tiles, behind vinyl flooring or in old switchboard cupboards.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee put out a brilliant Guide on Asbestos in your home click here to read.
“A registered Builder can help identify Asbestos and guide you in the removal process, but you need to use a licensed Asbestos removalist to remove it in some instances you may like to get a clearance certificate from a Building Hygienist if needed” Rebeka.
RISING DAMP / MOULD
Rising damp is moisture rising from the ground into your home and is usually due to poor sub floor ventilation. In new builds there are regulations for air flows to protect you from this.
Mould is a very common issue and is part of a family of organisms called fungi that can be found everywhere! It is likely to pop us in low ventilated / wet spaces with high moisture like bathrooms, laundry bay can be fund behind wallpaper and carpets. Mould spores can cause health problems and if you think you might be experiencing them see your doctor. Check for in you sub floor, roof space, under mattresses and other areas where possible for Mould regularly and ventilate rooms well.
ABSORBED TOXINS IN LININGS & WALLS
If you suspect your home has been heavily exposed to chemicals such as excessive cigarette smoke or drugs or has a persistent odor you can hire a specialist or Building hygienist to test your home.
CARBON MONOXIDE / DIOXIDE OR GAS EMISSIONS
Ensure that your gas appliances/ equipment is tested and check regularly for leaks and clean your old underfloor heating ducts when required.
The BuildHer way to creating a Happy Healthy Home
In our Rathmines project we have had the opportunity build new, so this means we have a blank canvas to work with so to speak! The Sustainability measures we have incorporated are vast and impactful.
Below are our 5 tips to creating a happy healthy home:
1 . REDUCE TOXIN USE
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) in paint has some real benefits such as
- Low VOC paints are formulated free of solvents to remove air pollutants and improve indoor air quality.
- Low VOC paints typically have virtually no odour and emit no fumes.
- Low VOC paints must have less than 5 grams per litre of VOC’s.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. **
- Use low or no VOC paint and water-based products. We have selected @Haymespaint as they have a good range and you can read their PDS online.
- Considering use of Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) where possible reduce the use of this, the material itself is made with many chemicals and when cut in uncontrolled spaces the fibres can be harmful.
- Reduced use of toxins such as Glues/ resins/ formaldehydes as they can off gas and gas health issues.
2 . ENERGY EFFICIENCY
- With the homes being fully electric we are generating power with Solar Panels on both home and have opted for a 10kw system on each roof with @racvsolar
- Chosen to include energy storage by battery by @TeslaPowerwall.
- And to service the full electric way to life electric car charges by @jetcharge and installed by @RACV
- Sustainable design measures design in with great natural light ( orientation, shading and windows) @bencallery.
- Fully insulated walls ceiling internal external included under slab insulation @kingspan.
- Double glazing throughout with @aztecwindows
- We have incorporated insulated garage doors to reduce heat loss from @4ddoors.
- Using energy efficient heating and cooling systems from @samsung
3 . WATER EFFICIENCY
- Water storage tanks to collect rainwater from the roof.
- Water efficient taps and fittings from @abiinteriors
4 . MINDFUL PURCHASING
- Selected and are using recycled bricks on the external walls.
- Using finishes and materials with recycled content or ECS certified like carpet we have used a 100 wool natural carpet eliminating synthetics from @godfreyhirst.
- Selected high quality timber floorboards that are carbon offset, for each sale a new tree is planted and using green adhesive from @Woodcut.
5 . LANDSCAPING
Integrated Landscaping deign with permeable spaces in your garden to feed the water table and provide shaded and green areas that reduce radiant heat our design is by @peachygreen.