Renovation of a kitchen and two baths for a client with multiple chemical sensitivity and her family. The primary challenge here was providing a safe and healthier environment for our client - indoor air quality was paramount. Our client tested all of the over 120 materials (chosen from the least toxic available) we proposed to use in the project - from cabinet finishes to joint compound and caulks. Only five or six were rejected. We're pleased the finished project doesn't look like the Bubble Boy's room, or Dave's house on Northern Exposure.
We were hired specifically because of our expertise in healthy building, although this was our first project for a client with full-on MCS. We recommended a contractor with similar expertise and experience. The architect, contractor, and main supplier are all members of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild.
Materials and finishes throughout were extremely low toxic. For example: Locally made Best Paints were used in developing paint treatments (e.g. sponging). Caulkings were by AFM. Cabinets were made from formaldehyde-free Medite II, glued with low-toxic adhesives, finished with low-toxic finish. Natural, sustainably harvested cork was used for the kitchen floors, adhered with a low-toxic adhesive, and finished with low-toxic clear finish. Joint compound was low toxic. Natural wool carpet was used in the den, over a hair and jute pad, held down with tacks (rather than glue.)
Water filtration was built in.
Ducted fresh air intake supplies make-up air when range hood is turned on, preventing back-drafting.
Materials containing CFC's, urea formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, carbon tetrachloride, styrene-butadiene, or trichloroethylene were not allowed on the job.
Petroleum-fueled generators or heaters were not allowed on site.
Smoking and the use of fragrances were not allowed.
Use of pesticides, herbicides and noxious cleaning products was not permitted.
energy & resource conservation
Where walls were opened up they were insulated.
Cabinet doors were made of sustainably harvested maple.
Backer board for ceramic tile & gypsum board had recycled content.
Full job-site recycling was implemented, including recycling cardboard, paper, packaging, clean wood, palette wood, beverage containers, concrete, bricks, metals, roofing, metals, drywall, paint, glass, & plastics.
Would have liked to have been more persuasive in convincing our client to choose an electric range with ribbon elements over a gas range…but, despite my reservations, she has had no problems with it.
In this project (and in most others to date) I have not yet been successful in spec'ing much energy efficient lighting on residential projects - despite sending my clients to the Lighting Design Lab to actually compare light quality between compact florescent and incandescent lamps.
The materials testing required an enormous amount of time and effort on everyone's part, and added significantly to design costs. We had to develop a system for tracking and recording results, and passing that info along to the contractor. Even one slip-up could have rendered the house uninhabitable for our client. This system will prove useful on future projects of this type.
RHA Project Team:Rob Harrison, Daniel Mihalyo, Betsey Power General Contractor:Sunshine Construction Supplier:Environmental Home Center