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Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

BUILDING GREEN WITHOUT


GOING IN THE RED

A Household Guide to Healthy,


Affordable Building Materials
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS WHY BUILD GREEN?

Written by: WHY BUILD GREEN? 3 GREEN BUILDING People spend 65% percent of their time in their
Kathleen Curtis and Roberta Chase homes. The built environment is often disregarded,
WHAT’S WRONG WITH The practice of 1) improving the efficiency because it is so familiar, yet it is where we live.
CONVENTIONAL PRODUCTS? 5
Research and assistance by: with which buildings and their sites use That is why we created this guide, to improve your
Jennifer Barnes, Michael Schade, TOP 15 NO- OR LOW-COST GREEN knowledge and decision-making ability to choose
energy, water and materials, and 2) reducing
Amy Liberatore and Prateek Kumar BUILDING STRATEGIES 8 building materials that are safer for your family
building impacts on human health and the
and more environmentally friendly while still being
BEFORE YOU START BUILDING… 10 environment through better siting, design,
Reviewed by: cost-effective. When we do this, we not only pro-
FOUNDATIONS 12 construction, operation, maintenance and tect ourselves and our families, we also protect the
Paul F. Bogart
National Campaigns Coordinator removal – the complete building lifecycle. larger environment as a whole, since many toxic
Healthy Building Network THE FRAME OF THE HOUSE 13
building materials threaten the environment and
— The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive
Matthew Cacho WINDOWS 16 our health at several points from manufacture to
Northwest Coordinator use to demolition – what is called their “lifecycle.“
Healthy Building Network INSULATION AND ROOFING 18
We conducted an informal survey to determine the
James Curtis SIDING, WIRING AND PLUMBING 20 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT focus and value this guide would have. Many who
Civil Engineer responded were organizational members, attendees
FLOORING 22
NYS Department of Transportation That which “meets the needs of the present at grassroots events, or others who were somewhat
Graham Davis WALLS CONSTRUCTION AND COVERING 24 without compromising the ability of future versed in environmental issues.
Technical Advisor
Habitat for Humanity International HEATING AND COOLING 26 generations to meet their own needs.” Among survey respondents, an overwhelming
APPLIANCES AND FIXTURES 28 — The UN World Commission on Environment and Development majority realized building materials had serious
Kathy Fisher
Owner environmental health impacts. However, the num-
Applied GIS ALTERNATIVE HOUSES 30 bers dropped when it got down to specifics. For
RESOURCES 31 example, less than half of the respondents knew
Robin Guenther, AIA BUILDING GREEN
Principal that PVC must be mixed with toxic chemicals such
Guenther 5 Architects Human beings are driven by a strong desire to as lead and phthalates in order to have the neces-
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition is a statewide sary properties, such as rigidity or flexibility.
Laura Haight make, to build, to construct. Many of us as chil-
grassroots environmental organization working
Senior Environmental Associate dren built forts out back, scavenging whatever Roughly 2/3 of respondents generally knew there
to eliminate pollution in New York State by
NY Public Interest Research Group building materials we could find, digging under were available, affordable, safer products, such as
empowering people.
Bruce M. Hampton, AIA, LEED the ground, building tree houses, constructing paints that release little or no harmful fumes and
Principal lean-to’s, or cutting out windows in the box the recycled deck material that isn’t treated with
Elton + Hampton Architects For additional information about CEC, arsenic or chromium. But less than half knew that
refrigerator came in and drawing curtains and a
contact our offices:
Tom Lent picket fence on the cardboard. Some collapsed, linoleum was different than vinyl, drywall was
Health and Materials Development Coordinator Main Office some were washed away, but some endured for a available made from recycled gypsum, or that car-
Healthy Building Network surprisingly long time. They afforded us a respite pets are tested and rated for their impacts on
33 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12210
Steve Longo from our parents, and provided us an entrée into indoor air quality.
518-462-5527 Fax: 518-465-8349
Owner pseudo adulthood. We decorated them lovingly,
Longo Construction and Remodeling Company WNY Office and some became a quite elaborate amalgam of
Dave Phillips 543 Franklin Street, Suite 2, Buffalo, NY 14202 the diverse contributions to their construction.
Design Engineer 716-885-6848 Fax: 716-885-6845
Amphenol Aerospace
Judith Robinson www.cectoxic.org
Special Projects Director
Environmental Health Fund
Dean E. Whalen, AIA
Senior Associate
Collins + Scoville Architects, P.C.

Graphic Design by Patt Kelly Design


Printed by Kendall Press on recycled stock

2 3
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS WHY BUILD GREEN?

Written by: WHY BUILD GREEN? 3 GREEN BUILDING People spend 65% percent of their time in their
Kathleen Curtis and Roberta Chase homes. The built environment is often disregarded,
WHAT’S WRONG WITH The practice of 1) improving the efficiency because it is so familiar, yet it is where we live.
CONVENTIONAL PRODUCTS? 5
Research and assistance by: with which buildings and their sites use That is why we created this guide, to improve your
Jennifer Barnes, Michael Schade, TOP 15 NO- OR LOW-COST GREEN knowledge and decision-making ability to choose
energy, water and materials, and 2) reducing
Amy Liberatore and Prateek Kumar BUILDING STRATEGIES 8 building materials that are safer for your family
building impacts on human health and the
and more environmentally friendly while still being
BEFORE YOU START BUILDING… 10 environment through better siting, design,
Reviewed by: cost-effective. When we do this, we not only pro-
FOUNDATIONS 12 construction, operation, maintenance and tect ourselves and our families, we also protect the
Paul F. Bogart
National Campaigns Coordinator removal – the complete building lifecycle. larger environment as a whole, since many toxic
Healthy Building Network THE FRAME OF THE HOUSE 13
building materials threaten the environment and
— The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive
Matthew Cacho WINDOWS 16 our health at several points from manufacture to
Northwest Coordinator use to demolition – what is called their “lifecycle.“
Healthy Building Network INSULATION AND ROOFING 18
We conducted an informal survey to determine the
James Curtis SIDING, WIRING AND PLUMBING 20 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT focus and value this guide would have. Many who
Civil Engineer responded were organizational members, attendees
FLOORING 22
NYS Department of Transportation That which “meets the needs of the present at grassroots events, or others who were somewhat
Graham Davis WALLS CONSTRUCTION AND COVERING 24 without compromising the ability of future versed in environmental issues.
Technical Advisor
Habitat for Humanity International HEATING AND COOLING 26 generations to meet their own needs.” Among survey respondents, an overwhelming
APPLIANCES AND FIXTURES 28 — The UN World Commission on Environment and Development majority realized building materials had serious
Kathy Fisher
Owner environmental health impacts. However, the num-
Applied GIS ALTERNATIVE HOUSES 30 bers dropped when it got down to specifics. For
RESOURCES 31 example, less than half of the respondents knew
Robin Guenther, AIA BUILDING GREEN
Principal that PVC must be mixed with toxic chemicals such
Guenther 5 Architects Human beings are driven by a strong desire to as lead and phthalates in order to have the neces-
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition is a statewide sary properties, such as rigidity or flexibility.
Laura Haight make, to build, to construct. Many of us as chil-
grassroots environmental organization working
Senior Environmental Associate dren built forts out back, scavenging whatever Roughly 2/3 of respondents generally knew there
to eliminate pollution in New York State by
NY Public Interest Research Group building materials we could find, digging under were available, affordable, safer products, such as
empowering people.
Bruce M. Hampton, AIA, LEED the ground, building tree houses, constructing paints that release little or no harmful fumes and
Principal lean-to’s, or cutting out windows in the box the recycled deck material that isn’t treated with
Elton + Hampton Architects For additional information about CEC, arsenic or chromium. But less than half knew that
refrigerator came in and drawing curtains and a
contact our offices:
Tom Lent picket fence on the cardboard. Some collapsed, linoleum was different than vinyl, drywall was
Health and Materials Development Coordinator Main Office some were washed away, but some endured for a available made from recycled gypsum, or that car-
Healthy Building Network surprisingly long time. They afforded us a respite pets are tested and rated for their impacts on
33 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12210
Steve Longo from our parents, and provided us an entrée into indoor air quality.
518-462-5527 Fax: 518-465-8349
Owner pseudo adulthood. We decorated them lovingly,
Longo Construction and Remodeling Company WNY Office and some became a quite elaborate amalgam of
Dave Phillips 543 Franklin Street, Suite 2, Buffalo, NY 14202 the diverse contributions to their construction.
Design Engineer 716-885-6848 Fax: 716-885-6845
Amphenol Aerospace
Judith Robinson www.cectoxic.org
Special Projects Director
Environmental Health Fund
Dean E. Whalen, AIA
Senior Associate
Collins + Scoville Architects, P.C.

Graphic Design by Patt Kelly Design


Printed by Kendall Press on recycled stock

2 3
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CONVENTIONAL PRODUCTS?

In response to the question of how important are green building initiatives, and those who don’t, Deforestation, toxic chemical pollution from An estimated 75% of all PVC is used in building
cleaner, safer building materials on a scale of one and requesting incidences in which building production facilities, and incineration and materials. Nearly half of all PVC is used in pipes,
to five, five being the most important, nearly 94% material suppliers knew the harmful effects their landfilling of construction and demolition waste such as water mains, electrical conduits and waste-
rated its importance as high to very high. Of all materials caused, yet took no action to redress are just some of the problems our growing water pipes. The next largest use is for other con-
respondents, 98% replied that they would consider the problems. housing needs cause. Materials can also struction materials such as siding, windows and
a guide to green building materials important in contribute to poor indoor air quality and cause doors, and roofing products.
This guide is meant to both empower and inspire
helping them select cleaner, safer products. The health problems, because they contain toxic
you to compare building materials and make your PVC and Dioxin – The EPA considers dioxin to be
single topic respondents considered most valuable chemicals like phthalates, arsenic, and
own educated choices that affordably avoid PVC, one of the most dangerous chemicals ever created,
by far when selecting green building materials was formaldehyde. The following are some examples
formaldehyde, arsenic, chromium and other toxic due to the effects it can have at extremely low
non-toxicity. Other important topics, in order of of building materials that can leave a huge
chemicals. You can be part of creating a change in levels. It lasts a long time in the environment,
priority, were energy efficiency, cost, recyclability, ecological footprint. Improvements over these
the cost, availability and selection of building builds up through the food chain to humans, and
availability, and recycled content. worst-in-class materials are presented through-
materials on the market by choosing to buy travels vast distances from where it is generated.
out the rest of this guide.
Of those who replied to the final, open ended healthy building materials for your next home Most human exposure to dioxin comes from con-
question about what else they would find useful in improvement or construction project. In making suming dioxin-contaminated foods like meat, eggs
POLYVINYL CHLORIDE (PVC)
an affordable green building materials guide, the better building material purchasing decisions, and milk. The largest material source of dioxin
Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or vinyl,pol-
most common response was some version of together we can cause a transformation in the comes from the production and destruction of
lutes throughout its entire lifecycle. The production,
“Where do I get them?” Several subsets of that overall selection, availability, and affordability of polyvinyl chloride.
use, and disposal of this seemingly innocuous plas-
response showed up repeatedly, such as requests safer products. As more and more of us make
tic exposes us to dioxin, vinyl chloride, phthalates, PVC and Vinyl Chloride Monomer – Vinyl chloride
for specific contractors, brand names, other these choices, we send a strong signal to manu-
heavy metals and hydrochloric acid. (the basic building block of PVC) is one of the
resources such as web sites, labeling (similar to facturers and distributors. As demand increases,
few chemicals that are classified as a known
the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Energy Star” pro- manufacturers can take advantage of the “econo-
human carcinogen. There is no safe level of expo-
gram – www.energystar.gov), and specific retail my of scale,” or a reduction in cost per unit PCV USAGE IN THE U.S., 1996
sure to it. Many thousands of tons per year of vinyl
outlets and their locations. Other responses resulting from increased production, realized
chloride monomer are released into the environ-
expressed concern about where and how to dispose through operational efficiencies. Economies of Pipes 48.6%
ment, exposing workers and communities.
of waste, the challenge of recycling small amounts, scale can be accomplished because as production Packaging 6.7%
and how to deal with toxic materials already in increases, the cost of producing each additional PVC and Phthalates – To make PVC products such
your house. One respondent urged us to use lan- unit falls. Therefore, green building materials as roofing, flooring, wall covering, and sheathing
Consumer Goods
guage the common person could understand. become less of a “gourmet” product, and more 8.5% for wire and cable, plasticizers known as phthalates
Another asked for deep alternatives, like straw commonplace. Together we can hasten the day must be added in large quantities to make the PVC
bale houses and composting toilets (see page 30). when it’s easy to get inexpensive, durable, sus- Home
flexible. About 90% of all phthalates are used in
Furnishings
Two respondents wanted to be more action-orient- tainable building materials at every home 2.6% PVC, to the tune of over 5 million tons per year.
ed, asking us to name politicians that support improvement store and through every distributor. Phthalates are released when PVC is formulated,
Transportation
2.0% molded, used, disposed of, or accidentally burned.
Electrical
Construction The Department of Health and Human Services
1.1%
28% (DHHS) has determined that di(2-ethylhexyl)
Medical Products
3.2% phthalate (DEHP), one such commonly used phtha-
Other
1.4% late, may reasonably be anticipated to be a human
carcinogen. The EPA has determined that DEHP is a
Windows & Doors
4.5%
probable human carcinogen. Phthalates are known
carcinogens in laboratory animals. They are every-
Flooring where, and can cause infertility, testicular damage,
Siding 4.0% reduced sperm count, abnormal testicular develop-
12.8% ment and other reproductive damage. American
Other Wire & Cable
3.5% phthalate exposure is now roughly equal to the
Construction
3.2% EPA’s maximum “acceptable” exposure. Phthalates
in indoor air can trigger asthma attacks and other
Source: SRI International, 1997. “Chemical Economics Handbook respiratory conditions.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Resins”

4 5
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CONVENTIONAL PRODUCTS?

In response to the question of how important are green building initiatives, and those who don’t, Deforestation, toxic chemical pollution from An estimated 75% of all PVC is used in building
cleaner, safer building materials on a scale of one and requesting incidences in which building production facilities, and incineration and materials. Nearly half of all PVC is used in pipes,
to five, five being the most important, nearly 94% material suppliers knew the harmful effects their landfilling of construction and demolition waste such as water mains, electrical conduits and waste-
rated its importance as high to very high. Of all materials caused, yet took no action to redress are just some of the problems our growing water pipes. The next largest use is for other con-
respondents, 98% replied that they would consider the problems. housing needs cause. Materials can also struction materials such as siding, windows and
a guide to green building materials important in contribute to poor indoor air quality and cause doors, and roofing products.
This guide is meant to both empower and inspire
helping them select cleaner, safer products. The health problems, because they contain toxic
you to compare building materials and make your PVC and Dioxin – The EPA considers dioxin to be
single topic respondents considered most valuable chemicals like phthalates, arsenic, and
own educated choices that affordably avoid PVC, one of the most dangerous chemicals ever created,
by far when selecting green building materials was formaldehyde. The following are some examples
formaldehyde, arsenic, chromium and other toxic due to the effects it can have at extremely low
non-toxicity. Other important topics, in order of of building materials that can leave a huge
chemicals. You can be part of creating a change in levels. It lasts a long time in the environment,
priority, were energy efficiency, cost, recyclability, ecological footprint. Improvements over these
the cost, availability and selection of building builds up through the food chain to humans, and
availability, and recycled content. worst-in-class materials are presented through-
materials on the market by choosing to buy travels vast distances from where it is generated.
out the rest of this guide.
Of those who replied to the final, open ended healthy building materials for your next home Most human exposure to dioxin comes from con-
question about what else they would find useful in improvement or construction project. In making suming dioxin-contaminated foods like meat, eggs
POLYVINYL CHLORIDE (PVC)
an affordable green building materials guide, the better building material purchasing decisions, and milk. The largest material source of dioxin
Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or vinyl,pol-
most common response was some version of together we can cause a transformation in the comes from the production and destruction of
lutes throughout its entire lifecycle. The production,
“Where do I get them?” Several subsets of that overall selection, availability, and affordability of polyvinyl chloride.
use, and disposal of this seemingly innocuous plas-
response showed up repeatedly, such as requests safer products. As more and more of us make
tic exposes us to dioxin, vinyl chloride, phthalates, PVC and Vinyl Chloride Monomer – Vinyl chloride
for specific contractors, brand names, other these choices, we send a strong signal to manu-
heavy metals and hydrochloric acid. (the basic building block of PVC) is one of the
resources such as web sites, labeling (similar to facturers and distributors. As demand increases,
few chemicals that are classified as a known
the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Energy Star” pro- manufacturers can take advantage of the “econo-
human carcinogen. There is no safe level of expo-
gram – www.energystar.gov), and specific retail my of scale,” or a reduction in cost per unit PCV USAGE IN THE U.S., 1996
sure to it. Many thousands of tons per year of vinyl
outlets and their locations. Other responses resulting from increased production, realized
chloride monomer are released into the environ-
expressed concern about where and how to dispose through operational efficiencies. Economies of Pipes 48.6%
ment, exposing workers and communities.
of waste, the challenge of recycling small amounts, scale can be accomplished because as production Packaging 6.7%
and how to deal with toxic materials already in increases, the cost of producing each additional PVC and Phthalates – To make PVC products such
your house. One respondent urged us to use lan- unit falls. Therefore, green building materials as roofing, flooring, wall covering, and sheathing
Consumer Goods
guage the common person could understand. become less of a “gourmet” product, and more 8.5% for wire and cable, plasticizers known as phthalates
Another asked for deep alternatives, like straw commonplace. Together we can hasten the day must be added in large quantities to make the PVC
bale houses and composting toilets (see page 30). when it’s easy to get inexpensive, durable, sus- Home
flexible. About 90% of all phthalates are used in
Furnishings
Two respondents wanted to be more action-orient- tainable building materials at every home 2.6% PVC, to the tune of over 5 million tons per year.
ed, asking us to name politicians that support improvement store and through every distributor. Phthalates are released when PVC is formulated,
Transportation
2.0% molded, used, disposed of, or accidentally burned.
Electrical
Construction The Department of Health and Human Services
1.1%
28% (DHHS) has determined that di(2-ethylhexyl)
Medical Products
3.2% phthalate (DEHP), one such commonly used phtha-
Other
1.4% late, may reasonably be anticipated to be a human
carcinogen. The EPA has determined that DEHP is a
Windows & Doors
4.5%
probable human carcinogen. Phthalates are known
carcinogens in laboratory animals. They are every-
Flooring where, and can cause infertility, testicular damage,
Siding 4.0% reduced sperm count, abnormal testicular develop-
12.8% ment and other reproductive damage. American
Other Wire & Cable
3.5% phthalate exposure is now roughly equal to the
Construction
3.2% EPA’s maximum “acceptable” exposure. Phthalates
in indoor air can trigger asthma attacks and other
Source: SRI International, 1997. “Chemical Economics Handbook respiratory conditions.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Resins”

