Environmental Design and Inspection Services

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Environmental Design and Inspection Services

    Environmental Design & Inspection Services

    Tips for a Healthy Home

    Environmental Design and

    Inspection Services

    Oram Miller, BBEI

    Certified Building Biology Environmental Inspector

    “EMF” Consultant

    P.O. Box 8063

    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408

    Phone 952-412-0781

    Tips for a Healthy Home

Recommendations for Healthy Renovations and

    New Home Construction

These tips for a healthy home are based upon recommendations taught by the

    International Institute of Bau-biologie and Ecology (IBE), Clearwater, Florida

    (727-461-4371; and comprise the material covered in

    the author’s Healthy Home lectures. They are also based upon his experience

    from almost five hundred environmental home and office inspections conducted

    in Minnesota and ten other states over the past several years.

The Twenty-Five Principles of Bau-biologie are presented at the end of these

    recommendations, as taught by the IBE.

For tips on making your home and office safer from harmful Electro-Magnetic

    Fields (“EMFs”) as well as Radio Frequencies from wireless communications, go

    to Oram’s website, and click on “Tips for a

    Healthy Home,” then click on the link to the handout entitled, “Reduce Your

    Exposure to Electric Fields, Magnetic Fields and Radio Frequencies (EMFs).”

For tips on creating healthy indoor air quality and protecting yourself from mold in

    your home and office, go to Oram’s website, and

    click on “Tips for a Healthy Home,” then click on the link to the handout entitled,

    “Improve Indoor Air Quality.”


    Environmental Design & Inspection Services

    Tips for a Healthy Home

    Use Healthy Building Materials When Remodeling to Avoid “Sick

    Building Syndrome”

? One of the most hazardous things you can do for yourself and your family

    is to remodel a home or office while living and working in it. The chemicals

    found in most building materials and finishes (paints, varnishes, etc.) are

    quite toxic. They also “outgas” for months, if not years, much longer than

    most people think.

    ? You may habituate to the odors after a few minutes every time you come

    home after being out of the house, but the tissues of your body continue to

    accumulate these toxins, particularly in your fat stores. Headaches,

    dizziness, fatigue, immune system problems, and allergies all can result.

    Children are more susceptible than adults and develop attention deficit

    disorder (ADD), behavioral problems and learning disabilities in addition to

    the problems listed above.

    ? Therefore it is extremely important that you budget to use non-toxic

    alternatives to building materials commonly used today, particularly those

    that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) derived from petroleum. ? This includes glues, paints, varnishes and the like. Most cabinets and

    countertops are made of particleboard, which is comprised of glue and

    chips of wood. Formaldehyde is also an ingredient. Choose solid wood or

    at the very least, use exterior grade plywood, made with phenol

    formaldehyde, a more stable form of formaldehyde than urea

    formaldehyde found in imported interior plywood.

    ? Choose non-toxic, low-VOC or no-VOC paints, stains and varnishes.

    These are made by such companies as American Formulating and

    Manufacturing (AFM; 619-239-0321;, Dunn-

    Edwards (888-337-2468;, BioShield (800-621-

    259; and others. Most major paint manufacturers

    also now make a low-VOC product line. Check with your local paint store,

    though be aware that “low odor” paints made by major manufacturers tend

    to still contain harmful ingredients with some degree of volatility. It is better

    to choose paints and other finishes made by companies that formulate

    them to be non-toxic from the ground up, such as AFM, Dunn Edwards

    and BioShield. All three of these product lines are available through Green

    Building Supply (800-405-0222; AFM and

    Bioshield products are also available at Natural Built Home, 4020

    Minnehaha Blvd. in Minneapolis (612-605-7999; or Lakewinds Natural Home in the Twin Cities

    area (952-473-0292;


    ? For absolutely clean indoor air use BioShield, Milk Paint and other paints

    made simply from clay and pigment, available through Green Building



    Environmental Design & Inspection Services

    Tips for a Healthy Home

    ? Choose solid surface flooring rather than wall-to-wall carpeting or vinyl.

    Healthy examples include cork, solid wood, marmoleum (the old linoleum,

    made from cork and linseed oil), tile, and bamboo, to name a few. You can

    lay an area rug over such floors that can be aired out every few months.

    Installed carpeting harbors dust, dust mites and mold, and collects

    pesticides brought in on the soles of your shoes. Mold and pesticides then

    volatilize into the air in high humidity, ready for you to breathe them in. ? Avoid vinyl flooring, which is made with PVC, a petroleum-based product.

