11 Healthy Building Products for New Home Construction
We take more than 20,000 breaths per day. With people spending more time than ever indoors, indoor air quality has become more important than ever. Poor air quality isn’t just a nuisance, it can make you sick too. According to the EPA, poor indoor air quality has been linked to health issues like respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer. Choosing healthy building products when constructing a new home is key to having a healthy living space for your entire family.
Do the Building Products in My Home Really Matter?
Absolutely! The materials that go into your home may seem inert, but many of them are interacting with the air in your home and you may not even know it. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are defined by the EPA as gasses emitted from certain solids or liquids that include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. The concentrations of these VOCs are consistently higher indoors, sometimes ten times higher than the air outside.
So How Do You Know What to Choose?
Choosing the materials that go into your new home are crucial to ensuring that your home is a healthy place to live for your entire family. Knowing what to look for before you start your new home construction will help you make the best decisions for your healthy dream home. Let’s look at some of the best ways to choose better, healthy materials for new home construction:
1. Avoid Plastic Alternatives
When looking for countertops, you’ll most likely come across plastic alternatives like laminate. Laminates require adhesives to adhere to the wood or other surface underneath. Those adhesives give off fumes that your family would be better off not breathing. While it costs a bit more, butcher block countertops are a hardy alternative to laminates that won’t damage your home’s air quality.
2. Use Real Wood, Not the Fake Stuff
If you like the look of wood, opt for the real stuff. With advanced manufacturing techniques, it’s possible to make products that look just like wood without using the real thing. The problem is that these products typically give off high levels of formaldehyde which you definitely don’t want in your home. If you want wood for your cabinets and doors, go for the real thing. Choose solid wood and avoid the chemicals.
3. Paint Smell isn’t Good
Have you ever walked into a freshly painted room? What you smell is a room full of VOCs, some of which can be harmful. Many paints continue to give off VOCs long after the paint is first applied. When looking for paints, opt for low VOC paint. Since paint covers the entire inside of your home, avoiding paints with high levels of VOCs can have a big impact. Low VOC or “Green paint” costs more than its fume-producing counterpart, but will help protect you from the dangers that lead to respiratory disease.
4. Get a Paint that Cleans the Air
Avoiding high VOC paints is great, but what if you had a paint that actually cleans the air? Going one step further than low VOC paint, some paints not only don’t add VOCs to the air, but actively filter them out. ECOS Paints uses advanced VOC filtering technology to absorb and neutralize chemicals, pollutants, solvents, and VOCs to improve a home’s indoor air quality.
5. Use Epoxy Where You Can
When you think about the caulk that will go into your new home, it may seem like a small thing to worry about. Caulk is used throughout your home though, and solvent- based adhesives like caulk give off high levels of VOCs. Epoxy adhesives avoid those issues and are non-toxic after drying. For the same reasons you don’t want to use high VOC paints, avoid solvent-based caulk in your new home construction.
6. Avoid Batt and Formaldehyde Containing Insulation
Insulation can be easy to forget about since it gets covered up in your walls. While often forgotten, insulation is throughout your home so it’s important to choose wisely. When choosing from the many different types of insulation on the market, be sure to choose a type that is formaldehyde free. Avoid using batt insulation as well. Fiberglass is a good insulation that won’t harm your home’s indoor air quality.
7. Like a Wool Sweater for Your Home
To go a step above fiberglass insulation, consider choosing a super sustainable option like wool insulation. Wool insulation can be purchased in rolls similar to fiberglass insulation and is typically 10% better at insulating. Wool also pulls harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide out of the air. Even better, wool is naturally flame-resistant and sound deadening. Companies like CaraGreen even show you how sustainable wool insulation really is.
8. Choose Materials that Look Natural
A good rule of thumb for choosing healthy building materials is to choose materials that look like they come from nature. Often, the more natural the product, the better it will be for your home’s air quality. Concrete, ceramic, and stone all fit the bill whether looking for flooring, countertops, or structural material options. Natural building materials like these are not only rugged and reliable, but also won’t pollute your home’s indoor air.
9. Prefab Saves Time and Money Too
Instead of being built at the job site, structural insulation panels (SIPs) are produced in a factory and delivered to the construction site ready to install. SIPs allow for quick, air- tight, and well-insulated home construction. Not only are SIPs great at saving time and money on a construction project, they also improve a home’s indoor air quality by minimizing unfiltered air from entering the home. SIPs also avoid VOC-containing materials and other harmful chemicals to keep your air clean.
10. A House Made of Grass
Wood-built homes may be a bit more conventional, but bamboo is a sustainable and healthy alternative. A member of the grass family, bamboo can grow up to three feet in a single day. Bamboo used for construction purposes can be harvested about every three years. Bamboo is strong and doesn’t off gas dangerous chemicals into your home’s air. When compared to wood that must grow for 25 to 50 years, bamboo is a great natural choice for home construction.
11. Strong as a Rock
A sustainable and high performance building material that should be on top of the list for anyone looking for healthy building products is insulated concrete forms (ICFs). These building blocks take the place of typical wood-framed construction. The forms are placed together onsite like legos and the concrete is poured in place in between the layers of insulation. Once the concrete has cured, the home’s walls are strong and well insulated.
Expanded polystyrene is a virgin product which does not off-gas or contain VOCs, as a healthy building product.
Concrete doesn’t produce VOCs and other compounds that can harm your home’s air. ICF homes are also naturally air-tight and concrete is typically produced locally. Using concrete and the high quality insulation used in the ICF blocks, your home automatically avoids many of the pitfalls discussed earlier, leading to a naturally healthier home. Having an airtight building envelope provides for better control and conditioning of the indoor air for a healthier environment.
Trust Fox Blocks for ICF Construction
ICF construction has become increasingly popular as people have become more aware of the importance of the air in their homes. While also being a highly sustainable option, ICF homes are a healthy, economical, and environmentally-friendly way to build healthy and strong homes. The team at Fox Blocks is available to answer any questions you may have about healthy home building. Reach out today!