4 5
PVC and Heavy Metals – In order to make PVC Although the EPA is phasing out arsenic treated reactions consist of severe redness and swelling of There are many sources of indoor air pollution in
more rigid and sturdy, one must add metal stabiliz- wood, it may still be in stores. When pulling out old the skin. any home. These include combustion sources such
ers such as lead, cadmium and organotins. These decks, playgrounds and garden borders you are likely as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, and wood, building
metals do not break down in the environment, and to find CCA treated wood. If you saw or sand FORMALDEHYDE materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated,
are global pollutants. Lead damages developing arsenic-treated wood, you will probably inhale Formaldehyde is found in many products used to asbestos-containing insulation, carpet, and cabi-
brains, lowers IQ, and causes learning disabilities. some of the sawdust. Similarly, if you burn arsenic- build a house, such as glues and adhesives, lac- netry or furniture made of certain pressed wood
Cadmium is a carcinogen. Organotins suppress our treated wood, you will inhale arsenic in the smoke. quers, paper, plastics, interior plywood, floor finish- products. Building materials release pollutants more
immune system and disrupt our endocrine system. Burning CCA wood creates a highly toxic ash. One es, veneered or laminated cabinets, and paneling. or less continuously, and high pollutant concentra-
All of these metals are released from PVC during tablespoon of ash from a CCA wood fire contains a Some people are exposed to higher levels of tions can remain in the air for long periods after
formulation, use, and disposal. lethal dose of arsenic. This has serious implications formaldehyde if they live in a new mobile home, as installation, or redecorating activities such as use
for firefighters and clean-up operations. The World formaldehyde is given off as a gas from the manu- of paint strippers.
PVC and Hydrochloric Acid – PVC poses a great
Health Organization (WHO), the Department of factured wood products used in these homes.
risk in backyard burning, waste incineration and Adhesives associated with wall coverings, and
Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the
house fires. In addition to releasing dioxin, it There is usually more formaldehyde present indoors the mold that may result when moisture is trapped
EPA have determined that inorganic arsenic is a
releases lethal gases, such as hydrogen chloride, than outdoors. Formaldehyde is released to the air behind PVC wall covering also contribute to poor
human carcinogen.
which becomes hydrochloric acid when inhaled, you breath while using latex paint, plywood and indoor air quality. Finally, the cleaning and
long before the PVC ignites. This hydrogen chloride According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and particle board, as well as furniture and cabinets maintenance products you use may also contain
gas poses the biggest threat to firefighters, occu- Disease Registry (ATSDR), breathing inorganic made from them. Fiberglass products, new carpets, toxic chemicals.
pants and neighbors in the event of an accidental arsenic can give you a sore throat or irritated and decorative laminates also give off formaldehyde.
Express your concerns about indoor air quality to
house fire. It can also contribute to acid rain. lungs. Ingesting high levels of inorganic arsenic
Particle board is the major contributor of formalde- your architect or builder and enlist his or her
can result in death. Lower levels of arsenic can
hyde to the home environment. The culprit is the cooperation in taking measures to provide good
cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production
adhesive, urea formaldehyde, which can break indoor air quality. Talk both about purchasing
of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart
down, releasing the formaldehyde into the air. building materials, finishes and furnishings that are
rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation
Phenol formaldehyde (used in exterior panels) does low-emitting and about providing an adequate
of “pins and needles” in hands and feet.
not present such problems. Some particleboard is amount of ventilation. Exercise care and caution in
PHOTO: Joseph Urbaszewski

Ingesting or breathing inorganic arsenic for a long now manufactured with reduced total formaldehyde. selection of wall finishes to minimize the risk of
time can cause a darkening of the skin and the trapping moisture behind impermeable surfaces.
The Department of Health and Human Services
appearance of small “corns” or “warts” on the
(DHHS) has determined that formaldehyde is
palms, soles, and torso. Skin contact with inorgan- CONSTRUCTION & DEMOLITION DEBRIS
reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.
ic arsenic may cause redness and swelling. Construction and Demolition (C&D) debris consists
The International Agency for Research on Cancer
of the waste generated during construction, renova-
Chromium VI - The World Health Organization, (IARC) has determined that formaldehyde is proba-
ARSENIC TREATED WOOD tion, and demolition projects. Covering a wide array
Department of Health and Human Services and EPA bly carcinogenic to humans.
Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) consists of of materials including wood, concrete, steel, brick,
have all determined that chromium VI is a human
chromium VI (a bactericide), copper (a fungicide) Formaldehyde has been linked to “sick building and gypsum, C&D debris is a large and complex
carcinogen. Birth defects have been observed in
and arsenic (an insecticide) and is the most syndrome” where people living or working in a waste stream. Reducing C&D debris conserves
animals exposed to chromium.
common arsenic formulation used to treat wood in particular building develop symptoms and ailments landfill space, reduces the environmental impact
the United States. It is often sold under the trade Chromium VI should not be confused with the that aren’t connected with a specific disease. Some of producing new materials, and can reduce overall
name “Wolmanized” wood. Ammoniacal Copper essential nutrient chromium III, which helps the people who are exposed to formaldehyde develop building project expenses through avoided pur-
Zinc Arsenate (ACZA) is a very similar arsenic body use sugar, protein, and fat. chemical sensitivities, which means they can suffer chase/disposal costs.
formulation sold primarily on the West Coast painful symptoms from very low levels of exposures
Breathing chromium VI can cause irritation to the The most recent EPA study put the amount of C&D
as Chemonite. to particular toxins – even at levels that otherwise
nose ranging from runny nose, to nosebleeds, to waste generated nationally at a staggering 136
healthy individuals might not notice.
Arsenic - Inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen, ulcers and holes in the nasal septum. Ingesting million tons in 1996. In cities around the country,
linked to skin, bladder, liver and lung cancers. chromium VI can cause stomach upsets and ulcers, construction and demolition (C&D) debris—the
Human and animal data suggest that inorganic INDOOR AIR QUALITY
convulsions, kidney and liver damage, and even waste produced in the course of constructing, reno-
arsenic is also a reproductive hazard. Released Building a new home provides the opportunity for
death. Skin contact with certain chromium VI vating, and demolishing buildings—accounts for
arsenic can find its way into our bodies, the food preventing indoor air problems. However, it can result
compounds can cause skin ulcers. Some people are 10 percent to as much as 30 percent of the total
chain, and groundwater. in exposure to higher levels of indoor air contami-
extremely sensitive to chromium VI. Allergic municipal waste stream.
nants if careful attention is not given to potential
pollution sources and the air exchange rate.

6 7
PVC and Heavy Metals – In order to make PVC Although the EPA is phasing out arsenic treated reactions consist of severe redness and swelling of There are many sources of indoor air pollution in
more rigid and sturdy, one must add metal stabiliz- wood, it may still be in stores. When pulling out old the skin. any home. These include combustion sources such
ers such as lead, cadmium and organotins. These decks, playgrounds and garden borders you are likely as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, and wood, building
metals do not break down in the environment, and to find CCA treated wood. If you saw or sand FORMALDEHYDE materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated,
are global pollutants. Lead damages developing arsenic-treated wood, you will probably inhale Formaldehyde is found in many products used to asbestos-containing insulation, carpet, and cabi-
brains, lowers IQ, and causes learning disabilities. some of the sawdust. Similarly, if you burn arsenic- build a house, such as glues and adhesives, lac- netry or furniture made of certain pressed wood
Cadmium is a carcinogen. Organotins suppress our treated wood, you will inhale arsenic in the smoke. quers, paper, plastics, interior plywood, floor finish- products. Building materials release pollutants more
immune system and disrupt our endocrine system. Burning CCA wood creates a highly toxic ash. One es, veneered or laminated cabinets, and paneling. or less continuously, and high pollutant concentra-
All of these metals are released from PVC during tablespoon of ash from a CCA wood fire contains a Some people are exposed to higher levels of tions can remain in the air for long periods after
formulation, use, and disposal. lethal dose of arsenic. This has serious implications formaldehyde if they live in a new mobile home, as installation, or redecorating activities such as use
for firefighters and clean-up operations. The World formaldehyde is given off as a gas from the manu- of paint strippers.
PVC and Hydrochloric Acid – PVC poses a great
Health Organization (WHO), the Department of factured wood products used in these homes.
risk in backyard burning, waste incineration and Adhesives associated with wall coverings, and
Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the
house fires. In addition to releasing dioxin, it There is usually more formaldehyde present indoors the mold that may result when moisture is trapped
EPA have determined that inorganic arsenic is a
releases lethal gases, such as hydrogen chloride, than outdoors. Formaldehyde is released to the air behind PVC wall covering also contribute to poor
human carcinogen.
which becomes hydrochloric acid when inhaled, you breath while using latex paint, plywood and indoor air quality. Finally, the cleaning and
long before the PVC ignites. This hydrogen chloride According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and particle board, as well as furniture and cabinets maintenance products you use may also contain
gas poses the biggest threat to firefighters, occu- Disease Registry (ATSDR), breathing inorganic made from them. Fiberglass products, new carpets, toxic chemicals.
pants and neighbors in the event of an accidental arsenic can give you a sore throat or irritated and decorative laminates also give off formaldehyde.
Express your concerns about indoor air quality to
house fire. It can also contribute to acid rain. lungs. Ingesting high levels of inorganic arsenic
Particle board is the major contributor of formalde- your architect or builder and enlist his or her
can result in death. Lower levels of arsenic can
hyde to the home environment. The culprit is the cooperation in taking measures to provide good
cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production
adhesive, urea formaldehyde, which can break indoor air quality. Talk both about purchasing
of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart
down, releasing the formaldehyde into the air. building materials, finishes and furnishings that are
rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation
Phenol formaldehyde (used in exterior panels) does low-emitting and about providing an adequate
of “pins and needles” in hands and feet.
not present such problems. Some particleboard is amount of ventilation. Exercise care and caution in
PHOTO: Joseph Urbaszewski

Ingesting or breathing inorganic arsenic for a long now manufactured with reduced total formaldehyde. selection of wall finishes to minimize the risk of
time can cause a darkening of the skin and the trapping moisture behind impermeable surfaces.
The Department of Health and Human Services
appearance of small “corns” or “warts” on the
(DHHS) has determined that formaldehyde is
palms, soles, and torso. Skin contact with inorgan- CONSTRUCTION & DEMOLITION DEBRIS
reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.
ic arsenic may cause redness and swelling. Construction and Demolition (C&D) debris consists
The International Agency for Research on Cancer
of the waste generated during construction, renova-
Chromium VI - The World Health Organization, (IARC) has determined that formaldehyde is proba-
ARSENIC TREATED WOOD tion, and demolition projects. Covering a wide array
Department of Health and Human Services and EPA bly carcinogenic to humans.
Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) consists of of materials including wood, concrete, steel, brick,
have all determined that chromium VI is a human
chromium VI (a bactericide), copper (a fungicide) Formaldehyde has been linked to “sick building and gypsum, C&D debris is a large and complex
carcinogen. Birth defects have been observed in
and arsenic (an insecticide) and is the most syndrome” where people living or working in a waste stream. Reducing C&D debris conserves
animals exposed to chromium.
common arsenic formulation used to treat wood in particular building develop symptoms and ailments landfill space, reduces the environmental impact
the United States. It is often sold under the trade Chromium VI should not be confused with the that aren’t connected with a specific disease. Some of producing new materials, and can reduce overall
name “Wolmanized” wood. Ammoniacal Copper essential nutrient chromium III, which helps the people who are exposed to formaldehyde develop building project expenses through avoided pur-
Zinc Arsenate (ACZA) is a very similar arsenic body use sugar, protein, and fat. chemical sensitivities, which means they can suffer chase/disposal costs.
formulation sold primarily on the West Coast painful symptoms from very low levels of exposures
Breathing chromium VI can cause irritation to the The most recent EPA study put the amount of C&D
as Chemonite. to particular toxins – even at levels that otherwise
nose ranging from runny nose, to nosebleeds, to waste generated nationally at a staggering 136
healthy individuals might not notice.
Arsenic - Inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen, ulcers and holes in the nasal septum. Ingesting million tons in 1996. In cities around the country,
linked to skin, bladder, liver and lung cancers. chromium VI can cause stomach upsets and ulcers, construction and demolition (C&D) debris—the
Human and animal data suggest that inorganic INDOOR AIR QUALITY
convulsions, kidney and liver damage, and even waste produced in the course of constructing, reno-
arsenic is also a reproductive hazard. Released Building a new home provides the opportunity for
death. Skin contact with certain chromium VI vating, and demolishing buildings—accounts for
arsenic can find its way into our bodies, the food preventing indoor air problems. However, it can result
compounds can cause skin ulcers. Some people are 10 percent to as much as 30 percent of the total
chain, and groundwater. in exposure to higher levels of indoor air contami-
extremely sensitive to chromium VI. Allergic municipal waste stream.
nants if careful attention is not given to potential
pollution sources and the air exchange rate.

6 7
TOP 15 NO- OR LOW-COST GREEN BUILDING STRATEGIES

Whether you are redecorating a room, reno-


Install whole-house fans or ceiling fans vating part of the house or building a new
to reduce or eliminate air conditioning home, you can make choices that are not
Place windows to provide (See page 26) only inexpensive in the short-term, but lead
good natural ventilation
to long-term benefits, like better indoor air
(See page 16)
Select a light-colored quality, less water and energy consumption,
“Cool Roof” (See page 18) Install water-efficient toilets and reduced utility costs.
and fixtures (See page 28)
Use engineered wood for headers, The fifteen strategies listed here range from
joists, and sheathing (See page 13) Install high R-value things you can do right now – such as pur-
Orient building to maximize
insulation (See page 18) chasing a fluorescent light bulb to replace
natural daylighting and passive
solar heat (See page 10) 3 each incandescent bulb as they burn out –
11 7 to long-term, large-scale projects, like
designing a new house to take advantage
2 Install fluorescent lights of passive solar heat, daylighting and
Use low- or no-VOC paint
(See page 24) 1 10 with electronic ballasts natural ventilation.

Throughout this guide, we present options


that have a range of up-front costs, and
Choose polyethylene pipe
Design water-efficient 13 4 6 instead of PVC for
offer a range of long-term benefits. Not all
of these benefits are monetary. It’s true that
landscapes based on plumbing (See page 20) an energy-efficient refrigerator will reduce
native plants 14
(See page 10)
9 15 your electric bill, but choosing a slightly
more expensive flooring option – like real
12 linoleum over PVC – can help protect your
family’s health, something that’s far more
difficult to put a price tag on.

5 8 Whatever level of green building you choose


to incorporate into your home, know that
Use formaldehyde-free or
you’re helping to support a market transfor-
fully sealed materials for
mation that makes healthy, safer building
subflooring, cabinets and
Select Energy materials more widely available and less
counters (See page 13)
Star appliances expensive for everyone.
Provide combined-hydronic heating (hot water Use recycled-content insulation, drywall, (See page 28)
heater and hot-water baseboard or radiant and carpet (See pages 18, 22 and 24)
heating combined) (See page 26)

(Revised from Global Green USA’s TOP 20 No- or Low-Cost Green Building Strategies at www.globalgreen.org/programs/20ways.html, with input from Bruce Hampton, AIA LEED, of Elton + Hampton Architects)

8 9
TOP 15 NO- OR LOW-COST GREEN BUILDING STRATEGIES

Whether you are redecorating a room, reno-


Install whole-house fans or ceiling fans vating part of the house or building a new
to reduce or eliminate air conditioning home, you can make choices that are not
Place windows to provide (See page 26) only inexpensive in the short-term, but lead
good natural ventilation
to long-term benefits, like better indoor air
(See page 16)
Select a light-colored quality, less water and energy consumption,
“Cool Roof” (See page 18) Install water-efficient toilets and reduced utility costs.
and fixtures (See page 28)
Use engineered wood for headers, The fifteen strategies listed here range from
joists, and sheathing (See page 13) Install high R-value things you can do right now – such as pur-
Orient building to maximize
insulation (See page 18) chasing a fluorescent light bulb to replace
natural daylighting and passive
solar heat (See page 10) 3 each incandescent bulb as they burn out –
11 7 to long-term, large-scale projects, like
designing a new house to take advantage
2 Install fluorescent lights of passive solar heat, daylighting and
Use low- or no-VOC paint
(See page 24) 1 10 with electronic ballasts natural ventilation.

Throughout this guide, we present options


that have a range of up-front costs, and
Choose polyethylene pipe
Design water-efficient 13 4 6 instead of PVC for
offer a range of long-term benefits. Not all
of these benefits are monetary. It’s true that
landscapes based on plumbing (See page 20) an energy-efficient refrigerator will reduce
native plants 14
(See page 10)
9 15 your electric bill, but choosing a slightly
more expensive flooring option – like real
12 linoleum over PVC – can help protect your
family’s health, something that’s far more
difficult to put a price tag on.

