Magazine article E Magazine

Eco-Additions: Remodeling for a Healthier House. (House & Home)

Magazine article E Magazine

Eco-Additions: Remodeling for a Healthier House. (House & Home)

Article excerpt

You love your home, but it's not perfect. Maybe it needs a bathroom on he ground floor, a bigger kitchen or another bedroom. Of course, you could move to bigger digs. Or you could do what millions of Americans do every year: stay put and remodel. Indeed, renovation is the fastest-growing segment of the housing market, climbing at a five percent clip each year.

For house-proud environmentalists, remodeling is more than just an opportunity to go upscale. "With renovation, a house can have better air quality and use less energy and fewer resources," says Bob Moffitt of the American Lung Association's Health House.

As with any project, green renovators need to know what they want and what to be watchful for. Here are a handful of tips to get you started:

* Contract with a knowledgeable builder. Contractors who are members of eco-oriented trade groups are more likely to know the latest green strategies, technologies and materials. Noted groups include the Energy and Environmental Building Association (952-881-1098, www.eeba.org), Northwest EcoBuilding Guild (206-575-2222, www.ecobuilding.org), and Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (413-774-6051, www.nesea.org). If you can't find a green specialist, ask potential contractors if they'd be willing to try an Earth-friendly approach. Suggest that they review a short primer, such as John and Lynn Marie Bower's The Healthy House Answer Book, or the video Your House, Your Heart, both available from the Healthy House Institute. If your renovations require lead paint or asbestos removal, make sure a certified specialist does the work. For names of lead abatement professionals, contact the federal Lead Listing (888-532-3547, www.leadlisting.org); for asbestos, contact your state and local health departments.

* Protect yourself. Remodeling will generate dust and particles and may release contaminants that had been lurking behind and around wails, ceilings and pipes. Keep them out of your living area by sealing off and limiting traffic into the construction zone. Even then, it's a good idea to vacuum after every workday and dust with a microfiber cloth. If renovations are extensive, consider moving out during the process, particularly if you have small kids (who are keenly sensitive to the effects of environmental contaminants).

* Careful with cabinets. Most bathroom and kitchen cabinets are fashioned from particle- or fiberboard, which off-gas formaldehyde from the glues. …

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