Healthy Homes

Can you imagine living in a world where homeowners get what they want without compromising the Earth's natural resources or their health? Or do they have to wear hemp underwear and live on dirt floors to be Earth friendly? Can the design, style and colors of a home be current and fashionable without leaving the sustainable aspects behind? The overwhelming answer is yes.

As a remodeler, you can be assured that today's green-building material manufacturers are creating products to meet the environmental needs of homeowners without compromising durability. For example, many manufacturers offer longer and better warranties for their green products. In addition, many green products for a home's interior also have become easy to maintain. I call these products smarter design-forward products.

Carpet

Old carpet removed from a home or office takes up vast amounts of landfill space and requires more than 800 years to break down. Today, old, dirty, out-of-style carpet patterns do not hit the landfill at least 50 percent of the time. Manufacturers through their retailers are recycling or downcycling (meaning the product's components are used to make a different product) old carpet. Some manufacturers participate in the Carpet America Recovery Effort, an industry and government program to increase the amount of recycling and reuse of post-consumer carpet to reduce the amount of waste carpet going to landfills. (Learn more at www.carpetrecovery.org.) Before you choose what company to do business with, ask its representatives whether they offer recycling of old carpet no matter the brand and how the carpet is recycled/downcycled.

In addition, carpet manufacturers have discovered they can make stylish, fancy products with recycled or natural-based fibers that cost them less than creating or buying virgin, nylon and petroleum-based materials. Natural-fiber carpets also have the performance guarantees, like stain resistance and the ability to withstand high-traffic areas, on which homeowners depend.

When searching for carpet, start by locating products with the Dalton, Ga.-based Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label or Green Label Plus. Products, such as carpet, carpet backing and adhesives, must undergo 14 days of testing under Section 01350 to measure emissions for a range of possible chemicals before receiving certification. (Learn more at www.carpet-rug.org.)

All major carpet manufacturers now offer this certification in all price points.

Paint

Today's marketplace offers numerous paint choices with a variety of color options that achieve a healthier indoor environment. From water- and milk-based finishes, no-VOC paint and allergy-safe finishes, most major manufacturers offer more than one paint selection that is “green.” One thing to remember is not all low- and no-VOC paints are created equal. Some still contain non-regulated VOCs and other toxins, such as formaldehyde. The best way to choose a healthy paint that works well is to read the Material Safety Data Sheet for the product. The MSDS is required to list all the ingredients within a product and provide a health rating. Don't use a paint unless it has a health rating of 1 on the 5-point scale.

Another option is to look for products that carry an emissions certification from a third-party organization, such as Washington, D.C.-based Green Seal (www.greenseal.org); Marietta, Ga.-based GREENGUARD (www.greenguard.org); or Emeryville, Calif.-based Scientific Certification Systems (www.scscertified.com). Each of these organizations certifies a vast array of products that can affect the indoor air quality of a home or building.

In today's environmentally conscious world, there are many more options to ensure a green project feels good, its style is current, and its colors are fresh and up-to-date. In addition, a green project can be completed without killing your budget with products that will last as long as traditional interior choices. If you keep an open mind and allow time for proper research and planning, your clients' green dreams can come true.

View photos of a healthy-home project from Robin Pharo's portfolio at Gallery.

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