5 8 Whatever level of green building you choose


to incorporate into your home, know that
Use formaldehyde-free or
you’re helping to support a market transfor-
fully sealed materials for
mation that makes healthy, safer building
subflooring, cabinets and
Select Energy materials more widely available and less
counters (See page 13)
Star appliances expensive for everyone.
Provide combined-hydronic heating (hot water Use recycled-content insulation, drywall, (See page 28)
heater and hot-water baseboard or radiant and carpet (See pages 18, 22 and 24)
heating combined) (See page 26)

(Revised from Global Green USA’s TOP 20 No- or Low-Cost Green Building Strategies at www.globalgreen.org/programs/20ways.html, with input from Bruce Hampton, AIA LEED, of Elton + Hampton Architects)

8 9
BEFORE YOU START BUILDING…

…TALK WITH YOUR DESIGNER energy-efficient house, which is often tightly …TALK WITH YOUR CONTRACTOR 3) Recycle the construction and demolition
sealed to prevent cold draughts, and good indoor waste (including drywall, wood, metals,
SITE DECISIONS As construction begins, your contractor will make
air quality, which relies on frequent air exchanges, concrete, dirt and cardboard). This can
The choices you and your designer make in siting a decisions about managing the site that can either
or replacement of indoor air with fresh air from conserve resources, and save limited land-
new home or addition can save energy and money help or harm the environment and affect costs. Be
outside. In older houses, this happens by accident fill space, as well as result in beautiful new
through passive solar heating, natural daylighting sure to talk with prospective contractors about
– how many of us have been in homes with lots of products. For instance, Taylor Recycling in
and adequate ventilation. using environmentally friendly approaches as many
draughts? Today, as there is greater emphasis on Montgomery, NY provides Construction &
aren’t familiar with them. By discussing this up
Take advantage of “passive solar” heating – using having the exterior tightly sealed, we need to be Demolition recycling in the Hudson Valley,
front, you can ensure the job will be done the way
the sun’s energy coming through windows to heat more thoughtful. When air is trapped inside the and can be reached at 845-457-4021 or
you want it. Require your contractor to:
the home, for example – properly orienting your house, it can keep exposing you to pollutants and www.taylor-recycling.com. In Erie County,
home in respect to living area, window exposure allergens. Fortunately, there are several options, 1) Incorporate reusable building materials into “C&D” debris can be recycled at drastically
and wall area, you can dramatically reduce heating the most effective being small energy efficient the construction or renovation project whenev- reduced costs through a County program.
and cooling loads. Check out the following for fans with a “heat exchanger” and air filter placed er possible. (See table below for Reuse Centers.) Call 716-858-6370 or go to www.erie.gov/
more information about passive solar designs: in the attic to both bring in fresh air and pull out environment/compliance/const_demo_dr
2) Salvage reusable building materials from your
stale air. The heat exchanger transfers heat from p.asp to learn more.
• The Department of Energy’s Fact Sheet: “Passive renovation project, such as flooring, doors,
the warmer flow to the cooler flow, which can save
Solar Design for the Home” provides a basic windows, sinks, cabinets, and fixtures. Reuse 4) If you have shrubs or trees that will be dis-
heating costs in winter. The air filter removes
overview. www.eere.energy.gov/erec/fact- Centers will accept donated materials, cutting turbed by the construction work, direct the
allergens and particulates on the way in.
sheets/passive_solar.html disposal costs and conserving resources. contractor to temporarily set them aside,
LANDSCAPING Donations may be tax deductible. Check the so they can be replanted safely when work
• Affordable Passive Solar Homes by Richard Designing sustainable landscapes can decrease is complete. This can save you from having
Habitat for Humanity website to see if there is
Crowther, $21. 49 low-cost designs for passive maintenance - watering, mowing, fertilizing and to make additional plant purchases.
a “ReStore” in your area. www.habitat.org
solar homes. 2400 Central Avenue, G-1, Boulder, pesticide application, while conserving water,
CO 80301, 303-443-3130 ases@ases.org. improving soil and increasing biodiversity. Consider
• The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s gardens with perennial plants suitable to the cli-
SOURCES FOR REUSABLE BUILDING MATERIALS IN NEW YORK STATE
passive solar principles and resource informa- mate and soil, and consider replacing turf grass
tion. www.nesea.org/buildings/passive.html and sod with native plants – a practice known as
“xeriscaping”. Here are some websites to help you Organization Name City Zip Code Telephone
• Southface Energy Institute. www.southface.org plan your lawn and garden:
“Daylighting” is really just the act of illuminating • The Nature Conservancy’s Eastern New York Association for Centerport 11721 613-580-7290
rooms naturally. Whenever you light a room with a Chapter nature.org/wherewework/ Resource Conservation
window or skylight instead of flipping on a light northamerica/states/newyork/eastern/sci- Building Preservation Works, LLC Homer 13077 607-749-8889
switch, you are daylighting. It’s that simple. For ence/ art4017.html
ERC Community Warehouse, Inc. Hoosick Falls 12090 518-686-7540
interior rooms, or further from a roof (where a tra-
ditional skylight is impractical), you can use “sun • The State University of New York’s College of
Habitat for Humanity of New Rochelle 10801 914-829-7586
pipes” that are skylights with reflective pipes that Environmental Science and Forestry. Westchester ReStore
bounce light down to the interior room’s ceiling. www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/landscap/
Historic Home Supply Corp Troy 12180-380 518-266-0675
This cuts down on use of electric lights during the landscap.htm
Hudson Valley Materials Exchange New Windsor 12553 845-567-1445
day in dim parts of the house and can reduce heat-
WATER RETENTION
ing costs, as electric lights can generate significant Long Island City Business Long Island 11101 718-786-5300
Channeling rainwater through gutters and down- Development Corporation
amounts of heat. Companies like Solatube
spouts into an above ground cistern or below
(www.solatube.com/residential.php) make resi- Mat-Ex Online 21 Western/Central 585-344-2580
ground gravel dry well to use for landscape and Western/Central NY Materials NY Counties x5464
dential products. Home Tips.com (www.hometips.
garden irrigation keeps water runoff from overload- Exchange www.mat-ex.org
com/cs-protected/guides/daylight.html) has a
ing storm drains or increasing flooding, while NY WasteMatch New York City 10007 212-442-5219
good discussion about easy steps toward improving
providing a free source of water for lawns and
the amount of daylight in your home. Significant Elements Ithaca 14850 607-277-3450
gardens, making you less dependent on treated
Good ventilation is critical to good indoor air drinkable water when caring for your yard. Zaborski Emporium Kingston 12401 914-338-6465
quality. You need to strike a balance between an
(from www.redo.org, www.mat-ex.org, and www.preservationworks.com)

10 11
BEFORE YOU START BUILDING…

…TALK WITH YOUR DESIGNER energy-efficient house, which is often tightly …TALK WITH YOUR CONTRACTOR 3) Recycle the construction and demolition
sealed to prevent cold draughts, and good indoor waste (including drywall, wood, metals,
SITE DECISIONS As construction begins, your contractor will make
air quality, which relies on frequent air exchanges, concrete, dirt and cardboard). This can
The choices you and your designer make in siting a decisions about managing the site that can either
or replacement of indoor air with fresh air from conserve resources, and save limited land-
new home or addition can save energy and money help or harm the environment and affect costs. Be
outside. In older houses, this happens by accident fill space, as well as result in beautiful new
through passive solar heating, natural daylighting sure to talk with prospective contractors about
– how many of us have been in homes with lots of products. For instance, Taylor Recycling in
and adequate ventilation. using environmentally friendly approaches as many
draughts? Today, as there is greater emphasis on Montgomery, NY provides Construction &
aren’t familiar with them. By discussing this up
Take advantage of “passive solar” heating – using having the exterior tightly sealed, we need to be Demolition recycling in the Hudson Valley,
front, you can ensure the job will be done the way
the sun’s energy coming through windows to heat more thoughtful. When air is trapped inside the and can be reached at 845-457-4021 or
you want it. Require your contractor to:
the home, for example – properly orienting your house, it can keep exposing you to pollutants and www.taylor-recycling.com. In Erie County,
home in respect to living area, window exposure allergens. Fortunately, there are several options, 1) Incorporate reusable building materials into “C&D” debris can be recycled at drastically
and wall area, you can dramatically reduce heating the most effective being small energy efficient the construction or renovation project whenev- reduced costs through a County program.
and cooling loads. Check out the following for fans with a “heat exchanger” and air filter placed er possible. (See table below for Reuse Centers.) Call 716-858-6370 or go to www.erie.gov/
more information about passive solar designs: in the attic to both bring in fresh air and pull out environment/compliance/const_demo_dr
2) Salvage reusable building materials from your
stale air. The heat exchanger transfers heat from p.asp to learn more.
• The Department of Energy’s Fact Sheet: “Passive renovation project, such as flooring, doors,
the warmer flow to the cooler flow, which can save
Solar Design for the Home” provides a basic windows, sinks, cabinets, and fixtures. Reuse 4) If you have shrubs or trees that will be dis-
heating costs in winter. The air filter removes
overview. www.eere.energy.gov/erec/fact- Centers will accept donated materials, cutting turbed by the construction work, direct the
allergens and particulates on the way in.
sheets/passive_solar.html disposal costs and conserving resources. contractor to temporarily set them aside,
LANDSCAPING Donations may be tax deductible. Check the so they can be replanted safely when work
• Affordable Passive Solar Homes by Richard Designing sustainable landscapes can decrease is complete. This can save you from having
Habitat for Humanity website to see if there is
Crowther, $21. 49 low-cost designs for passive maintenance - watering, mowing, fertilizing and to make additional plant purchases.
a “ReStore” in your area. www.habitat.org
solar homes. 2400 Central Avenue, G-1, Boulder, pesticide application, while conserving water,
CO 80301, 303-443-3130 ases@ases.org. improving soil and increasing biodiversity. Consider
• The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s gardens with perennial plants suitable to the cli-
SOURCES FOR REUSABLE BUILDING MATERIALS IN NEW YORK STATE
passive solar principles and resource informa- mate and soil, and consider replacing turf grass
tion. www.nesea.org/buildings/passive.html and sod with native plants – a practice known as
“xeriscaping”. Here are some websites to help you Organization Name City Zip Code Telephone
• Southface Energy Institute. www.southface.org plan your lawn and garden:
“Daylighting” is really just the act of illuminating • The Nature Conservancy’s Eastern New York Association for Centerport 11721 613-580-7290
rooms naturally. Whenever you light a room with a Chapter nature.org/wherewework/ Resource Conservation
window or skylight instead of flipping on a light northamerica/states/newyork/eastern/sci- Building Preservation Works, LLC Homer 13077 607-749-8889
switch, you are daylighting. It’s that simple. For ence/ art4017.html
ERC Community Warehouse, Inc. Hoosick Falls 12090 518-686-7540
interior rooms, or further from a roof (where a tra-
ditional skylight is impractical), you can use “sun • The State University of New York’s College of
Habitat for Humanity of New Rochelle 10801 914-829-7586
pipes” that are skylights with reflective pipes that Environmental Science and Forestry. Westchester ReStore
bounce light down to the interior room’s ceiling. www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/landscap/
Historic Home Supply Corp Troy 12180-380 518-266-0675
This cuts down on use of electric lights during the landscap.htm
Hudson Valley Materials Exchange New Windsor 12553 845-567-1445
day in dim parts of the house and can reduce heat-
WATER RETENTION
ing costs, as electric lights can generate significant Long Island City Business Long Island 11101 718-786-5300
Channeling rainwater through gutters and down- Development Corporation
amounts of heat. Companies like Solatube
spouts into an above ground cistern or below
(www.solatube.com/residential.php) make resi- Mat-Ex Online 21 Western/Central 585-344-2580
ground gravel dry well to use for landscape and Western/Central NY Materials NY Counties x5464
dential products. Home Tips.com (www.hometips.
garden irrigation keeps water runoff from overload- Exchange www.mat-ex.org
com/cs-protected/guides/daylight.html) has a
ing storm drains or increasing flooding, while NY WasteMatch New York City 10007 212-442-5219
good discussion about easy steps toward improving
providing a free source of water for lawns and
the amount of daylight in your home. Significant Elements Ithaca 14850 607-277-3450
gardens, making you less dependent on treated
Good ventilation is critical to good indoor air drinkable water when caring for your yard. Zaborski Emporium Kingston 12401 914-338-6465
quality. You need to strike a balance between an
(from www.redo.org, www.mat-ex.org, and www.preservationworks.com)

10 11
FOUNDATIONS THE FRAME OF THE HOUSE

Most homes today rely on the use of poured con- DAMP PROOFING SILL PLATE Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
crete. Houses built with natural building materials There are several key steps to keeping water from The sill plate is the piece of wood that is placed (LEED) green building rating system. Using FSC
don’t necessarily rely on poured concrete – for more entering your house, which can lead to mold and on top of the foundation to anchor walls. Because lumber may add to lead time, as it can be more dif-
information about them, please see page 30. rot. These involve both waterproofing -- keeping it comes into contact with moisture, building ficult to procure.
liquid water from being forced through small holes codes require it to be pressure treated to resist rot
A contractor can take a number of steps to con-
into your house -- and damp-proofing -- keeping and pests. Until recently, chromated copper arsen- There are many different types of wood certifica-
serve resources when pouring your foundation:
water vapor from seeping through the foundation. ate was the common chemical compound (CCA) for tion programs in use today. They have different
1) Some forms are made from 2 x 10 sawn lumber treating lumber. However, due to the extremely standards for what they consider to be sustainable,
1) Sealing the Foundation. Typically this is done
cut from old growth forests. The contractor can harmful health effects of arsenic poisoning and and they are not all equally stringent about ensur-
with tar (while not the best for the environ-
eliminate the need for separate forms if you exposure to chromium, CCA-treated lumber is no ing accurate “chain of custody” certification --
ment, it can help keep moisture out of
plan to insulate your foundation before backfill- longer being produced, but may still be on the making sure the wood you buy is from the certified
your house).
ing to minimize heat loss (highly recommend- shelf at the local do-it-yourself store. (See page 6 forest. In general, most environmental groups sup-
ed). Use rigid foam as forms and leave them 2) Drainage. To keep liquid water away from the for a description of these hazards.) Instead choose port FSC, as it is the most rigorous. The American
in place to serve as thermal insulation for foundation, it is surrounded by a perforated pipe ACQ, (Alkaline Copper Quatenary) or CBA (Copper Forest & Paper Association has developed its own
the building. (commonly made from PVC) and gravel. The pipe Boron Azole). Both ACQ and CBA require use of program for its members, called the Sustainable
is directed away from the house. Given PVC’s hot-dipped (not electro-plated) galvanized or Forestry Initiative (SFI). Much more lumber is SFI
2) If you don’t plan to insulate, the contractor can
toxic lifecycle (see page 5) and its tendency to stainless steel fasteners to prevent premature rust- certified, but its program is not as stringent as
buy metal forms that can be used over and over
get brittle over time, we recommend using poly- ing. (See chart on page 15.) FSC. Given the option, choose FSC lumber, as it
at multiple locations. These forms come in all
ethylene plastic pipe or clay pipe (see page 20). offers the greatest certainty that you are buying
shapes and sizes and produce a smooth finished
You can take an extra step to wrap the gravel FRAMING lumber directly from a sustainably harvested forest.
surface on the concrete. Despite higher initial
and pipe in landscape fabric to keep silt and dirt The frame is built attached to the sill plate.
cost, they can be used many times, and pay for
from clogging the gravel. In choosing wood for framing, look for sustainably RECLAIMED LUMBER
themselves after only a few builds.
logged products. Look for Forest Stewardship Rather than using newly-cut lumber, you may want
3) Landscaping. By ensuring the ground slopes
3) Contractors can use reusable wood form boards. Council (FSC) certified lumber or consider engi- to choose lumber from a building that has been
away from the house, by at least 5%, or 6 inches
To minimize use of large sawn boards, carefully neered lumber. If you live in an area where “deconstructed” – taken apart carefully to allow
over the first 10 feet, you can help keep water
remove and separate the forms, allowing their “deconstruction firms” disassemble buildings, con- reuse of the components, like brick, lumber, and
from pooling by your foundation walls.
reuse several times. sider salvaged framing (see page 15). Many wood siding. Many reclaimed pieces of lumber are high-
4) Keep water away from the walls. This can be products are harvested unsustainably, tearing apart quality, tightly grained pieces – often better quali-
Some concrete is made with ash from incinerators
done by having adequate overhangs on eves and intact ecosystems and removing “old growth” trees ty than anything available on the market today.
or coal-fired power plants. Although these products
installing gutters and drainspouts that move – the large trees from forests that have never been They can be more expensive than new lumber, and
are sometimes touted as good for the environment
rainwater away from the house. logged. Companies often rely on old-growth wood more difficult to find. If you have a renovation
because it’s a supposedly “beneficial use” of mate-
for large beams, since most other forests now have project that involves demolishing part of an older
rial that would otherwise require disposal in a
smaller trees. We need to conserve old growth house, consider asking the contractor to carefully
hazardous waste landfill, this concrete contains
forests, for their biological diversity. Due to rapid deconstruct that portion of the house and reuse
heavy metals, which could leach out over time.
growth in building construction, there is increasing the materials for the renovation project. This may
pressure to log the few remaining stands of these cost more in labor, but it will save resources and
ancient trees around the world. landfill space and disposal costs.

CERTIFIED LUMBER ENGINEERED LUMBER


To make sure the wood used in your home was sus- Most 2 x 10 and larger pieces of lumber come from
tainably harvested, look for the Forest Stewardship old growth forests. As these resources have gotten
Council’s certification. They have a rigorous set of scarcer (we have cut 95% of the old-growth forests
criteria for managing forest lands, which companies in the United States), and thus the timber has got-
must demonstrate they meet in order to be certi- ten more expensive, people have sought engineered
fied. More information about the Forest Stewardship lumber. As a result, there are now many different
Council is available on-line at www.fscus.org. The products that get their strength from resins and
Forest Stewardship Council is recognized by most glues, and rely on small bits of wood from smaller
conservation and forest sustainability groups, as trees and wood from fast growing “plantation”
well as the United States Green Building Council’s trees to make them nail-able and screw-able.