    PVC is an ecological nightmare to manufacture, seriously harming

    workers and the environment in the process. It also outgasses for years in

    your home. Choose marmoleum (the new name for linoleum) or tile in

    kitchens and bathrooms instead and use non-toxic adhesives and grouts,

    available from AFM.

    ? Use exterior grade plywood for subflooring and sheathing rather than

    Oriented Strand Board (OSB). The best choice for subflooring, sheathing,

    and roof decking is traditional solid diagonal wood planking.

    Use these principles for Constructing a Healthy Building

    “Envelope” (Walls, Foundation and Roof):

    ? Choose thick wall materials with natural, breathable plasters and stuccoes

    for walls and roof panels whenever possible. This takes advantage of the

    significant and documented year-round energy savings provided by

    thermal mass contained within thick wall materials. See below for links to

    articles on my website discussing this important concept


    ? Thick walls also provide sound-deadening, strength against storms, and a

    “breathable,” hygroscopic wall that avoids mold and naturally regulates

    indoor humidity levels. The term hygroscopic means the ability for

    moisture to slowly pass through without the penetration of liquid rainwater.

    No vapor barriers are needed, which can trap moisture and cause mold to

    grow in stud frame and fiberglass batt insulation construction. ? Thick walls, which naturally have thermal mass, also store and later give

    off radiant heat in winter and radiant cool in summer. As a result, smaller-

    sized heating and cooling systems can be installed that do not cycle on as

    often, saving you money. None of this is possible with a house built with

    sheetrock, batt insulation and stud frame walls.

    ? Examples of thick wall materials include natural and Portland cement-

    bonded wood chip wall forms made in Canada by Durisol Corporation

    (905-521-0999; or clay-treated wood chip wall

    forms made in South Carolina by KX Faswall Corporation (800-491-7891; You can also choose GreenBlok brand hemp and

    natural cement-based building block made in Iowa by Greenkrete (866-



    Environmental Design & Inspection Services

    Tips for a Healthy Home

? Additional materials include Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) made in

    Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona. Contact the Autoclaved Aerated

    Concrete Products Association ( and see my website

    under “Product Web Links,” “Building Materials – Thick Wall,” for links to

    individual manufacturers.

    ? You can also contact the Log Homes Council of the National Builders

    Association (800-368-5242, Ext. 8577; for information

    about log home manufacturers.

    ? Straw bale and straw clay construction are two of the original thick wall

    techniques, which we do recommend in our profession but primarily for

    those who are willing to accept the labor-intensive nature of these


    ? For a healthy, reduced mold slab, use broken pieces of clay-treated wood

    chip laid over sand and fine gravel, rather than using rigid foam board and

    a poly vapor barrier. The pieces of clay-treated wood chip act as a

    breathable thermal barrier and capillary break under your slab. The build-

    up of radon gas is also avoided in most cases. See the links to a

    Prospectus and New Building Manual mentioned below for details. ? Construct a breathable foundation and slab. Strategies include using

    Durisol cement-bonded wood chip wall forms or Faswall clay-treated wood

    chip wall forms. You can also choose GreenBlok brand hemp and natural

    cement-based building block. (See above for phone numbers and links to

    these manufacturers.) Each of these products make an excellent

    foundation when surrounded by a Delta-MS exterior foundation wrap

    made by Cosella-Dorken (888-433-5824; as an

    exterior drainage plane. Following this protocol provides a dry, reduced-

    mold basement.

    Achieve a Healthier Indoor Living Space by Doing the Following:

? Use active solar (solar hot water collectors) as the primary source of

    heating and domestic hot water to save on fossil fuel heating bills. We are

    at or nearing “peak oil,” the time when no more large oil or gas deposits

    will be discovered. We still have petroleum to consume, but it will never be

    “cheap” any longer.

    ? For this reason, you must plan for much higher natural gas, heating oil and

    electricity bills. Always consider thermal performance in your design and

    utilize the free energy of the sun wherever you can. A smart, energy-

    efficient design from the start will keep heating and cooling costs within

    reason. These include:

    ? Use passive solar design (roof overhangs, awning and trellises, tile floors,

    walls with thermal mass) to take advantage of free wintertime solar heat.


    Environmental Design & Inspection Services

    Tips for a Healthy Home

    ? Install hydronic in-floor or baseboard heat rather than forced air, if possible.

