Building for Persons with Environmental Allergies

There is a growing segment of the population that suffer from an intolerance to certain chemicals that are airborne in modern homes. Partly as a result of developing tighter homes to deal with energy usage, and partly because of the increasing use of various glues and chemical treatments on household products, some chemical irritants reach a level inside the home that causes an adverse reaction for some people.

European countries have been much quicker than Canadian and U.S. governments to monitor and regulate the kinds of chemicals that manufacturers are allowed to use. For instance, all laminate flooring sold in Europe is clearly labelled with a 'formaldehyde rating' clearly stating the amount of off-gassing that can be expected from the product. No such labelling is used in North America.

A typical new home contains many construction products that include glues and finishes that contribute to poor indoor air quality. Plywood, particle board, mouldings, and floor finishes are among the leading sources of chemical residues that are airborne. This is intolerable for some people. Most people wonder what effect the chemicals will have on children who are exposed to these materials for much longer than was the case for the generation before them.

In addition to the actual construction materials, homeowners may introduce cabinets, furniture, and floor coverings that bleed chemical gases for an extended period of time.

As a matter of policy, Advanced Design/Build avoids materials known to contribute to environmental allergies in our construction. Where there is not an alternative available, we are careful to ensure that questionable materials are positioned to the exterior of the home's vapour barrier so that off-gassing will not occur in the living space. Carpeting, sheet flooring, and cheaper grades of cabinet materials are not used at all. To date, we have not found any problems with the materials we typically use in the living area, such as ceramic tile, stainless steel, spruce and pine lumber, structural steel, drywall, wood mouldings, and Baltic Birch plywood (from Scandinavia).

If a client has a very specific allergy to a common building material, we can research a substitute and use it.


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