12 13
FOUNDATIONS THE FRAME OF THE HOUSE

Most homes today rely on the use of poured con- DAMP PROOFING SILL PLATE Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
crete. Houses built with natural building materials There are several key steps to keeping water from The sill plate is the piece of wood that is placed (LEED) green building rating system. Using FSC
don’t necessarily rely on poured concrete – for more entering your house, which can lead to mold and on top of the foundation to anchor walls. Because lumber may add to lead time, as it can be more dif-
information about them, please see page 30. rot. These involve both waterproofing -- keeping it comes into contact with moisture, building ficult to procure.
liquid water from being forced through small holes codes require it to be pressure treated to resist rot
A contractor can take a number of steps to con-
into your house -- and damp-proofing -- keeping and pests. Until recently, chromated copper arsen- There are many different types of wood certifica-
serve resources when pouring your foundation:
water vapor from seeping through the foundation. ate was the common chemical compound (CCA) for tion programs in use today. They have different
1) Some forms are made from 2 x 10 sawn lumber treating lumber. However, due to the extremely standards for what they consider to be sustainable,
1) Sealing the Foundation. Typically this is done
cut from old growth forests. The contractor can harmful health effects of arsenic poisoning and and they are not all equally stringent about ensur-
with tar (while not the best for the environ-
eliminate the need for separate forms if you exposure to chromium, CCA-treated lumber is no ing accurate “chain of custody” certification --
ment, it can help keep moisture out of
plan to insulate your foundation before backfill- longer being produced, but may still be on the making sure the wood you buy is from the certified
your house).
ing to minimize heat loss (highly recommend- shelf at the local do-it-yourself store. (See page 6 forest. In general, most environmental groups sup-
ed). Use rigid foam as forms and leave them 2) Drainage. To keep liquid water away from the for a description of these hazards.) Instead choose port FSC, as it is the most rigorous. The American
in place to serve as thermal insulation for foundation, it is surrounded by a perforated pipe ACQ, (Alkaline Copper Quatenary) or CBA (Copper Forest & Paper Association has developed its own
the building. (commonly made from PVC) and gravel. The pipe Boron Azole). Both ACQ and CBA require use of program for its members, called the Sustainable
is directed away from the house. Given PVC’s hot-dipped (not electro-plated) galvanized or Forestry Initiative (SFI). Much more lumber is SFI
2) If you don’t plan to insulate, the contractor can
toxic lifecycle (see page 5) and its tendency to stainless steel fasteners to prevent premature rust- certified, but its program is not as stringent as
buy metal forms that can be used over and over
get brittle over time, we recommend using poly- ing. (See chart on page 15.) FSC. Given the option, choose FSC lumber, as it
at multiple locations. These forms come in all
ethylene plastic pipe or clay pipe (see page 20). offers the greatest certainty that you are buying
shapes and sizes and produce a smooth finished
You can take an extra step to wrap the gravel FRAMING lumber directly from a sustainably harvested forest.
surface on the concrete. Despite higher initial
and pipe in landscape fabric to keep silt and dirt The frame is built attached to the sill plate.
cost, they can be used many times, and pay for
from clogging the gravel. In choosing wood for framing, look for sustainably RECLAIMED LUMBER
themselves after only a few builds.
logged products. Look for Forest Stewardship Rather than using newly-cut lumber, you may want
3) Landscaping. By ensuring the ground slopes
3) Contractors can use reusable wood form boards. Council (FSC) certified lumber or consider engi- to choose lumber from a building that has been
away from the house, by at least 5%, or 6 inches
To minimize use of large sawn boards, carefully neered lumber. If you live in an area where “deconstructed” – taken apart carefully to allow
over the first 10 feet, you can help keep water
remove and separate the forms, allowing their “deconstruction firms” disassemble buildings, con- reuse of the components, like brick, lumber, and
from pooling by your foundation walls.
reuse several times. sider salvaged framing (see page 15). Many wood siding. Many reclaimed pieces of lumber are high-
4) Keep water away from the walls. This can be products are harvested unsustainably, tearing apart quality, tightly grained pieces – often better quali-
Some concrete is made with ash from incinerators
done by having adequate overhangs on eves and intact ecosystems and removing “old growth” trees ty than anything available on the market today.
or coal-fired power plants. Although these products
installing gutters and drainspouts that move – the large trees from forests that have never been They can be more expensive than new lumber, and
are sometimes touted as good for the environment
rainwater away from the house. logged. Companies often rely on old-growth wood more difficult to find. If you have a renovation
because it’s a supposedly “beneficial use” of mate-
for large beams, since most other forests now have project that involves demolishing part of an older
rial that would otherwise require disposal in a
smaller trees. We need to conserve old growth house, consider asking the contractor to carefully
hazardous waste landfill, this concrete contains
forests, for their biological diversity. Due to rapid deconstruct that portion of the house and reuse
heavy metals, which could leach out over time.
growth in building construction, there is increasing the materials for the renovation project. This may
pressure to log the few remaining stands of these cost more in labor, but it will save resources and
ancient trees around the world. landfill space and disposal costs.

CERTIFIED LUMBER ENGINEERED LUMBER


To make sure the wood used in your home was sus- Most 2 x 10 and larger pieces of lumber come from
tainably harvested, look for the Forest Stewardship old growth forests. As these resources have gotten
Council’s certification. They have a rigorous set of scarcer (we have cut 95% of the old-growth forests
criteria for managing forest lands, which companies in the United States), and thus the timber has got-
must demonstrate they meet in order to be certi- ten more expensive, people have sought engineered
fied. More information about the Forest Stewardship lumber. As a result, there are now many different
Council is available on-line at www.fscus.org. The products that get their strength from resins and
Forest Stewardship Council is recognized by most glues, and rely on small bits of wood from smaller
conservation and forest sustainability groups, as trees and wood from fast growing “plantation”
well as the United States Green Building Council’s trees to make them nail-able and screw-able.

12 13
HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR FRAMING

These include: in layers at 90 degrees to one another (that’s what


they mean by “oriented”) held together by glue Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
• glulams (wood that is glued and laminated
made with formaldehyde or methyl diphenyl diiso-
together), Sill Plate
cyanate (MDI). OSB can be made from scraps of
CBA (Copper Boron Azole) Wolman, Wolman PRO: Doesn’t use arsenic. Bellevue Builders $7 - $8 per board
• laminated veneer lumber, wood from other processes, while plywood is made treated sill plate Natural Select CON: Requires use of www.bellevuebuilderssupply.com (2 x 6 x 12)
from whole trees. Look for Forest Stewardship www.natural select.com galvanized fasteners, since it Curtis Lumber
• wood I-joists (similar to steel I-beams, used to is more corrosive than CCA. www.curtislumber.com
Council certified OSB or plywood. Home Depot 800-724-WOOD
replace large timbers for floors and ceilings
(www.homedepot.com/HDUS/EN_US/corporate/c
joists), and ACQ (Ammoniacal Copper Chemical Specialties, Home Depot and Lowe’s carry $9 per board (2
orp_respon/wood_purchasing_policy.shtml) and Quaternary) treated sill plate ACQ Perserve, ACQ treated lumber. x 6 x 12)
Lowe’s (www.lowes.com/woodpolicy) have both Preserve Plus Or: www.treated wood.com: click
• oriented strand board (OSB), using small bits of www.treated wood.com “where to buy,” enter zip code.
wood layered and glued together so the small committed to purchasing FSC and otherwise Choose Preserve and Preserve Plus
piece grains layer in perpendicular directions, certified lumber. However, not all sales Lumber for Frame
adding strength (for sheathing and sub-flooring), associate aware of this, and labeling of Glulams, laminated veneer Many manufacturers PRO: Stronger and more consis- Special order from Lumber prices vary
these products is inconsistent. Look for lumber (LVL) and wood I-beams tent than solid wood because Home Depot or Lowe’s. widely based on
• Finger-jointed studs (made from 2 x 4 they’re engineered. the day, the type of
the FSC logo stamped on plywood and lumber you want and
scrap lumber). CON: Made with toxic glues that
other wood products. Another option could off-gas into home, not as where you’re looking
renewable as wood. for it. Generally, all
Engineered lumber uses smaller trees, reducing for sheathing is homasote (www.homa- Look for the FSC of these are cost-
sote.com) made of recycled paper, and logo stamped on Forestry Stewardship Council Adirondack Hardwood PRO: Comes from well managed Contact Adirondack Lumber comparable.
pressure on old-growth forests. Because humans plywood and other Certified Lumber www.saranachollow.com/ forests. CON: More expensive, see also www.fscus.org
created it, it is more reliable and consistent, and which, the manufacturer claims, was wood products. adkhdw.html, 518-293-8424 may have limited selection
stronger than similarly sized all-wood timber. The the sheathing of choice from the 1930s
Reclaimed lumber Recycle the Barn PRO: Lumber from dismantled Call Recycle the Barn More expensive, but
benefits of this type of building material are that to the 1970s. As prices for wood products have 610-286-5600 barns and antique materials higher quality wood
gone up, homasote may be both the less expensive CON: Can be difficult to find,
they use smaller trees, reducing pressure on old- more costly.
growth forests, because they are created by and more environmentally sound choice.
Sheathing & Subflooring
humans, they are more reliable and consistent, and
Strawboard made from Dow Chemical Corporation PRO: Made from wheat stalks Difficult to find. Contact Dow Cost-comparable to
they are stronger than similarly sized all-wood tim- SUBFLOORING wheat stalks www.dow-bioproducts.com after harvesting, contains no for local suppliers. OSB and plywood
bers. Because it is manufactured, it requires more Subflooring is the first layer of material put down 800-441-4369 formaldehyde.

energy to produce, and the manufacturing process over the frame of the house to provide a base for CON: Can be difficult to locate.
May not be warranted for all
requires the use of some toxic materials (formalde- the finished floor product, whether it is carpet, types of uses.
hyde and methyl diphenyl diisocyanate) in the linoleum, ceramic tile, or wood. Modern subfloor-
Homasote Homasote PRO: Made from post-consumer Check your local lumber yard Cost-comparable to
resins. (See section on page 7 for details about the ing is made from plywood, which can have a high www.homasote.com recycled newspaper in New or go to OSB and plywood
content of formaldehyde, that can “off-gas” over 800-257-9491 Jersey. High water resistance. www.homasote.com/where.html
indoor air impacts and environmental impacts of to find a dealer.
CON: Not appropriate for all
these chemicals). On balance, engineered lumber time into the indoor air. To prevent exposures to types of flooring or siding
important stop-gap affordable substitutes for formaldehyde from subflooring, purchase plywood applications.
large-sized lumber, but for long-term ecological with low or no formaldehyde. You can also use ori- Certified OSB or Plywood Various companies PRO: Certified lumber means Lowe’s sells certified plywood.
ented strand board, if you prefer (it is usually less the wood is sustainably 5.2 millimeter plywood for
sustainability, we will need to find other solutions. harvested according to certain sheathing or subflooring is
expensive), which may or may not have formalde- organizational standards. either FSC or CSP certified.
hyde. If you choose plywood, use “exterior grade” CON: Lumber you purchase Home Depot provides a list by
SHEATHING geographic region of FSC certi-
may or may not be certified.
Sheathing is the outside shell of the house, made plywood, normally glued with phenol formaldehyde Labeling is inconsistent. fied products available.
in recent decades of plywood, but previously made which releases less formaldehyde than the urea
of planks of lumber. Currently, there are two pri- type used for interior grade. Strawboard, made
Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
mary choices for sheathing: plywood and oriented from post-harvest wheat straw, can be used under
strand board. Plywood is made of large thin panels carpets. Homasote (www.homasote.com) manufac-
of wood, each layer added with the grain oriented tures a product that can be used for subflooring in
90 degrees from the previous one, and glued some applications as well. Many finish floor mate-
together with formaldehyde-based glue. (See rials have particular requirements for sub-floor
page 7 for more details about the environmental stiffness and performance, which need to be con-
and health problems formaldehyde poses.) Oriented sidered. (See the chart to the right for options.)
strand board (OSB) consists of smaller wood pieces

14 15
HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR FRAMING

These include: in layers at 90 degrees to one another (that’s what


they mean by “oriented”) held together by glue Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
• glulams (wood that is glued and laminated
made with formaldehyde or methyl diphenyl diiso-
together), Sill Plate
cyanate (MDI). OSB can be made from scraps of
CBA (Copper Boron Azole) Wolman, Wolman PRO: Doesn’t use arsenic. Bellevue Builders $7 - $8 per board
• laminated veneer lumber, wood from other processes, while plywood is made treated sill plate Natural Select CON: Requires use of www.bellevuebuilderssupply.com (2 x 6 x 12)
from whole trees. Look for Forest Stewardship www.natural select.com galvanized fasteners, since it Curtis Lumber
• wood I-joists (similar to steel I-beams, used to is more corrosive than CCA. www.curtislumber.com
Council certified OSB or plywood. Home Depot 800-724-WOOD
replace large timbers for floors and ceilings
(www.homedepot.com/HDUS/EN_US/corporate/c
joists), and ACQ (Ammoniacal Copper Chemical Specialties, Home Depot and Lowe’s carry $9 per board (2
orp_respon/wood_purchasing_policy.shtml) and Quaternary) treated sill plate ACQ Perserve, ACQ treated lumber. x 6 x 12)
Lowe’s (www.lowes.com/woodpolicy) have both Preserve Plus Or: www.treated wood.com: click
• oriented strand board (OSB), using small bits of www.treated wood.com “where to buy,” enter zip code.
wood layered and glued together so the small committed to purchasing FSC and otherwise Choose Preserve and Preserve Plus
piece grains layer in perpendicular directions, certified lumber. However, not all sales Lumber for Frame
adding strength (for sheathing and sub-flooring), associate aware of this, and labeling of Glulams, laminated veneer Many manufacturers PRO: Stronger and more consis- Special order from Lumber prices vary
these products is inconsistent. Look for lumber (LVL) and wood I-beams tent than solid wood because Home Depot or Lowe’s. widely based on
• Finger-jointed studs (made from 2 x 4 they’re engineered. the day, the type of
the FSC logo stamped on plywood and lumber you want and
scrap lumber). CON: Made with toxic glues that
other wood products. Another option could off-gas into home, not as where you’re looking
renewable as wood. for it. Generally, all
Engineered lumber uses smaller trees, reducing for sheathing is homasote (www.homa- Look for the FSC of these are cost-
sote.com) made of recycled paper, and logo stamped on Forestry Stewardship Council Adirondack Hardwood PRO: Comes from well managed Contact Adirondack Lumber comparable.
pressure on old-growth forests. Because humans plywood and other Certified Lumber www.saranachollow.com/ forests. CON: More expensive, see also www.fscus.org
created it, it is more reliable and consistent, and which, the manufacturer claims, was wood products. adkhdw.html, 518-293-8424 may have limited selection
stronger than similarly sized all-wood timber. The the sheathing of choice from the 1930s
Reclaimed lumber Recycle the Barn PRO: Lumber from dismantled Call Recycle the Barn More expensive, but
benefits of this type of building material are that to the 1970s. As prices for wood products have 610-286-5600 barns and antique materials higher quality wood
gone up, homasote may be both the less expensive CON: Can be difficult to find,
they use smaller trees, reducing pressure on old- more costly.
growth forests, because they are created by and more environmentally sound choice.
Sheathing & Subflooring
humans, they are more reliable and consistent, and
Strawboard made from Dow Chemical Corporation PRO: Made from wheat stalks Difficult to find. Contact Dow Cost-comparable to
they are stronger than similarly sized all-wood tim- SUBFLOORING wheat stalks www.dow-bioproducts.com after harvesting, contains no for local suppliers. OSB and plywood
bers. Because it is manufactured, it requires more Subflooring is the first layer of material put down 800-441-4369 formaldehyde.

energy to produce, and the manufacturing process over the frame of the house to provide a base for CON: Can be difficult to locate.
May not be warranted for all
requires the use of some toxic materials (formalde- the finished floor product, whether it is carpet, types of uses.
hyde and methyl diphenyl diisocyanate) in the linoleum, ceramic tile, or wood. Modern subfloor-
Homasote Homasote PRO: Made from post-consumer Check your local lumber yard Cost-comparable to
resins. (See section on page 7 for details about the ing is made from plywood, which can have a high www.homasote.com recycled newspaper in New or go to OSB and plywood
content of formaldehyde, that can “off-gas” over 800-257-9491 Jersey. High water resistance. www.homasote.com/where.html
indoor air impacts and environmental impacts of to find a dealer.
CON: Not appropriate for all
these chemicals). On balance, engineered lumber time into the indoor air. To prevent exposures to types of flooring or siding
important stop-gap affordable substitutes for formaldehyde from subflooring, purchase plywood applications.
large-sized lumber, but for long-term ecological with low or no formaldehyde. You can also use ori- Certified OSB or Plywood Various companies PRO: Certified lumber means Lowe’s sells certified plywood.
ented strand board, if you prefer (it is usually less the wood is sustainably 5.2 millimeter plywood for
sustainability, we will need to find other solutions. harvested according to certain sheathing or subflooring is
expensive), which may or may not have formalde- organizational standards. either FSC or CSP certified.
hyde. If you choose plywood, use “exterior grade” CON: Lumber you purchase Home Depot provides a list by
SHEATHING geographic region of FSC certi-
may or may not be certified.
Sheathing is the outside shell of the house, made plywood, normally glued with phenol formaldehyde Labeling is inconsistent. fied products available.
in recent decades of plywood, but previously made which releases less formaldehyde than the urea
of planks of lumber. Currently, there are two pri- type used for interior grade. Strawboard, made
Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
mary choices for sheathing: plywood and oriented from post-harvest wheat straw, can be used under
strand board. Plywood is made of large thin panels carpets. Homasote (www.homasote.com) manufac-
of wood, each layer added with the grain oriented tures a product that can be used for subflooring in
90 degrees from the previous one, and glued some applications as well. Many finish floor mate-
together with formaldehyde-based glue. (See rials have particular requirements for sub-floor
page 7 for more details about the environmental stiffness and performance, which need to be con-
and health problems formaldehyde poses.) Oriented sidered. (See the chart to the right for options.)
strand board (OSB) consists of smaller wood pieces

