Healthy Homes and Building Biology

By Guest Post

Mike’s Advice / Guest Posts

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021 @ 2:51pm

By Andrew Guido, President, ERTH Homes

An Introduction to Building Biology

Thrilled to share that I was recently a guest on Mike Holmes’ Holmes on Homes podcast to talk about “healthy homes.” I have been a big fan of Mike’s for some time and couldn’t think of a better person to debut the launch of ERTH Homes. It’s probably not a coincidence that Mike was interested in talking to me about “healthy homes” as he has been an advocate for some time.

What is a Building Biologist?

My journey started three years ago when I decided to take an introductory class on what’s in the air in our homes, which quickly turned into me graduating as a Certified Building Biologist from the Building Biology Institute in Sante Fe, New Mexico. 

Building Biology is the science that investigates hazards in the built environment. 

The Building Biology movement started in the 60s and was the first and oldest green movement encompassing human and planetary health.

It started with a small group of professionals who discovered that people who lived in new postwar homes were getting sick and they wanted to know why. What they found was that the building materials used in those houses were releasing toxic chemicals into the air, that became trapped indoors providing an unhealthy living environment for the building occupants. 

Some 50 plus years later, there is an abundance of scientific evidence supporting that the air we breathe in our homes, where we spend the majority of our time, is in fact, 2 to 5 times worse than the air outdoors.

Over time as a result of an energy crisis, we began globally making homes increasingly airtight, trapping chemicals, contaminants, and dust indoors, creating an environment that eventually could make you sick. 

Photographer: David Dvořáček

As I discovered this, I couldn’t help but think about my now adult daughter, and the millions of people in Canada and the United States that suffer from asthma. And to make matters worse, anyone with pre-existing respiratory challenges has a higher risk of more severe symptoms from COVID-19. 

In comes my company, ERTH Homes, which is focused on designing and building a single-family pilot home in downtown Toronto to create one of the healthiest and most sustainable homes possible, including a laneway suite as part of the pilot home. 

We are seeking to use Net Zero Energy, have a low carbon footprint and minimize our impact on climate change. We’ve been learning a lot through this process, but here is what you need to know. 

What is a Healthy Home?

Photographer: Jacek Dylag

Here are some factors to create a healthy indoor environment:

  • The home should be built using natural building materials with no or low toxins
  • Clean drinking water
  • Abundant natural daylight
  • Reduced exposure to harmful blue light
  • Pleasant acoustics
  • Low electromagnetic field exposure. 

Photographer: Jan Canty

In addition, by incorporating “biophilic” (man’s connection to nature) elements like natural stones, woods, plants, and indoor and outdoor landscaping you can create a calm and nurturing environment that can destress you —which is what we are doing in our homes.

Some of these solutions are easier than others. But indoor air quality is now the top concern, so let’s talk about what you should watch out for in your home to ensure you have good indoor air quality to keep you and your family safe and healthy.

#1 – Radon:

Radon gas is a radioactive gas found naturally everywhere on the planet, it has no colour, no odour, and no taste. However, indoors it can seep through cracks in the basement floor or foundation walls below grade and that exposure to radon can become very toxic. 

It was actually discovered to be the leading cause of lung cancer in North America if you are a non-smoker This sounds scary, but the good news is there are proven ways you can reduce the radon levels in your home, and Mike Holmes can attest to that. 

In our pilot home, for example, we are installing an “active depressurization system”, which is a fancy way of saying a system that collects and safely exhausts radon outside the home. 

While there are many solutions, Radon Environmental is a leader in their field specializing in educating customers on radon, testing for radon in your home, and providing high-performance radon mitigation solutions.

Radon Environmental, radon gas sensor.


About Radon Environmental
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#2 – Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is another big one to keep an eye out for. We’ve all had Carbon Monoxide detectors in our homes praying we never have to hear the alarm sound. But what can you do to reduce the potential for high carbon monoxide (CO) levels in your home? 

One way to do that is to eliminate all gas or fuel-burning appliances indoors. This means no gas stove, furnace, or hot water tank. All of these appliances should be switched with an electrical alternative, in my opinion. 

It’s important to know, however, that this does not replace the need to have a carbon monoxide detector on every floor in your home. It is important to still track carbon monoxide and other chemical levels using sensor technology to ensure they are kept at a safe level.

#3 – Dust, Odours, Chemicals, and Other Contaminants

Toxic gases are not the only concern when it comes to indoor air quality. These factors also play a role in your indoor air quality:

One of the easiest ways to mitigate that is simply opening your windows more often. Yes, winters can get very cold in Canada but if you’re ever stepping out of the house for a little you may consider leaving the windows slightly open if it is safe to do so. 

Photographer: Mathew Guido

It is a good idea to have an air purification system installed in your house that is able to kill bacteria and viruses. Follow ERTH homes to learn more about our discoveries on the best air purification system, as we aim to ensure that our homes are built with them to provide clean indoor air quality.

#4 Your Home’s Ventilation System

Another way to get rid of those air contaminants is by improving your home’s ventilation. Take the Toronto home we’re building as an example, we are increasing the standard ventilation level by at least twice the rate found in a typical home. 

This will help dilute the presence of any COVID-19 virus that may be present in the home, help reduce toxic levels, and provide higher oxygen levels while keeping carbon dioxide (CO2) low closer to outdoor levels. 

It’s not an easy job, but if you have the ability to do it, especially if you are building a new property from the ground-up, we definitely recommend investing in a good ventilation system.

Disclaimer. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Mike Holmes or his affiliates.

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