Breathe Easy This $2 Million-Plus Home Will Be Big, Beautiful and Built for Healthy Indoor Air

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Byline: Deborah Donovan Daily Herald Staff Writer

A $2 million-plus home being built near Glen Ellyn demonstrates construction steps that should help new-home occupants breathe easier.

Sevvonco Builders and Remodelers of Palatine is building a Health House in cooperation with a program of the American Lung Association that started about four years ago in Minnesota.

Scott Sevon, president of Sevvonco, and Bill Styczynski, a Willowbrook architect, have dubbed the home Millennium II. When it is finished next summer, it will be available to educate people in the industry and the public about materials and methods that help improve indoor air quality.

Construction began without a buyer, but the home recently was sold, Sevon said.

Of course, some people are more affected by indoor air pollution than others. However, the American Lung Association blames indoor air problems for the increase in asthma.

One in six people suffers from allergies, the association said.

"There's a direct correlation between mold and dust mites and asthma," said Harold Wimmer, executive director of the American Lung Association of Illinois, based in Springfield. The group works with every county except Cook.

After the oil crisis of the 1970s, there was a period when U.S. houses were built too tight and without needed ventilation, he said.

This particular house - somewhere around 14,000 square feet, including an indoor swimming pool and an elevator - is beyond the financial reach of most of us.

But the rules of this house can be duplicated in homes of any size, Sevon said,

Building a Health House in a more modest size would add $8,000 to $20,000 to the cost of a typical home, said the lung association's Wimmer.

In other states, the lung association is working with more modest homes, perhaps those priced at $150,000, he said.

Builders who want to be certified have to attend classes, and the homes they build are inspected and tested, Wimmer said.

"What we're trying to do is gather more information and use this to help build a case for things like high-efficiency furnace filters," he said. "We also work very closely on carbon monoxide from cooking appliances."

The association hopes to study the indoor air quality of the home and the health of its occupants, as is being done with 28 homes in four states.

"That's an important part of the project," Wimmer said.

Here are key features of the Health House.

- The heating, cooling and ventilation systems are the most important, both Wimmer and Sevon said. In this particular house, the system is very complicated with computers and sensors to control how much ventilation and moisture is added to the house. An air purifier from Second Wind is used, which includes ultraviolet light to kill germs.

Instead of a furnace, there is a heat exchanger with hot water tubes and a gas boiler to heat the water. Air conditioning units use coolant that is ozone safe. Humidity should be between 40 percent and 60 percent, the association said.

- Natural materials are best. These include wood, stone and wool. Items made from petroleum, such as plastics, give off gases called volatile organic compounds. If items such as kitchen cabinets are made from petroleum products, they can be sealed, Sevon said. The cabinets in this house are made by Neff, a Canadian company.

- Any cracks or holes are sealed. These include the basement floor, around the foundation and in exterior walls. The idea is to keep out moisture and radon. The sealing under the basement slab is elaborate and includes taping the seams and adding a layer of plastic wrap.

The exterior foundation walls are sealed with rubber. …