14 15
WINDOWS HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR WINDOWS

Windows provide light, heat and ventilation for 10-15% in up-front cost, windows can be pur-
houses. Many old wood-frame, single-pane windows chased that have low-emissivity (low-E) coatings Type of Material Manufacturer/ Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
did not seal well, leading to costly energy loss. on the glass and low conductivity gases, like argon
Today, there are many choices for materials to use or krypton in the air space between each pane. The Wood Jeld-wen PRO: Doesn’t expand and con- Available at Home Depot, 84 Double hung
in windows. Unfortunately, one of the most popular coatings and gases help prevent heat transfer. They www.jeld-wen.com tract as much as PVC, energy Lumber, and other retailers. 30 1/8" x 41" – $116
efficient, natural material. Log onto www.jeld-wen.com
materials, especially for “replacement” windows, is increase the insulating value from R-1 for single for retailer closest to you.
CON: Requires painting every
PVC, which relies on heavy metal additives to keep paned windows to R-3 or more. The U.S. 5-7 years to avoid rotting. Note
the PVC from breaking down rapidly. (See page 5 Department of Energy and Department of that many wood windows have
PVC jamb liners.
for more details about the environmental and health Environmental Conservation have developed Energy
Wood clad in Aluminum Pella Windows and Doors PRO: 63% of Pella’s wood is Lowe’s, Pella stores and outlets Double hung
problems PVC poses.) PVC windows have been sus- Star (www.energystar.gov), a program to promote on outside www.pella.com certified – though not all by (find one at www.pella.com) 29" x 41" - $140
ceptible to excess expansion and shrinkage under and register energy efficient products, such as 800-374-4758 FSC. 95% of aluminum is recy- Pella
cled. Pella has a strong recy- 29" x 35" - $124
temperature changes, causing leaks between frame energy-efficient windows, electronic devices and cling and reuse policy. Much
and wall. Window pulls, locks and other hardware appliances. Windows that meet their standards are lower thermal expansion coeffi-
cient, maintenance free and
made from PVC often crack and break with normal rated as Energy Star quali- generally more durable than
residential usage. Many composite windows are fied. Look for this logo on PVC. Energy Star rated.
CON: Aluminum processing
part PVC and PVC jamb liners and other parts are energy efficient products
emits significant air pollution.
included in many “non PVC” windows. while shopping. To help May contain some PVC parts.
identify the best window Look for the Energy Star Wood Clad in Fiberglass Integrity Windows PRO: Fiberglass (known as Dealers throughout NYS Double hung
label on energy on outside www.integritywindows.com Ultrex) exterior protects wood, (find one at 30.5" x 40 1/4" - $215
ENERGY EFFICIENCY ratings for your location, visit efficient products. 888-537-7828 energy efficient (Energy Star www.integritywindows.com)
For energy efficiency, choose double paned win- www.efficientwindows.org. rated), minimal expansion and
contraction, does not corrode.
dows, which insulate almost twice as well as single
CON: Fiberglass processing
glazing. They can make the house quieter, less emits significant air pollution.
drafty, and more comfortable during all seasons,
Aluminum Crystal Windows PRO: Three times as strong as Distributors throughout NYS Double hung
while saving energy and money. For an additional www.crystalwindows.com vinyl and forty three times (call 800-472-9988) 29" x 41" - $120
stronger than wood. Resists
deterioration and does not
shrink, swell, split, crack, or
rust. Can be painted.
CON: Aluminum processing
emits significant air pollution.
Windows let heat escape,
may produce condensation.
Must add insulation between
inside and outside of frame and
sash to make even moderately
energy efficient.
Fiberglass Inline Fiberglass PRO: Fiberglass is made of a Log onto Double hung
www.inlinefiberglass.com widely available material – www.inlinefiberglass.com 29" x 41" - $300
416-679-1171 sand, and a resin. Durable, for local retailer.
high energy efficiency, and
quite strong.
CON: Fiberglass processing
emits significant air pollution.
Difficult to recyle, no recycled
content.

Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.

16 17
WINDOWS HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR WINDOWS

Windows provide light, heat and ventilation for 10-15% in up-front cost, windows can be pur-
houses. Many old wood-frame, single-pane windows chased that have low-emissivity (low-E) coatings Type of Material Manufacturer/ Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
did not seal well, leading to costly energy loss. on the glass and low conductivity gases, like argon
Today, there are many choices for materials to use or krypton in the air space between each pane. The Wood Jeld-wen PRO: Doesn’t expand and con- Available at Home Depot, 84 Double hung
in windows. Unfortunately, one of the most popular coatings and gases help prevent heat transfer. They www.jeld-wen.com tract as much as PVC, energy Lumber, and other retailers. 30 1/8" x 41" – $116
efficient, natural material. Log onto www.jeld-wen.com
materials, especially for “replacement” windows, is increase the insulating value from R-1 for single for retailer closest to you.
CON: Requires painting every
PVC, which relies on heavy metal additives to keep paned windows to R-3 or more. The U.S. 5-7 years to avoid rotting. Note
the PVC from breaking down rapidly. (See page 5 Department of Energy and Department of that many wood windows have
PVC jamb liners.
for more details about the environmental and health Environmental Conservation have developed Energy
Wood clad in Aluminum Pella Windows and Doors PRO: 63% of Pella’s wood is Lowe’s, Pella stores and outlets Double hung
problems PVC poses.) PVC windows have been sus- Star (www.energystar.gov), a program to promote on outside www.pella.com certified – though not all by (find one at www.pella.com) 29" x 41" - $140
ceptible to excess expansion and shrinkage under and register energy efficient products, such as 800-374-4758 FSC. 95% of aluminum is recy- Pella
cled. Pella has a strong recy- 29" x 35" - $124
temperature changes, causing leaks between frame energy-efficient windows, electronic devices and cling and reuse policy. Much
and wall. Window pulls, locks and other hardware appliances. Windows that meet their standards are lower thermal expansion coeffi-
cient, maintenance free and
made from PVC often crack and break with normal rated as Energy Star quali- generally more durable than
residential usage. Many composite windows are fied. Look for this logo on PVC. Energy Star rated.
CON: Aluminum processing
part PVC and PVC jamb liners and other parts are energy efficient products
emits significant air pollution.
included in many “non PVC” windows. while shopping. To help May contain some PVC parts.
identify the best window Look for the Energy Star Wood Clad in Fiberglass Integrity Windows PRO: Fiberglass (known as Dealers throughout NYS Double hung
label on energy on outside www.integritywindows.com Ultrex) exterior protects wood, (find one at 30.5" x 40 1/4" - $215
ENERGY EFFICIENCY ratings for your location, visit efficient products. 888-537-7828 energy efficient (Energy Star www.integritywindows.com)
For energy efficiency, choose double paned win- www.efficientwindows.org. rated), minimal expansion and
contraction, does not corrode.
dows, which insulate almost twice as well as single
CON: Fiberglass processing
glazing. They can make the house quieter, less emits significant air pollution.
drafty, and more comfortable during all seasons,
Aluminum Crystal Windows PRO: Three times as strong as Distributors throughout NYS Double hung
while saving energy and money. For an additional www.crystalwindows.com vinyl and forty three times (call 800-472-9988) 29" x 41" - $120
stronger than wood. Resists
deterioration and does not
shrink, swell, split, crack, or
rust. Can be painted.
CON: Aluminum processing
emits significant air pollution.
Windows let heat escape,
may produce condensation.
Must add insulation between
inside and outside of frame and
sash to make even moderately
energy efficient.
Fiberglass Inline Fiberglass PRO: Fiberglass is made of a Log onto Double hung
www.inlinefiberglass.com widely available material – www.inlinefiberglass.com 29" x 41" - $300
416-679-1171 sand, and a resin. Durable, for local retailer.
high energy efficiency, and
quite strong.
CON: Fiberglass processing
emits significant air pollution.
Difficult to recyle, no recycled
content.

Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.

16 17
INSULATION AND ROOFING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR INSULATION

Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost


INSULATION
Concrete Foam Air Krete PRO: Non-toxic, needs no Gutters, Insulation and More Around 50 cents per
www.airkrete.com treatment to resists pests, (distributor/installer) board foot installed
A well-insulated house is a key ingredient in its lations, which are clearly marked as such. Houses 315-834-6609 fire resistant, can be installed
energy-efficiency, so choosing an insulation that is may also have blown insulation, such as cellulose in existing houses.
both health-protective and effective is important. or concrete foam. Cellulose U.S. Green Fiber PRO: Made from recycled Home Depot, Lowe’s, or call 1 to 2 times that of
www.us-gf.com newspaper treated with boric 800-228-0024 for local retailer fiberglass batts
Insulation is placed in the walls, in attics/roofs, 800-228-0024 acid – non-toxic, fire resistant
A wide range of options for insulation has emerged
and underneath the house. There are several ways in most cases. Can fill in
in recent decades, including cementous foam, around tightly cables and pipes.
to improve the energy efficiency when designing
which is cement mixed with air to form a “mousse” CON: Can settle over time,
your house or addition. This can include using installation can be messy, must
that can be injected into your existing walls, or keep away from recessed lights
2 x 6 construction for outer walls and adding
applied to new construction. Like cellulose, it can and flues, boric acid (flame
thicker insulation, or by staggering 2 x 4 studs so retardant) may corrode pipes.
fill in around all pipes and wires, and it’s flexible
that blown cellulose (shredded newsprint treated Cotton/Denim Bonded Logic/Ultra Touch PRO: Made from 85% post- Order from Eco of NY $0.50 - $1.00/square
enough to run new wires through it should need
with boric acid) insulation can form a continuous www.bonded logic.com industrial denim scraps, 800-238-5008 foot, depending on
arise. It has the added advantage of being entirely 480-812-9114 non-toxic boric acid as fire www.environproducts.com thickness.
layer. Conventional insulation is usually fiberglass, and pest retardant.
fire-resistant, as it contains nothing that will burn.
which can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Fiberglass – Johns Manville PRO: Contains no formaldehyde. Many Lowe’s stores carry $0.50 - $1.00/square
If you want something that comes in rolls like
Fiberglass can cause itching due to mechanical irri- formaldehyde free www.jm.com/insulation Made from recycled content. this product foot, depending on
fiberglass, there’s post-industrial recycled denim. 800-654-3103 thickness
tation from the fibers. Breathing fibers can irritate CON: Not recyclable.
For energy effiency, the higher the overall “R
the airways. If you choose fiberglass, be sure to
value” (the amount the material resists heat trans- Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
cover all skin and wear a dust mask. It also
fer), the better. The overall R-value varies by type
contains formaldehyde (see page 7 for more
of product, application, thickness, and brand, so if
information about harm caused by formaldehyde
you're looking for new insulation, get accurate
production and use). However, some fiberglass
manufacturers now offer formaldehyde free formu-
measurements for your job and use that informa- HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR ROOFING
tion to find the best insulation for you.

ROOFING Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost

The roofing material shields the house from the In upstate New York, the long-term best choice Metal Many. See PRO: Made from recycled mate- Widely available. 2 - 3 (or more) times
www.metalroofing.com rial, recyclable. Lasts twice as Contractors listed at that of asphalt
elements and adds style. There are many different may well be a light-colored baked-enamel finished long as asphalt. Reflects heat shingles
www.metalroofing.com
options for roofing. For steep roofs, there are metal roof, as it will reflect summer heat, and reducing summer cooling, sheds
snow easily. Lasts 2-3 times as
asphalt shingles, metal of various shapes and allow snow to slide off of it without forming ice long as asphalt shingles. 50
sizes, wood shingles, concrete composite or slate. dams. The prices for metal roofs vary widely, but year warrantee.
For shallow or flat roofs, there are options like tar, most are somewhat more expensive to install. Asphalt Many PRO: Inexpensive. Light colored Any home improvement store $0.35 - $1/square foot
shingles will reflect more heat.
asphalt rolls, membranes such as EPDM and TPO However, a well-made and well-installed metal roof
CON: Uses toxic materials,
(see last two listings in chart on next page). can far outlast an asphalt roof, saving money in which can run off in rain.
Asphalt and tar plants release noxious chemicals the long run. Composite Enviroshake PRO: 95% recycled post-indus- 23 locations in New York State, Approximately
such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic www.enviroshake.com trial plastics, crumb rubber, find them at: $3/square foot
If you have a flat roof, consider creating a “green 866-423-3302 cellulosic fibers, etc. Looks www.enviroshake.com/
organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air like cedar but doesn’t rot. 50 retailers.php?country=us&state
roof” -- covered with plants. These start with a
toxics may cause cancer, central nervous system year warrantee. =ny
membrane like TPO, and then have a layer of grow- CON: Not recyclable.
problems, liver damage, respiratory problems and
ing substrate (engineered soil) that selected plants
skin irritation. Flat Roofs
can grow in. Green roofs can cut down on cooling
TPO Stevens Roofing System PRO: Less toxic in production Dave Brown Comparable to similar
Regardless of the type of material you choose, the costs, keep rainwater from simply running off into (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) than asphalt or PVC. Can be Stevens Regional Sales Director vinyl roofing
choice of color will influence heating requirements. streams or sewers, help reduce air pollution and recycled into lower-quality 518-762-2071
products.
A black or dark colored roof will absorb more heat, look nice. For more information, check out
EPDM Firestone Building Products PRO: Less toxic than Admiral - NY Regional Sales
increasing cooling costs in summer. A lighter, more www.communityresources.org/greenroof.html or (Ethylene Propylene www.firestonebpco.com asphalt or PVC. 978-988-1166
reflective roof will decrease these costs. The color www.greenroofs.com. Diene Monomer) 800-428-4442
of the roof does not play as significant a role in
Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
winter heating costs.
18 19
INSULATION AND ROOFING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR INSULATION

Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost


INSULATION
Concrete Foam Air Krete PRO: Non-toxic, needs no Gutters, Insulation and More Around 50 cents per
www.airkrete.com treatment to resists pests, (distributor/installer) board foot installed
A well-insulated house is a key ingredient in its lations, which are clearly marked as such. Houses 315-834-6609 fire resistant, can be installed
energy-efficiency, so choosing an insulation that is may also have blown insulation, such as cellulose in existing houses.
both health-protective and effective is important. or concrete foam. Cellulose U.S. Green Fiber PRO: Made from recycled Home Depot, Lowe’s, or call 1 to 2 times that of
www.us-gf.com newspaper treated with boric 800-228-0024 for local retailer fiberglass batts
Insulation is placed in the walls, in attics/roofs, 800-228-0024 acid – non-toxic, fire resistant
A wide range of options for insulation has emerged
and underneath the house. There are several ways in most cases. Can fill in
in recent decades, including cementous foam, around tightly cables and pipes.
to improve the energy efficiency when designing
which is cement mixed with air to form a “mousse” CON: Can settle over time,
your house or addition. This can include using installation can be messy, must
that can be injected into your existing walls, or keep away from recessed lights
2 x 6 construction for outer walls and adding
applied to new construction. Like cellulose, it can and flues, boric acid (flame
thicker insulation, or by staggering 2 x 4 studs so retardant) may corrode pipes.
fill in around all pipes and wires, and it’s flexible
that blown cellulose (shredded newsprint treated Cotton/Denim Bonded Logic/Ultra Touch PRO: Made from 85% post- Order from Eco of NY $0.50 - $1.00/square
enough to run new wires through it should need
with boric acid) insulation can form a continuous www.bonded logic.com industrial denim scraps, 800-238-5008 foot, depending on
arise. It has the added advantage of being entirely 480-812-9114 non-toxic boric acid as fire www.environproducts.com thickness.
layer. Conventional insulation is usually fiberglass, and pest retardant.
fire-resistant, as it contains nothing that will burn.
which can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Fiberglass – Johns Manville PRO: Contains no formaldehyde. Many Lowe’s stores carry $0.50 - $1.00/square
If you want something that comes in rolls like
Fiberglass can cause itching due to mechanical irri- formaldehyde free www.jm.com/insulation Made from recycled content. this product foot, depending on
fiberglass, there’s post-industrial recycled denim. 800-654-3103 thickness
tation from the fibers. Breathing fibers can irritate CON: Not recyclable.
For energy effiency, the higher the overall “R
the airways. If you choose fiberglass, be sure to
value” (the amount the material resists heat trans- Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
cover all skin and wear a dust mask. It also
fer), the better. The overall R-value varies by type
contains formaldehyde (see page 7 for more
of product, application, thickness, and brand, so if
information about harm caused by formaldehyde
you're looking for new insulation, get accurate
production and use). However, some fiberglass
manufacturers now offer formaldehyde free formu-
measurements for your job and use that informa- HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR ROOFING
tion to find the best insulation for you.

