A healthier home is a happier home, and if you’re building one from scratch, you’ve got the opportunity to create a healthier living space from the ground up. Choosing eco-friendly, sustainable materials both inside and out can reduce the toxins and allergens normally released when constructing a new house and increase your dwelling’s energy efficiency, which reduces your utility costs. Consider incorporating these elements when building your new dream abode.
Design rooms to bring in natural light.
We all need that vitamin D! A home full of sunshine boosts your spirits, makes you more productive, and can ease anxiety. Look for double- or triple-paned low-emittance (low-e) windows and vinyl frames to let in the light: They reduce condensation and increase insulation. Plus, vinyl frames don’t rot, rust, or need painting or staining. You could look at polycarbonate plastic — which your eyeglasses are most likely made from — as a lightweight, durable substitute for glass. A transom can help get light into interior rooms, and so can a skylight. Choose a front door with window panels. And note that you can find Energy Star-rated windows, doors, and skylights.
Install a whole-house air purifier and humidifier.
Did you know the air in your home could be five times dirtier than the air outside? A purifier removes irritants and fumes to ease allergies, while a humidifier controls the moisture in your home to prevent mold growth and prevent your skin, wood floors, and furnishings from drying out.
Use non-toxic building materials.
Toxic chemicals are all over the place in a typical American home. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are released over time, or “off-gassed,” from nearly everything it takes to build a house: newer furniture and pre-made cabinetry such as those from a big box store; paint, primers, and stains; and upholstery and carpeting. These VOCs leak out over time, often for years, causing allergy-like irritation, headaches, and skin issues, and with long-term exposure, damage to internal organs or cancer. Look for labels that say low or no VOCs and avoid materials treated with flame retardants.
Choose wood, tile, or concrete floors.
Sustainable and eco-friendly flooring materials aren’t hard to find. Wood, tile, and concrete flooring reduce the amount of dust and dander in your home, plus they look gorgeous and help with resale value. Carpeting, on the other hand, traps dirt and dander, and many have toxic coatings and substances. If you must have carpet, look for eco-friendly options made from natural fibers such as wool, sisal, and jute. You can find carpet made from recycled materials too. Getting rid of an old rug from your previous abode? Consider recycling it. Better yet, keep it. You may be able to dye your existing rug to a custom color of your choice!
Design for energy efficiency.
From the weatherstripping around your windows to the furnace in your basement, energy efficiency and reduced energy costs should be at the forefront of your mind when you are building a home. Choose Energy Star appliances and look at the benefits of tankless water heaters and low-flow toilets and showers. Ensure your insulation is the right kind and thickness for your part of the country (and hopefully non-toxic), and work closely with your designer and contractors so they understand the importance of reducing your energy use and costs — and keeping yourself and your family healthy and happy in your new home.