Are You Creating Health Problems in Your Homes?

Filed in Education, Safety by on February 10, 2015 3 Comments

Carl Seville, a green builder and principle with SK Collaborative, LLC, in Decatur, Ga., had one main point to get across during his education session at the 2015 International Builders’ Show: “Don’t kill your clients.”

Seville spoke in depth about the top two factors affecting home owner health and indoor air quality: poor ventilation and inside/outside pollutants, such as moisture, carbon monoxide, chemicals and dirt.


Cobwebs are an indication of an air leak. Spiders will hang webs in drafty areas to catch other insects.

The best thing to do with these pollutants, he said, is to eliminate (keep them out), separate (isolate them), ventilate (remove and dilute them) and filter (clean what you can’t remove).

“As a builder, you can control the construction techniques you use to manage pollutants. But it does take some effort,” he said. “Once you’ve done that, you then educate your clients to influence their behavior.”

Moisture management is one of the biggest areas of focus. Too much moisture can lead to mold and mildew and too little can lead to an indoor environment that is too dry, both of which have potential to cause health related issues.

“When houses have moisture issues, air leakage is the problem,” Seville said, recommending that builders plug and seal as many holes in and around the home as possible.


Avoid ductwork in attics to improve energy efficiency and air quality in the home.

For example, he advises taking great care when sealing ductwork to ensure little to no air leaks, and installing the ducts in a conditioned space to keep pollutants out and improve both efficiency and air quality in the home. Avoiding ductwork in spaces that waste energy such as attics, crawlspaces, basements and garages will help too.

To protect home owners from carbon monoxide, Seville said to make sure to keep combustion gases (e.g., furnaces and heat pumps) sealed and separated from the house. An HVAC unit should only be placed in an attached garage if absolutely necessary, and in such cases, it should be placed in a sealed combustion closet that is fully insulated from the garage, Seville said.

The best way to control dirt in the home is to eliminate air leakage and pressure imbalances in the home. Filters, avoiding carpet installation and going barefoot in the home also help.

This is where owner education comes in.

“Advise [them] to take their shoes off while they’re in their homes, get their carpets cleaned regularly, use the ventilation fans in the bathrooms and kitchen, use environmentally friendly cleaning products,” Seville said. “Every little bit helps.”


Look for environmentally friendly building materials and products, such as low-VOC paint finishes and solvents.

When it comes to chemicals, builders and home owners have to be a bit more diligent. The Environmental Protection Agency has over 84,000 chemicals registered, many of which are found in everyday building materials, including plastic, foam, paint, adhesives, sealants, cleaners, solvents and wood products.

“The problem with chemicals is that they can affect the endocrine system, which regulates our immune system, reproductive system, growth and development, among other things,” Seville said. “And it’s even more prevalent for children under six and nursing/pregnant mothers.”

Using low and zero-VOC paint finishes, as well as NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde) panels, low-VOC cleaners and solvents goes a long way toward protecting new home owners. Seville also recommends limiting the use of spray foam, avoiding vinyl and PVC piping and ventilating the house before occupancy.

If putting carpet down, look for something other than recycled foam pad to go underneath, he advises, as studies have shown that these pads are often treated with chemicals that can cause harmful health effects.

Seville also recommends looking for and using products with health or green declaration labels, like GreenSeal, SCS Indoor Advantage, FloorScore and GreenGuard.

Proper insulation, air sealing, combustion safety, ventilation and careful material selection all helps to reduce pollutants and keep your clients healthy.

Email Seville for more information about keeping your homes green and clean of harmful pollutants.

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Comments (3)

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  1. What educational insights Carl shares with us! There are many more things to do to improve the health of a home. Take the time to learn more about healthy homes fom the EPA’s spec ial programs!
    ONwards and UPwards with healthy living!

  2. Bonnie Mooney says:

    If someone’s basement is full of mold how can they get professional and financial help getting rid of the mold?

  3. Also, take time to learn about a new educational campaign called Wellness Within Your Walls! The educational courses can add to the value of every builder and industry professional from which we can have healthier homes built sooner and forever enhancing the environment and personal comfort!
    Look for Wellness Within Your Walls at IBS 2017!
    ONwards and UPwards with Wellness Within Your Walls!

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