ROOFING Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost

The roofing material shields the house from the In upstate New York, the long-term best choice Metal Many. See PRO: Made from recycled mate- Widely available. 2 - 3 (or more) times
www.metalroofing.com rial, recyclable. Lasts twice as Contractors listed at that of asphalt
elements and adds style. There are many different may well be a light-colored baked-enamel finished long as asphalt. Reflects heat shingles
www.metalroofing.com
options for roofing. For steep roofs, there are metal roof, as it will reflect summer heat, and reducing summer cooling, sheds
snow easily. Lasts 2-3 times as
asphalt shingles, metal of various shapes and allow snow to slide off of it without forming ice long as asphalt shingles. 50
sizes, wood shingles, concrete composite or slate. dams. The prices for metal roofs vary widely, but year warrantee.
For shallow or flat roofs, there are options like tar, most are somewhat more expensive to install. Asphalt Many PRO: Inexpensive. Light colored Any home improvement store $0.35 - $1/square foot
shingles will reflect more heat.
asphalt rolls, membranes such as EPDM and TPO However, a well-made and well-installed metal roof
CON: Uses toxic materials,
(see last two listings in chart on next page). can far outlast an asphalt roof, saving money in which can run off in rain.
Asphalt and tar plants release noxious chemicals the long run. Composite Enviroshake PRO: 95% recycled post-indus- 23 locations in New York State, Approximately
such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic www.enviroshake.com trial plastics, crumb rubber, find them at: $3/square foot
If you have a flat roof, consider creating a “green 866-423-3302 cellulosic fibers, etc. Looks www.enviroshake.com/
organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air like cedar but doesn’t rot. 50 retailers.php?country=us&state
roof” -- covered with plants. These start with a
toxics may cause cancer, central nervous system year warrantee. =ny
membrane like TPO, and then have a layer of grow- CON: Not recyclable.
problems, liver damage, respiratory problems and
ing substrate (engineered soil) that selected plants
skin irritation. Flat Roofs
can grow in. Green roofs can cut down on cooling
TPO Stevens Roofing System PRO: Less toxic in production Dave Brown Comparable to similar
Regardless of the type of material you choose, the costs, keep rainwater from simply running off into (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) than asphalt or PVC. Can be Stevens Regional Sales Director vinyl roofing
choice of color will influence heating requirements. streams or sewers, help reduce air pollution and recycled into lower-quality 518-762-2071
products.
A black or dark colored roof will absorb more heat, look nice. For more information, check out
EPDM Firestone Building Products PRO: Less toxic than Admiral - NY Regional Sales
increasing cooling costs in summer. A lighter, more www.communityresources.org/greenroof.html or (Ethylene Propylene www.firestonebpco.com asphalt or PVC. 978-988-1166
reflective roof will decrease these costs. The color www.greenroofs.com. Diene Monomer) 800-428-4442
of the roof does not play as significant a role in
Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
winter heating costs.
18 19
SIDING
SIDING, WIRING AND PLUMBING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR SIDING

Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost


SIDING
Composite James Hardie Siding Products PRO: Comes in many designs, Special order through some $1.20 - $1.80 per
Choosing new siding can be a difficult task when difficult to paint or repair. PVC can be hazardous (recycled wood fiber Hardie Siding colors. Paintable. Non-toxic. Home Depots, 84 Lumber, square foot (installed)
weighing cost, benefits to the house, and environ- to occupants in the case of fire, as PVC does not and cement) www.james hardie.com More durable and lower mainte- other suppliers. Contact
888-542-7343 nance than wood or PVC. manufacturer at 888-542-7343
mental impact of the product. Siding must with- burn but smolders, creating dioxin and hydrochloric Won’t burn or melt. Sturdy for dealer near you
U.S. Green Fiber and weather resistant. Often
stand all types of weather, look attractive, and be acid (which can burn the lungs and kill a person www.us-gf.com Home Depot, Lowe’s, or call
warranted for 50 years.
affordable to buy, install and maintain. PVC siding long before normal smoke inhalation would), as 800-228-0024 800-228-0024 for local retailer
CON: Must use precautions
has been growing in popularity over the past few well as numerous other environmental health when cutting boards
(avoid silica dust).
decades, as the PVC industry plays up the easy impacts when manufactured, used and disposed of
install (even over older siding), low up-front cost (see page 5 for details). There are many other Forestry Stewardship Council Contact local mason PRO: Wood is natural, renew- Contact Heyes Forest Products $4.15 - $5.40 per
(FSC) Certified Wood contractor in phonebook. able, durable. FSC certification directly. Find other suppliers square foot (installed)
and supposed simple maintenance. In reality, how- options -- including solid wood, APA-rated ply- means third-party verification at www.forestethics.org
ever, PVC siding grows more brittle over time, and wood, oriented-strand board (OSB), wood-resin that the wood is sustainably
grown and harvested.
can be more easily blown off in high winds. While composites, stucco, fiber-cement, brick, polypropy- CON: High maintenance, will
it does not need painting, the colors of PVC siding lene, masonite, and aluminum. Some of the more burn, can be infested with pests.
are limited and will fade over time, and it is very sustainable options are presented on the next page. Brick Contact local mason PRO: Durable, won’t burn in Contact local mason contractor $6.18 per square foot
contractor in phonebook. fire, made of natural materials. in phonebook (installed)
CON: Heavy, so may use more
energy if brick must be trans-
ported long distances. Requires
skilled labor to install.
Aluminum Alcoa PRO: Recyclable, durable, Log onto $4.50 per square foot
WIRING AND PLUMBING www.alcoahomes.com non-combustible, can be made www.alcoahomes.com for a (installed)
from recycled aluminum, and quote from local contractors
requires very little mainte-
nance. Unlike wood, will
ELECTRICAL WIRES & CABLE PIPES & PLUMBING never chip, flake, or peel.
Most people do not realize that nearly all of the Pipes are used around the house for plumbing and CON: Aluminum processing
electrical wiring they encounter is coated with drainage. Recently, PVC pipe has become popular emits significant air pollution.
PVC. (See page 5 for more information about the for drainage and waste water pipes because it is Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
health problems posed by PVC). Currently, the lightweight and easily installed. However, it lacks
National Electrical Code (NEC) in essence requires durability. Sunlight, heat and impact damage lead
the use of PVC coated wire and cable for residen- to frequent early repair or replacement of PVC sys-
tial housing because of its high kindling point tems. PVC is especially susceptible to expansion
(when it starts to burn). While this fire-retardant and contraction, which places a constant strain HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR WIRING AND PLUMBING
property is widely touted by the PVC industry, upon the joints and the fixings. This problem has
smoldering PVC releases toxic hydrochloric acid and not been solved and aging exacerbates the wear
heavy metals. caused by expansion and contraction, as does the Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
hardening of the rubber seals used at joints.
This means that while PVC-free wiring and cable is Foundation Drainage (Around Outside of House)
readily available for projects that do not need to There is a range of traditional and new materials High Density Hancor Pipe PRO: Durable, made from at Call 800-FOR PIPE for nearest $0.45/ft. for 4" pipe
Polyethylene (HDPE) www.hancor.com least 50% recycled materials. dealer, many throughout NY (comes in 250 ft. rolls)
conform to the NEC, housing projects must use PVC that don’t rely on PVC and offer the same or 800-FOR PIPE or $0.95/ft. for
coated cable. It is a good idea to ask your contrac- improved qualities with fewer lifecycle hazards. 6" pipe (comes in
100 ft. rolls)
tor or electrician if this is the case when you have Choose pipe products to meet project needs (i.e.,
work done on your house, and if it is possible to polyethylene pipe where weight is a primary con- Drainage, Waste, Venting (Inside the House)
use PVC-free cable and wire, we encourage you to sideration, clay or cast iron where durability is Cast Iron Pipe Tyler Pipe PRO: Made from recycled iron. Go to $4.58/ft. for 3"
www.tylerpipe.com Durable. Recyclable. Quieter www.tylerpipe.com/ny.htm pipe $5.95/ft. for
do so. Check out www.healthybuilding.net for most important. When comparing costs, consider 800-527-8478 than any plastic. Can be for regional sales reps or call 4" pipe (comes in
information about PVC-free wire. the life span of your options, including cost of attached without soldering. main number 10 ft. sections)
repeated installation or repair. For example, while CON: Very heavy.
a PVC pipe drainage system may initially cost much Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
less than a comparable vitrified clay pipe system,
clay pipe systems last 4 - 5 times longer than the
PVC system, which saves not only materials but
also labor costs over time.
20 21
SIDING
SIDING, WIRING AND PLUMBING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR SIDING

Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost


SIDING
Composite James Hardie Siding Products PRO: Comes in many designs, Special order through some $1.20 - $1.80 per
Choosing new siding can be a difficult task when difficult to paint or repair. PVC can be hazardous (recycled wood fiber Hardie Siding colors. Paintable. Non-toxic. Home Depots, 84 Lumber, square foot (installed)
weighing cost, benefits to the house, and environ- to occupants in the case of fire, as PVC does not and cement) www.james hardie.com More durable and lower mainte- other suppliers. Contact
888-542-7343 nance than wood or PVC. manufacturer at 888-542-7343
mental impact of the product. Siding must with- burn but smolders, creating dioxin and hydrochloric Won’t burn or melt. Sturdy for dealer near you
U.S. Green Fiber and weather resistant. Often
stand all types of weather, look attractive, and be acid (which can burn the lungs and kill a person www.us-gf.com Home Depot, Lowe’s, or call
warranted for 50 years.
affordable to buy, install and maintain. PVC siding long before normal smoke inhalation would), as 800-228-0024 800-228-0024 for local retailer
CON: Must use precautions
has been growing in popularity over the past few well as numerous other environmental health when cutting boards
(avoid silica dust).
decades, as the PVC industry plays up the easy impacts when manufactured, used and disposed of
install (even over older siding), low up-front cost (see page 5 for details). There are many other Forestry Stewardship Council Contact local mason PRO: Wood is natural, renew- Contact Heyes Forest Products $4.15 - $5.40 per
(FSC) Certified Wood contractor in phonebook. able, durable. FSC certification directly. Find other suppliers square foot (installed)
and supposed simple maintenance. In reality, how- options -- including solid wood, APA-rated ply- means third-party verification at www.forestethics.org
ever, PVC siding grows more brittle over time, and wood, oriented-strand board (OSB), wood-resin that the wood is sustainably
grown and harvested.
can be more easily blown off in high winds. While composites, stucco, fiber-cement, brick, polypropy- CON: High maintenance, will
it does not need painting, the colors of PVC siding lene, masonite, and aluminum. Some of the more burn, can be infested with pests.
are limited and will fade over time, and it is very sustainable options are presented on the next page. Brick Contact local mason PRO: Durable, won’t burn in Contact local mason contractor $6.18 per square foot
contractor in phonebook. fire, made of natural materials. in phonebook (installed)
CON: Heavy, so may use more
energy if brick must be trans-
ported long distances. Requires
skilled labor to install.
Aluminum Alcoa PRO: Recyclable, durable, Log onto $4.50 per square foot
WIRING AND PLUMBING www.alcoahomes.com non-combustible, can be made www.alcoahomes.com for a (installed)
from recycled aluminum, and quote from local contractors
requires very little mainte-
nance. Unlike wood, will
ELECTRICAL WIRES & CABLE PIPES & PLUMBING never chip, flake, or peel.
Most people do not realize that nearly all of the Pipes are used around the house for plumbing and CON: Aluminum processing
electrical wiring they encounter is coated with drainage. Recently, PVC pipe has become popular emits significant air pollution.
PVC. (See page 5 for more information about the for drainage and waste water pipes because it is Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
health problems posed by PVC). Currently, the lightweight and easily installed. However, it lacks
National Electrical Code (NEC) in essence requires durability. Sunlight, heat and impact damage lead
the use of PVC coated wire and cable for residen- to frequent early repair or replacement of PVC sys-
tial housing because of its high kindling point tems. PVC is especially susceptible to expansion
(when it starts to burn). While this fire-retardant and contraction, which places a constant strain HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR WIRING AND PLUMBING
property is widely touted by the PVC industry, upon the joints and the fixings. This problem has
smoldering PVC releases toxic hydrochloric acid and not been solved and aging exacerbates the wear
heavy metals. caused by expansion and contraction, as does the Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
hardening of the rubber seals used at joints.
This means that while PVC-free wiring and cable is Foundation Drainage (Around Outside of House)
readily available for projects that do not need to There is a range of traditional and new materials High Density Hancor Pipe PRO: Durable, made from at Call 800-FOR PIPE for nearest $0.45/ft. for 4" pipe
Polyethylene (HDPE) www.hancor.com least 50% recycled materials. dealer, many throughout NY (comes in 250 ft. rolls)
conform to the NEC, housing projects must use PVC that don’t rely on PVC and offer the same or 800-FOR PIPE or $0.95/ft. for
coated cable. It is a good idea to ask your contrac- improved qualities with fewer lifecycle hazards. 6" pipe (comes in
100 ft. rolls)
tor or electrician if this is the case when you have Choose pipe products to meet project needs (i.e.,
work done on your house, and if it is possible to polyethylene pipe where weight is a primary con- Drainage, Waste, Venting (Inside the House)
use PVC-free cable and wire, we encourage you to sideration, clay or cast iron where durability is Cast Iron Pipe Tyler Pipe PRO: Made from recycled iron. Go to $4.58/ft. for 3"
www.tylerpipe.com Durable. Recyclable. Quieter www.tylerpipe.com/ny.htm pipe $5.95/ft. for
do so. Check out www.healthybuilding.net for most important. When comparing costs, consider 800-527-8478 than any plastic. Can be for regional sales reps or call 4" pipe (comes in
information about PVC-free wire. the life span of your options, including cost of attached without soldering. main number 10 ft. sections)
repeated installation or repair. For example, while CON: Very heavy.
a PVC pipe drainage system may initially cost much Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
less than a comparable vitrified clay pipe system,
clay pipe systems last 4 - 5 times longer than the
PVC system, which saves not only materials but
also labor costs over time.
20 21
FLOORING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR FLOORING

Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost


There are many different ways to cover floors: with CARPETS
hard surfaces, like wood or tile, with resilient sur- Many people view carpets as comfortable additions Hard Flooring
Bamboo Moso PRO: Rapidly renewable, Contact them directly – $4 - $5/square foot
faces like linoleum, or with carpets. Each choice to their home, but don’t realize the amount of www.moso.com harvested with no harm to its no NYS dealers
can have both environmental and health impacts. material that gets trapped in them. They are a sink 800-617-2324 natural habitat, bamboo will
regrow from harvested stumps.
for dirt, allergens, and pathogens, but also contain Eco Friendly Flooring $3.75 - $7/square foot
Durable. Easy to care for.
HARD FLOORS toxic materials that stick to the carpet fibers and www.ecofriendlyflooring.com
866-250-3273
People who are concerned about asthma triggers in are difficult to remove. Most experts recommend
Ceramic Tile Eco-Wise At least 55% recycled glass, www.ecowise.com $14 - $17/square foot
their homes should consider hard floors as a pri- using area rugs that can be removed and washed Hand-crafted ceramic tiles that
www.ecowise.com
mary option instead of wall-to-wall carpet. If hard- periodically over wall-to-wall carpets. 512- 326-447 are water, frost, chemical, and
stain resistant.
wood floors are treated with a non-toxic finish,
Carpets were traditionally made from natural mate- Recycled Glass Tiles Eco-Wise PRO: The strength of recycled Contact them directly – $40 - $50/square foot
they can be durable and attractive. Seek FSC certi- glass tiles exceeds that of no NYS dealers
rials like wool. Today, some wall-to-wall and area (see contact above)
fied hardwoods to protect the sustainability of our ceramic tiles, making them
carpets are made from synthetic materials with PVC ideal for any job where a tile
forests. Bamboo, which is ready for harvest in only surface is used. 100% recycled
backing to keep the fibers in order. However, some
four to six years, is an attractive, sustainable, glass from post-consumer or
companies, like Shaw, have found healthier alter- post-industrial sources.
moderately priced alternative to hardwoods and is
natives for their backings. Safer choices, listed
more durable than many varieties. Tile floors can Resilient Floor Covering
below, range from fairly conventional carpet with a Linoleum Eco Friendly Flooring PRO: Decomposes in dump, Contact Manufacturer $5 -$6/square foot
be made from recycled glass tiles, which are inex-
polyolefin backing, to all natural carpets of jute, www.ecofriendlyflooring.com may be compostable, naturally
pensive, use resources wisely, look nice, and can 866-250-3273 antimicrobial. Available in float-
hemp, and wool. Wool carpets have numerous ing floor planks — top layer of
be sterilized to reduce allergens. Tile absorbs heat
advantages, including looking good until just linoleum, middle layer of recy-
and can act as a heat sink, helping to store solar cled fiberboard, and bottom
before the end of their use, as fibers shear off in layer of cork that can lock into
energy during the day to keep the house comfort-
layers. Individual fibers are durable and hold their place without glue or nails.
able at night.
springiness for a long time. Up-front costs vary Marmoleum Many throughout NY. $5 -$6/square foot
greatly, from that of conventional carpet upwards. www.themarmoleumstore PRO: Made of natural materials. See website, under You must also purchase
Some manufacturers use reclaimed lumber from .com “Dealer Search” Forbo’s adhesive, cleaner,
Naturally anti-static, anti-
older structures (see page 13, where this practice is You can also reduce the number of potentially 570-459-0771 microbial. and finish, which will
increased overall cost.
discussed in relation to framing) as flooring. Hard toxic chemicals in your home by choosing not to
floors can also be made from materials like fast- get stain-resistant treatments applied to your car- Cork Expanko PRO: Naturally mold resistant, Ithaca Tile & Hardwood, Inc. $10/square foot
www.expanko.com renewable product, zero VOC, 607-272-2763 will ship
growing bamboo, with looks similar to hardwood. pet. They may prevent stains from setting in, but During the manufacturing anywhere in NYS
they will also outgas chemicals into your indoor process, all raw materials are
consumed, either for the fin-
RESILIENT FLOORS air. Choosing natural-fiber area rugs on top of ished flooring product or as an
some other type of flooring (such as recycled glass energy source. Additionally, all
Many people have enjoyed the look and easy recommended finishes, sealers,
cleaning of linoleum for decades. Did you know tile) can enable cleaning options to keep contami- and adhesives are water-based
nants to a minimum. When having wall-to-wall car- and environmentally friendly.
that most tile and sheet “linoleum” is actually
made from PVC, and can release toxic chemicals pet installed, use mechanical attachment (staples Recycled Rubber Expanko PRO: Made from a unique blend Ithaca Tile & Hardwood, Inc. $8.50 - $12/square
Reztec Chunks of recycled tires, post industrial 607-272-2763 foot
into your indoor air as it ages? Many staff at home or nails around the perimeter) if possible – the www.expanko.com waste rubber and virgin rubber.
improvement stores don’t understand the differ- adhesive used to attach carpet to subflooring can CON: Tires contain chemicals
release toxic chemicals known as Perfluorooctanoic that could offgas into the home.
ence, but the original natural linoleum is made
from linseed oil, a natural product. It does not Acids (PFOAs) into the air as well. The compounds Carpet, Wool Earth Weave Carpet Mills PRO: COMPLETELY biodegradable. Available only through $5 - $6/square foot
www.earthweave.com 100% natural raw materials. manufacturer
have the same environmental or health impacts of are used in a huge range of consumer products, 706-278-8200 Face fiber is 100% natural wool.
PVC. These floors can be cleaned to prevent the including Teflon and carpet stain protectors. They No moth proofing or stain pro-
tections applied, no harsh dyes
buildup of contaminants and allergens. There are linger in the environment and accumulate in living or chemical bonding agents, use
also cork floors available, made from a rapidly tissues. Exposure may lead to increased risks of a natural primary of hemp and
cotton. Adhesive is 100% natu-
renewable source. birth defects, developmental or other health prob- ral and bio-degradable, made of
lems, including cancer, according to the EPA, based natural rubber. The back of car-
pet is jute.
on animal studies and other research.

Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.

22 23
FLOORING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR FLOORING

Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost


There are many different ways to cover floors: with CARPETS
hard surfaces, like wood or tile, with resilient sur- Many people view carpets as comfortable additions Hard Flooring
Bamboo Moso PRO: Rapidly renewable, Contact them directly – $4 - $5/square foot
faces like linoleum, or with carpets. Each choice to their home, but don’t realize the amount of www.moso.com harvested with no harm to its no NYS dealers
can have both environmental and health impacts. material that gets trapped in them. They are a sink 800-617-2324 natural habitat, bamboo will
regrow from harvested stumps.
for dirt, allergens, and pathogens, but also contain Eco Friendly Flooring $3.75 - $7/square foot
Durable. Easy to care for.
HARD FLOORS toxic materials that stick to the carpet fibers and www.ecofriendlyflooring.com
866-250-3273
People who are concerned about asthma triggers in are difficult to remove. Most experts recommend
Ceramic Tile Eco-Wise At least 55% recycled glass, www.ecowise.com $14 - $17/square foot
their homes should consider hard floors as a pri- using area rugs that can be removed and washed Hand-crafted ceramic tiles that
www.ecowise.com
mary option instead of wall-to-wall carpet. If hard- periodically over wall-to-wall carpets. 512- 326-447 are water, frost, chemical, and
stain resistant.
wood floors are treated with a non-toxic finish,
Carpets were traditionally made from natural mate- Recycled Glass Tiles Eco-Wise PRO: The strength of recycled Contact them directly – $40 - $50/square foot
they can be durable and attractive. Seek FSC certi- glass tiles exceeds that of no NYS dealers
rials like wool. Today, some wall-to-wall and area (see contact above)
fied hardwoods to protect the sustainability of our ceramic tiles, making them
carpets are made from synthetic materials with PVC ideal for any job where a tile
forests. Bamboo, which is ready for harvest in only surface is used. 100% recycled
backing to keep the fibers in order. However, some
four to six years, is an attractive, sustainable, glass from post-consumer or
companies, like Shaw, have found healthier alter- post-industrial sources.
moderately priced alternative to hardwoods and is
natives for their backings. Safer choices, listed
more durable than many varieties. Tile floors can Resilient Floor Covering
below, range from fairly conventional carpet with a Linoleum Eco Friendly Flooring PRO: Decomposes in dump, Contact Manufacturer $5 -$6/square foot
be made from recycled glass tiles, which are inex-
polyolefin backing, to all natural carpets of jute, www.ecofriendlyflooring.com may be compostable, naturally
pensive, use resources wisely, look nice, and can 866-250-3273 antimicrobial. Available in float-
hemp, and wool. Wool carpets have numerous ing floor planks — top layer of
be sterilized to reduce allergens. Tile absorbs heat
advantages, including looking good until just linoleum, middle layer of recy-
and can act as a heat sink, helping to store solar cled fiberboard, and bottom
before the end of their use, as fibers shear off in layer of cork that can lock into
energy during the day to keep the house comfort-
layers. Individual fibers are durable and hold their place without glue or nails.
able at night.
springiness for a long time. Up-front costs vary Marmoleum Many throughout NY. $5 -$6/square foot
greatly, from that of conventional carpet upwards. www.themarmoleumstore PRO: Made of natural materials. See website, under You must also purchase
Some manufacturers use reclaimed lumber from .com “Dealer Search” Forbo’s adhesive, cleaner,
Naturally anti-static, anti-
older structures (see page 13, where this practice is You can also reduce the number of potentially 570-459-0771 microbial. and finish, which will
increased overall cost.
discussed in relation to framing) as flooring. Hard toxic chemicals in your home by choosing not to
floors can also be made from materials like fast- get stain-resistant treatments applied to your car- Cork Expanko PRO: Naturally mold resistant, Ithaca Tile & Hardwood, Inc. $10/square foot
www.expanko.com renewable product, zero VOC, 607-272-2763 will ship
growing bamboo, with looks similar to hardwood. pet. They may prevent stains from setting in, but During the manufacturing anywhere in NYS
they will also outgas chemicals into your indoor process, all raw materials are
consumed, either for the fin-
RESILIENT FLOORS air. Choosing natural-fiber area rugs on top of ished flooring product or as an
some other type of flooring (such as recycled glass energy source. Additionally, all
Many people have enjoyed the look and easy recommended finishes, sealers,
cleaning of linoleum for decades. Did you know tile) can enable cleaning options to keep contami- and adhesives are water-based
nants to a minimum. When having wall-to-wall car- and environmentally friendly.
that most tile and sheet “linoleum” is actually
made from PVC, and can release toxic chemicals pet installed, use mechanical attachment (staples Recycled Rubber Expanko PRO: Made from a unique blend Ithaca Tile & Hardwood, Inc. $8.50 - $12/square
Reztec Chunks of recycled tires, post industrial 607-272-2763 foot
into your indoor air as it ages? Many staff at home or nails around the perimeter) if possible – the www.expanko.com waste rubber and virgin rubber.
improvement stores don’t understand the differ- adhesive used to attach carpet to subflooring can CON: Tires contain chemicals
release toxic chemicals known as Perfluorooctanoic that could offgas into the home.
ence, but the original natural linoleum is made
from linseed oil, a natural product. It does not Acids (PFOAs) into the air as well. The compounds Carpet, Wool Earth Weave Carpet Mills PRO: COMPLETELY biodegradable. Available only through $5 - $6/square foot
www.earthweave.com 100% natural raw materials. manufacturer
have the same environmental or health impacts of are used in a huge range of consumer products, 706-278-8200 Face fiber is 100% natural wool.
PVC. These floors can be cleaned to prevent the including Teflon and carpet stain protectors. They No moth proofing or stain pro-
tections applied, no harsh dyes
buildup of contaminants and allergens. There are linger in the environment and accumulate in living or chemical bonding agents, use
also cork floors available, made from a rapidly tissues. Exposure may lead to increased risks of a natural primary of hemp and
cotton. Adhesive is 100% natu-
renewable source. birth defects, developmental or other health prob- ral and bio-degradable, made of
lems, including cancer, according to the EPA, based natural rubber. The back of car-
pet is jute.
on animal studies and other research.

Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.

22 23
WALLS CONSTRUCTION AND COVERING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR WALLS COVERING

DRYWALL The problem with oil-based paints is that they


Drywall is a relatively benign product. Unused dry- contain many toxic chemicals, including benzene, Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
wall gypsum can be recycled back into new drywall toluene, xylene and formaldehyde, and require even Paint
if most of the paper is removed. The paper limits more toxic chemicals to clean up after a paint job Low-VOC Latex Paint Olympic Premium Pro: low VOCs. In stock at Lowe’s $14 - $18/gallon
the amount of recycled gypsum allowed in new is done, such as xylene or toluene. Latex-based
Benjamin Moore PRO: Low VOCs. Benjamin Moore True Value Hardware Stores, $29 - $34/gallon
drywall, because the paper content affects its fire paints also include toxic ingredients, though they Pristine EcoSpec makes a low-VOC primer as well. paint stores – see
www.benjaminmoore.com www.benjaminmoore.com
rating. One company produces drywall that is 15 – are much easier to clean up, requiring only soap CON: Still contains some toxic
and enter your zipcode.
materials.
20% recycled; it is working on technology to and water. Once applied to the wall, some of the Must special order primer
decrease the paper content so that it can further toxic chemicals, called “volatile organic com- Milk Paint The Old Fashioned Milk PRO: Contains no hydrocarbons www.milkpaint.com $44/gallon
increase the recycled content. Scrap drywall can pounds” or “VOCs,” can outgas from the paint and Paint Company, Inc. or any other petroleum deriva- 34 dealers in New York State
www.milkpaint.com tives. Non-toxic.
also be ground into powder and turned into soils. into the air for up to eleven months, according to CON: More limited palette and
This helps to amend soils with high clay content the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). sheen options.
and improve water retention. BioSheild PRO: Made from natural materi- www.milkpaint.com $7 - $44/gallon
The good news is that paint companies are becom- Casein Milk Paint als. Non-toxic. Comes in powder 34 dealers in New York State equivalent
ing sensitive to these problems and creating paints www.bioshieldpaint.com form, so lightweight shipping.
WALL “PAPER” CON: More limited palette and
that don’t harm indoor air quality and have fewer
Despite the fact that we commonly call it “wall sheen options.
toxic chemicals. When looking for an environmen-
paper,” many residential and commercial wall cov- Zero-VOC Paint AFM Safecoat primer PRO: Zero VOC emissions, free Environmental Construction $30/gallon
tally friendly paint, it’s important to look for and paint of other toxic chemicals, like Outfitters of New York
erings are in fact made from films of PVC in part or 800-239-0321 formaldehyde, ammonia, and www.environproducts.org
low-VOC paints, but also to make sure any VOCs
in whole. Some wall papers are in fact paper, coat- www.afmsafecoat.com acetone. 800.238.5008
present are nontoxic and nonreactive. GreenSeal
ed with PVC to make them more durable. Others are
certification is a good guarantee of a relatively
PVC with some kind of paper backing. The prob- Wallpaper
non toxic paint.
lems with PVC in wall coverings go beyond the pre- Natural fibers hand crafted Eastgate III Collection from PRO: Natural Fibers, less toxic. Special order from Home Depot $18 - $54 a single roll
Oriental grasscloths and Washington Wall Coverings CON: More expensive.
viously discussed problems with production and No matter which paint you use, ventilate space textiles, PVC free backing
disposal of the PVC. Because PVC is not breathable, by opening doors and windows for at least 48 Mandarin Fantasy from Special order from Lowe’s $39 - $45 a single roll
moisture that gets trapped behind the “paper” can hours or until paint thoroughly dries before re- Washington Wall Coverings
promote toxic mold. It also out-gasses the plasti- inhabiting the room, especially for pregnant
cizers that make it flexible, causing it to become women and young children. Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
brittle over time, and can affect indoor air quality
(the phthalates are suspected of triggering asthma OTHER OPTIONS
attacks). (For a more complete description of the There are other ways to cover walls that can be
environmental and health impacts of PVC, please fun, creative and give you the design you’re look-
see page 5.) ing for. This can include using fabric, tinted plaster
(for texture and color), or anything that you can
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to vinyl
imagine. Some of these techniques are fairly labor
wall paper. The most simple is to paint your interi-
intensive and can therefore be more expensive. But
or with a low-VOC or VOC-free paint. If you want
if you are redoing a room interior yourself, then all
the decorative effect of wall paper, consider the
you need is time and some instructions. Look for
options presented below. There are many safer
Do-It-Yourself books at the local library or book-
alternatives to vinyl wall coverings that are light-
store for creative ideas and how to implement
weight, durable, washable, easily installed, and
them in your home.
made of more sustainable materials.

PAINT
Painting your walls not only adds color and style
to a room or outside wall, but it also provides a
protective covering against dirt and moisture. Most
people are aware of two main types of paint – oil-
based and latex.

24 25
WALLS CONSTRUCTION AND COVERING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR WALLS COVERING

DRYWALL The problem with oil-based paints is that they


Drywall is a relatively benign product. Unused dry- contain many toxic chemicals, including benzene, Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
wall gypsum can be recycled back into new drywall toluene, xylene and formaldehyde, and require even Paint
if most of the paper is removed. The paper limits more toxic chemicals to clean up after a paint job Low-VOC Latex Paint Olympic Premium Pro: low VOCs. In stock at Lowe’s $14 - $18/gallon
the amount of recycled gypsum allowed in new is done, such as xylene or toluene. Latex-based
Benjamin Moore PRO: Low VOCs. Benjamin Moore True Value Hardware Stores, $29 - $34/gallon
drywall, because the paper content affects its fire paints also include toxic ingredients, though they Pristine EcoSpec makes a low-VOC primer as well. paint stores – see
www.benjaminmoore.com www.benjaminmoore.com
rating. One company produces drywall that is 15 – are much easier to clean up, requiring only soap CON: Still contains some toxic
and enter your zipcode.
materials.
20% recycled; it is working on technology to and water. Once applied to the wall, some of the Must special order primer
decrease the paper content so that it can further toxic chemicals, called “volatile organic com- Milk Paint The Old Fashioned Milk PRO: Contains no hydrocarbons www.milkpaint.com $44/gallon
increase the recycled content. Scrap drywall can pounds” or “VOCs,” can outgas from the paint and Paint Company, Inc. or any other petroleum deriva- 34 dealers in New York State
www.milkpaint.com tives. Non-toxic.
also be ground into powder and turned into soils. into the air for up to eleven months, according to CON: More limited palette and
This helps to amend soils with high clay content the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). sheen options.
and improve water retention. BioSheild PRO: Made from natural materi- www.milkpaint.com $7 - $44/gallon
The good news is that paint companies are becom- Casein Milk Paint als. Non-toxic. Comes in powder 34 dealers in New York State equivalent
ing sensitive to these problems and creating paints www.bioshieldpaint.com form, so lightweight shipping.
WALL “PAPER” CON: More limited palette and
that don’t harm indoor air quality and have fewer
Despite the fact that we commonly call it “wall sheen options.
toxic chemicals. When looking for an environmen-
paper,” many residential and commercial wall cov- Zero-VOC Paint AFM Safecoat primer PRO: Zero VOC emissions, free Environmental Construction $30/gallon
tally friendly paint, it’s important to look for and paint of other toxic chemicals, like Outfitters of New York
erings are in fact made from films of PVC in part or 800-239-0321 formaldehyde, ammonia, and www.environproducts.org
low-VOC paints, but also to make sure any VOCs
in whole. Some wall papers are in fact paper, coat- www.afmsafecoat.com acetone. 800.238.5008
present are nontoxic and nonreactive. GreenSeal
ed with PVC to make them more durable. Others are
certification is a good guarantee of a relatively
PVC with some kind of paper backing. The prob- Wallpaper
non toxic paint.
lems with PVC in wall coverings go beyond the pre- Natural fibers hand crafted Eastgate III Collection from PRO: Natural Fibers, less toxic. Special order from Home Depot $18 - $54 a single roll
Oriental grasscloths and Washington Wall Coverings CON: More expensive.
viously discussed problems with production and No matter which paint you use, ventilate space textiles, PVC free backing
disposal of the PVC. Because PVC is not breathable, by opening doors and windows for at least 48 Mandarin Fantasy from Special order from Lowe’s $39 - $45 a single roll
moisture that gets trapped behind the “paper” can hours or until paint thoroughly dries before re- Washington Wall Coverings
promote toxic mold. It also out-gasses the plasti- inhabiting the room, especially for pregnant
cizers that make it flexible, causing it to become women and young children. Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
brittle over time, and can affect indoor air quality
(the phthalates are suspected of triggering asthma OTHER OPTIONS
attacks). (For a more complete description of the There are other ways to cover walls that can be
environmental and health impacts of PVC, please fun, creative and give you the design you’re look-
see page 5.) ing for. This can include using fabric, tinted plaster
(for texture and color), or anything that you can
Fortunately, there are many alternatives to vinyl
imagine. Some of these techniques are fairly labor
wall paper. The most simple is to paint your interi-
intensive and can therefore be more expensive. But
or with a low-VOC or VOC-free paint. If you want
if you are redoing a room interior yourself, then all
the decorative effect of wall paper, consider the
you need is time and some instructions. Look for
options presented below. There are many safer
Do-It-Yourself books at the local library or book-
alternatives to vinyl wall coverings that are light-
store for creative ideas and how to implement
weight, durable, washable, easily installed, and
them in your home.
made of more sustainable materials.

PAINT
Painting your walls not only adds color and style
to a room or outside wall, but it also provides a
protective covering against dirt and moisture. Most
people are aware of two main types of paint – oil-
based and latex.

24 25
HEATING AND COOLING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR HEATING AND COOLING

The biggest issue for heating and cooling has to There are also new two-phase heat pumps rated for
do with energy efficiency. Heating, Ventilating and cold climates that can be as energy-efficient as
Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems can account for geothermal heat pumps. The manufacturer is Nyle Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
as much as 60% of home energy use. Water heaters Special Products. Their website is
can also use a lot of energy. The energy efficiency www.nyletherm.com. This can save up to 40% of
Energy Star Rated Furnaces See list at www.energys- PRO: Energy Star rated fur- Home improvement stores and Varies based on house
of a house is a combination of factors, such as your heating costs. There are also new two-phase tar.gov/index.cfm?c= naces are more than 90% local dealers size, location, etc.
how tightly sealed the house is (though a well- heat pumps rated for cold climates that can be as furnaces.pr_furnaces efficient – making them at
least 15% more efficient
sealed house is more energy efficient, these hous- energy-efficient as geothermal heat pumps. If you than other models.
es can trap pollutants indoors longer due to a are renovating, however, it can be prohibitively
Geothermal Heat Pump www.energystar.gov/ PRO: Use 40-60% less energy Locate a contractor in Depends on house
slower air exchange with the outdoor air – an air expensive. When choosing a conventional heating index.cfm?c=geo_heat.pr than conventional heat your area size, depth of
exchanger is needed to ensure an adequate supply and cooling system look for _geo_heat_pumps pumps – rely on earth’s drilling etc.
steady temperature to keep
of fresh air indoors), how well insulated it is, and one that is Energy Star homes comfortable.
the efficiency of windows. rated (by the U.S. CON: High upfront cost, only
Environmental Protection good for new construction.
The simplest thing you can do to cut cooling costs Look for the Energy Star
Agency) which guarantees Room Air Conditioner Kenmore Energy Star qualified room air Department stores
is to install ceiling fans, and/or to install a whole- label on energy $200 - $450
that it is at least 15% more efficient products. www.kenmore.com conditioners use at least 10% Home Improvement stores depending on size
house fan that draws air through the entire build- Fridgidaire less energy than conventional and manufacturer
efficient that the average www.frigidaire.com models.
ing. By using the much-less energy intensive fans
system on the market. Also, if you are replacing Friedrich
instead of air conditioners whenever possible, you www.frigidaire.com
your heating system, consider those which use Carrier
can save money and energy. To cut heating costs,
the same furnace for heating hot water on demand www.carrier.com and others
make sure all doors and windows are well sealed.
and providing hot water for baseboard heaters.
You can cut costs on hot water heating by wrap- Ceiling Fans Hunter PRO: Promote air circulation, Lowe’s $40 - $70
This can save costs on hot water heating (no tank
ping the water heater in a specially-designed blan- www.hunterfan.com reduce need for air www.lowes.com
to keep warm all the time) and reduce fuel costs Hampton Bay, others conditioning. Available with
ket. Buying a programmable thermostat (available or without lights. Home Depot
for heating.
at most hardware and home improvement stores) www.homedepot.com
and setting the temperature to be cooler (in win- Energy Star heating and cooling systems are current-
Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
ter) or warmer (in summer) when the house is ly available at most stores. Typically, Lowe’s
empty can reduce energy consumption. carries more Energy Star appliances, though both
Home Depot and Lowe’s carry them. Many depart-
If you are building a new house, it may make
ment stores also carry Energy Star products. For more
sense to use geothermal heating pumps, which
information about the Energy Star program, see
involve running pipes deep into the earth.
www.energystar.gov. Talk with your contractor about
the most efficient heating and cooling system for
your house and budget. Keep in mind that while
some more efficient systems cost more up front, they
will pay for themselves in a few years.