    Radiant heat provides a steady, even heat and promotes a healthier

    indoor air quality, and it saves money.

    ? Use natural cooling strategies to keep cooling costs down in warm

    weather, such as roof overhangs, awnings, trellises, shade trees, whole

    house chimney effect, cross-ventilation, skylights and ceiling fans. Use

    solar-powered attic fans and Radiosity 3000 ( brand

    thermal barrier, made up of microscopic glass spheres imbedded in paint

    and used to coat the underside of your roof decking and other paintable

    surfaces. Radiosity 3000 reduces attic temperatures from 170 to 140

    degrees F. in summertime. Available from Green Building Supply.

    ? Use daylighting (interior windows, skylights, roof monitors, solar light tubes)

    to improve mood by increasing melatonin production in wintertime and to

    cut electricity costs.

    ? Avoid building an attached garage, especially with a bedroom over the

    garage. Gasoline fumes outgas from the fuel tank of a car. If the garage is

    already attached, weather-strip the entry door to the living space to seal it

    off from outgassed fumes. Place a plastic vapor barrier between the attic

    of the attached garage and the walls of adjoining bedrooms.

You can go to Oram’s website, and click on

    “Services,” and then “New Building Consultations,” for more information on these

    and other aspects of how to design and build a healthy new or remodeled home.

    There you will find links to companies that manufacture healthy, non-toxic thick

    wall building materials as well as technical white papers on the value of building

    an envelope with thermal mass. You will also find links to a much more detailed

    Prospectus, one for new home owners, the other for architects, builders and

    developers, written by Oram, which discuss these principles in more detail.

Consultations are available from Oram Miller, BBEI for healthy new home

    construction and remodeling. Contact him at 952-412-0781 or

Finally you can learn more about a new manual that is currently under revision,

    edited by Oram Miller, BBEI, covering protocols for healthy new building design

    and construction as well as remodeling, based upon the principles of the Building

    Biology profession. Go to and click on “New

    Building Manual” to see the Table of Contents and to sign up to be notified when

    the manual is published later this year.

Oram Miller, BBEI Certified Building Biologist

Environmental Design and Inspection Services

    PO Box 8063

    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408


    Environmental Design & Inspection Services

    Tips for a Healthy Home

The Twenty-Five Principles of Bau-Biologie

    Building Biology, translated from the word “Bau-biologie,” was pioneered in

    Germany over thirty years ago and is taught in the U.S.A. by the International

    Institute for Bau-biologie and Ecology (IBE), Clearwater, Florida (727-461-4371; The principles upon which the teachings of Building

    Biology are based are as follows:

1. A building site shall be geologically undisturbed.

    2. Residential homes are best located away from industrial centers and main traffic routes.

    3. Housing shall be developed in a decentralized and loose manner interlaced with sufficient green space.

    4. Housing and developments shall be personalized, in harmony with nature, fit for human habitation and family oriented.

    5. Natural and unadulterated building materials shall be used. 6. Walls, floors and ceilings shall be diffusible and hygroscopic. 7. Indoor air humidity shall be regulated naturally.

    8. Air pollutants need to be filtered and neutralized.

    9. An appropriate balance of thermal insulation and heat retention is needed.

    10. The air and surface temperatures of a given room need to be optimized.

    11. A heating system shall feature radiant heat using as much (passive) solar heat as possible.

    12. The total moisture content of a new building shall be low and dry out quickly.

    13. A building shall have a pleasant or neutral smell. No toxins shall outgas.

    14. Light, lighting and color shall be in accord with natural conditions. 15. Protective measures against noise pollution as well as infrasonic and ultrasonic vibrations need to be human oriented.

    16. Only building materials with little or preferably no radioactivity shall be used.

    17. The natural balance of atmospheric electricity and ion concentration shall be maintained.

    18. The Earth’s natural magnetic field shall not be altered or distorted.

    19. Man-made electromagnetic radiation shall be eliminated (or reduced as much as possible).

    20. Cosmic and terrestrial radiation is essential and shall be interfered with as little as possible.


    Environmental Design & Inspection Services

    Tips for a Healthy Home

21. Interior and furniture design shall be based on physiological findings.

    22. Harmonic measures, proportions and shapes need to be taken into


    23. The production, installation and disposal of building materials shall not

    contribute to environmental pollution and high energy costs.

    24. Building activities shall not contribute to the exploitation of non-

    renewable and rare resources.

    25. Building activities shall not cause a rise in social and medical costs.


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