Create a Healthier Home Environment By Improving Indoor Air Quality
Long after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, there are still many lessons to be learned. More than 143,000 families were moved into trailers provided by FEMA, and many of them immediately fell ill. Investigators found that particleboard used in the cabinets and other interior finishes was off gassing so much formaldehyde that the interior air was toxic. Besides causing acute symptoms such as burning eyes, coughing, sore throat, and bloody noses, breathing formaldehyde raises the risk of cancer and chronic respiratory disease.
This is an extreme example of a phenomenon we must be concerned with any time we create interior living spaces. Many of the products manufactured for building applications contain formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that off-gas into the air. Along with mold—caused largely by use of poor construction methods—these chemicals contribute to unhealthy indoor living conditions and even result in acute or chronic health problems, especially for children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
Luckily, there are many products and methods available for creating healthier homes. An alternative to urea-formaldehyde glue is being used in the manufacture of competitively priced plywood and particleboard. And there are many low- or no-VOC paints and finishes on the market. Formaldehyde-free insulation is also widely available. Construction methods that create a sound, moisture-free building envelope can eliminate most molds.
These examples are some of the reasons we’re so passionate about building in ways that benefit occupants as well as our planet. Our design principles and building practices always incorporate environmentally mindful features that improve indoor air quality, enhance value, reduce energy and maintenance costs and are easy on the planet—regardless of whether we’re going for a certification.