26 27
HEATING AND COOLING HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR HEATING AND COOLING

The biggest issue for heating and cooling has to There are also new two-phase heat pumps rated for
do with energy efficiency. Heating, Ventilating and cold climates that can be as energy-efficient as
Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems can account for geothermal heat pumps. The manufacturer is Nyle Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
as much as 60% of home energy use. Water heaters Special Products. Their website is
can also use a lot of energy. The energy efficiency www.nyletherm.com. This can save up to 40% of
Energy Star Rated Furnaces See list at www.energys- PRO: Energy Star rated fur- Home improvement stores and Varies based on house
of a house is a combination of factors, such as your heating costs. There are also new two-phase tar.gov/index.cfm?c= naces are more than 90% local dealers size, location, etc.
how tightly sealed the house is (though a well- heat pumps rated for cold climates that can be as furnaces.pr_furnaces efficient – making them at
least 15% more efficient
sealed house is more energy efficient, these hous- energy-efficient as geothermal heat pumps. If you than other models.
es can trap pollutants indoors longer due to a are renovating, however, it can be prohibitively
Geothermal Heat Pump www.energystar.gov/ PRO: Use 40-60% less energy Locate a contractor in Depends on house
slower air exchange with the outdoor air – an air expensive. When choosing a conventional heating index.cfm?c=geo_heat.pr than conventional heat your area size, depth of
exchanger is needed to ensure an adequate supply and cooling system look for _geo_heat_pumps pumps – rely on earth’s drilling etc.
steady temperature to keep
of fresh air indoors), how well insulated it is, and one that is Energy Star homes comfortable.
the efficiency of windows. rated (by the U.S. CON: High upfront cost, only
Environmental Protection good for new construction.
The simplest thing you can do to cut cooling costs Look for the Energy Star
Agency) which guarantees Room Air Conditioner Kenmore Energy Star qualified room air Department stores
is to install ceiling fans, and/or to install a whole- label on energy $200 - $450
that it is at least 15% more efficient products. www.kenmore.com conditioners use at least 10% Home Improvement stores depending on size
house fan that draws air through the entire build- Fridgidaire less energy than conventional and manufacturer
efficient that the average www.frigidaire.com models.
ing. By using the much-less energy intensive fans
system on the market. Also, if you are replacing Friedrich
instead of air conditioners whenever possible, you www.frigidaire.com
your heating system, consider those which use Carrier
can save money and energy. To cut heating costs,
the same furnace for heating hot water on demand www.carrier.com and others
make sure all doors and windows are well sealed.
and providing hot water for baseboard heaters.
You can cut costs on hot water heating by wrap- Ceiling Fans Hunter PRO: Promote air circulation, Lowe’s $40 - $70
This can save costs on hot water heating (no tank
ping the water heater in a specially-designed blan- www.hunterfan.com reduce need for air www.lowes.com
to keep warm all the time) and reduce fuel costs Hampton Bay, others conditioning. Available with
ket. Buying a programmable thermostat (available or without lights. Home Depot
for heating.
at most hardware and home improvement stores) www.homedepot.com
and setting the temperature to be cooler (in win- Energy Star heating and cooling systems are current-
Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.
ter) or warmer (in summer) when the house is ly available at most stores. Typically, Lowe’s
empty can reduce energy consumption. carries more Energy Star appliances, though both
Home Depot and Lowe’s carry them. Many depart-
If you are building a new house, it may make
ment stores also carry Energy Star products. For more
sense to use geothermal heating pumps, which
information about the Energy Star program, see
involve running pipes deep into the earth.
www.energystar.gov. Talk with your contractor about
the most efficient heating and cooling system for
your house and budget. Keep in mind that while
some more efficient systems cost more up front, they
will pay for themselves in a few years.

26 27
APPLIANCES AND FIXTURES HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR APPLIANCES AND FIXTURES

APPLIANCES FIXTURES
Energy- and water-efficient appliances are now Fixtures, such as toilets, showers and sinks can Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
widely available on the market. The U.S. consume lots of water. You can make a simple
Appliances
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an improvement in water conservation by replacing
Front Loading Kenmore Pro: 67%-77% less energy and Sears $720 (3.1 cu. ft.)
energy efficiency rating system called “Energy older showerheads with “low-flow” showerheads Kenmore (3.1 cubic ft) or 67% less water than convention- www.sears.com $1,430 (3.7 cu. ft)
Washing Machine
Star” (www.energystar.gov). In addition, new that maintain pressure while reducing the flow Kenmore Elite (3.7 cubic ft) al washers. Extraction feature
kenmore.com removes more water, cutting
appliances are required to provide information on (gallons-per-minute). If you are updating a bath- drying time. Energy star rated.
energy and water usage and compare that usage room and have a toilet manufactured before the
and estimated cost to similar models. Although 1990s, you may want to consider replacing it. A Bosch Axxis, or Axxis+ Reduces water use by roughly Sears $930 - $1,100
Energy Star models are more efficient, they are not 1.6 gallon-per-flush toilet can use 23% to 46% www.boschappliances. 70% and energy consumption Lowe’s
com/laundry by 78%. Energy star rated.
necessarily the most efficient on the market. Many less water, an average of 10.5 gallons less per per-
more efficient models may be available at some- son daily. These simple changes can help reduce Asko Reduces water use by 65% to www.modernkitchens.com $1,050
what more significant up front cost. However, if water and sewage expenses if you use municipal www.askousa.com/laundry 87% depending on setting. to locate a dealer
Energy star rated.
you have the budget to allow you to choose them, water, and conserve groundwater if you use a well.
high-efficiency models can save you more in 5-10 Better yet, a dual flush toilet uses even less water Dishwasher Bosch Up to 39% less energy; 39% Sears $570 & $840
years. Look for water and energy efficient washers, and they are becoming much more common on www.boschappliances.com/ less water. Energy Star rated. Lowe’s
2003_dev/
dryers, dishwashers, stoves and refrigerators as you the market.
shop – many of the Energy Star rated appliances
Kenmore, Kenmore Elite 32% less energy and 32% Sears $640, $990
are available at places like Lowe’s and Home kenmore.com less water (7 - 10 gallons
Depot, as well as department and appliance stores. versus 8 - 14 per wash) than
conventional dishwashers.
Energy Star rated.

KitchenAid 33% less energy. Energy Star Sears $759


www.kitchenaid.com rated. Lowe’s

Refrigerators Maytag Energy Star models use at Lowe’s, Sears, home improve- $600 - $2,500
www.maytag.com least 15% less energy than ment or appliance stores
required by current federal
General Electric standards, and 40% less
www.ge.com, others energy than the conventional
models sold in 2001.

Fixtures
Toilets: Pressure, Gravity Various All new toilets for residential Lowe’s $145 - $400
use are 1.6 gallons per flush. Sears
See www.toiletology.com for
descriptions of options on
the market.

Composting Toilets Envirolet® W/RS PRO: Waterless – reducing www.envirolet.com $1,595


Non-Electric water and sewer costs, or
www.envirolet.com reducing pressure on septic
tank. Waste product, once
composted, can be used as
fertilizer.
CON: much more costly.

Faucet Aerators Various Models 2.75 gallons per Widely available Less than $5
minute or below can reduce
water consumption by 50%.

Low-flow Shower Head Various Look for models rated at Home Depot $8 and up
2.5 gallons per minute which Hardware Stores
reduce water consumption
by 50%.

Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.

28 29
APPLIANCES AND FIXTURES HEALTHY OPTIONS FOR APPLIANCES AND FIXTURES

APPLIANCES FIXTURES
Energy- and water-efficient appliances are now Fixtures, such as toilets, showers and sinks can Type of Material Manufacturer/Brand Pro/Con Availability Cost
widely available on the market. The U.S. consume lots of water. You can make a simple
Appliances
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an improvement in water conservation by replacing
Front Loading Kenmore Pro: 67%-77% less energy and Sears $720 (3.1 cu. ft.)
energy efficiency rating system called “Energy older showerheads with “low-flow” showerheads Kenmore (3.1 cubic ft) or 67% less water than convention- www.sears.com $1,430 (3.7 cu. ft)
Washing Machine
Star” (www.energystar.gov). In addition, new that maintain pressure while reducing the flow Kenmore Elite (3.7 cubic ft) al washers. Extraction feature
kenmore.com removes more water, cutting
appliances are required to provide information on (gallons-per-minute). If you are updating a bath- drying time. Energy star rated.
energy and water usage and compare that usage room and have a toilet manufactured before the
and estimated cost to similar models. Although 1990s, you may want to consider replacing it. A Bosch Axxis, or Axxis+ Reduces water use by roughly Sears $930 - $1,100
Energy Star models are more efficient, they are not 1.6 gallon-per-flush toilet can use 23% to 46% www.boschappliances. 70% and energy consumption Lowe’s
com/laundry by 78%. Energy star rated.
necessarily the most efficient on the market. Many less water, an average of 10.5 gallons less per per-
more efficient models may be available at some- son daily. These simple changes can help reduce Asko Reduces water use by 65% to www.modernkitchens.com $1,050
what more significant up front cost. However, if water and sewage expenses if you use municipal www.askousa.com/laundry 87% depending on setting. to locate a dealer
Energy star rated.
you have the budget to allow you to choose them, water, and conserve groundwater if you use a well.
high-efficiency models can save you more in 5-10 Better yet, a dual flush toilet uses even less water Dishwasher Bosch Up to 39% less energy; 39% Sears $570 & $840
years. Look for water and energy efficient washers, and they are becoming much more common on www.boschappliances.com/ less water. Energy Star rated. Lowe’s
2003_dev/
dryers, dishwashers, stoves and refrigerators as you the market.
shop – many of the Energy Star rated appliances
Kenmore, Kenmore Elite 32% less energy and 32% Sears $640, $990
are available at places like Lowe’s and Home kenmore.com less water (7 - 10 gallons
Depot, as well as department and appliance stores. versus 8 - 14 per wash) than
conventional dishwashers.
Energy Star rated.

KitchenAid 33% less energy. Energy Star Sears $759


www.kitchenaid.com rated. Lowe’s

Refrigerators Maytag Energy Star models use at Lowe’s, Sears, home improve- $600 - $2,500
www.maytag.com least 15% less energy than ment or appliance stores
required by current federal
General Electric standards, and 40% less
www.ge.com, others energy than the conventional
models sold in 2001.

Fixtures
Toilets: Pressure, Gravity Various All new toilets for residential Lowe’s $145 - $400
use are 1.6 gallons per flush. Sears
See www.toiletology.com for
descriptions of options on
the market.

Composting Toilets Envirolet® W/RS PRO: Waterless – reducing www.envirolet.com $1,595


Non-Electric water and sewer costs, or
www.envirolet.com reducing pressure on septic
tank. Waste product, once
composted, can be used as
fertilizer.
CON: much more costly.

Faucet Aerators Various Models 2.75 gallons per Widely available Less than $5
minute or below can reduce
water consumption by 50%.

Low-flow Shower Head Various Look for models rated at Home Depot $8 and up
2.5 gallons per minute which Hardware Stores
reduce water consumption
by 50%.

Products, manufacturers and suppliers listed are for informational purposes only. List is not comprehensive, nor does listing imply recommendation by CEC.

28 29
ALTERNATIVE HOUSES RESOURCES

Until now, we have focused on building or renovating a in which short logs are laid widthwise within a special INTRODUCTION • The U.S. Department of Health and
traditional wood-frame house. However, there are housing mortar matrix. The wall derives excellent insulation and • Edwin Piñero Human Services
designs that don’t rely on the traditional techniques or thermal mass characteristics from insulation sandwiched Acting Federal Environmental Executive 200 Independence Ave., S.W.
building materials. These houses consume fewer resources between the inner and outer mortar joints. Cordwood The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive Washington, D.C. 20201
in their construction, and often rely on inexpensive, local- masonry is also beautiful, combining the texture of stone Mail Code 1600, 401 M Street, SW 202-619-0257, 877-696-6775, www.hhs.gov
ly available materials. If you are interested in learning masonry with the warmth of wood. Washington, DC 20460
• World Health Organization
more about these green building techniques, check out the 202-260-1297, mcpoland.fran@ofee.gov
www.who.int/en/
resources section of the guide on the next page. PAPERCRETE
• The UN World Commission on Environment
Papercrete, also called fibrous cement, is a remarkable • US Environmental Protection Agency
and Development
ADOBE building material composed of recycled papers mixed with Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
www.sovereignty.net/p/sd/sdtut.htm
Adobe construction is arguably one of the most popular sand and cement to form walls, blocks, panels, domes, Washington, DC 20460
green building techniques. Adobe homes are made up of etc. This is potentially an ideal building material because • PRé Consultants 202-272-0167, www.epa.gov
mud bricks, composed of clay and sand mixed with water it is cheap, utilizing unwanted newspapers, magazines, Plotterweg 12, 3821 BB, Amersfoort, The Netherlands
• INFORM Fact Sheet on Construction &
and heated in the sun. Building with adobe has numerous cardboard and other recycled paper materials. Papercrete +31 33 4555022, Fax: +31 33 4555024
Demolition Dumps
advantages. First and foremost, adobe is probably the homes do not mold, swell, or attract insects, and are sur- support@pre.nl, www.pre.nl
www.informinc.org/fact_CWPconstruction.php
easiest material to build with. Since it is made of mud it prisingly fire resistant. This is a new method, still untest-
• Definition of “Economies of Scale”
is easy to cut and shape. Adobe bricks consume low ed in some environments, but the potential is enormous
www.investorwords.com/1653/economy_of_scale.html ALTERNATIVES
amounts of energy, emit low levels of pollutants during for do-it-yourself builders.
• Environmental Home Center
manufacturing, and in combination with good passive
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CONVENTIONAL www.environmentalhomecenter.com
solar design, make for an effective energy-saving solution RAMMED EARTH
PRODUCTS?
in cold winter areas. This type of house is built just like the name states: • The Green Guide (may helpful articles on “green”
• Healthy Building Network (HBN)
pounding damp soil into movable, reusable frames with products.) Subscriptions are $12/year.
927 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
BAMBOO manual or machine-powered pneumatic tampers to create www.thegreenguide.com
202-898-1610 x219
Bamboo has been used in the construction of homes for a firm and steady house. Mass walls absorb solar energy
info@healthybuilding.net, www.healthybuilding.net • Rainforest Action Network
hundreds of years. Bamboo is a renewable product. during winter days and then re-radiate that energy to off-
www.ran.org/ran_campaigns/old_growth/
Hardwood trees require over 40 years to grow to maturity, set nighttime heat losses within the building. In the sum- • Greenpeace USA
but bamboo can be harvested in just four to six years. mer months, the mass of the walls absorbs excess heat 702 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 • A Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing: Developer
Bamboo has an extensive root system constantly growing generated during the day, keeping the inside spaces sur- 202-462-1177, greenpeaceusa.org/ Guidelines for Resource Efficiency and Sustainable
underground, replenishing itself naturally. By using bam- prisingly cool, and then releases that stored heat to the Communities. Summer 1999. 142 pgs.
• Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride
boo you help to preserve the habitat of endangered night sky. In a properly designed and oriented building, www.globalgreen.org/publications/index.html
Building Materials
wildlife, unlike the harvesting of other hardwoods. this can mean significant savings in heating and cooling
By Joe Thornton, Ph.D. 2002. 110 pages. • Santa Monica Affordable Housing Green Checklist
bills. Rammed earth buildings are fire resistant, pest
www.globalgreen.org/pdf/
COB resistant, long lasting, resistant to weathering, and do not • The Economics of Phasing out PVC
SMGreenBuildingChecklist.pdf
Cob construction uses hands and feet to form lumps of outgas hazardous fumes. December, 2003. 53 pages By Frank Ackerman,
earth mixed with sand and straw, a sensory and aesthetic Director of Research and Policy Program • Green Building Advisor
experience similar to sculpting with clay. Mixed well, this STRAW-BALE HOUSES Global Development and Environment Institute (for architects and building professionals)
special mud is applied to the foundation in continuing People have built homes using straw, grass, or reed greenbuildingadvisor.com/
• Tufts University
layers. When dry, the walls are very hard and load bearing. throughout history. Building with tightly packed straw-
Global Development and Environment Institute • Healthy Home Designs
Cob building techniques are easy to learn and inexpensive bales has become increasingly popular in recent years.
44 Teele Avenue, Somerville, MA 02144 (architectural designs for houses)
to build. Because there are no forms, ramming, cement or Straw-bale buildings boast quiet, well-insulated walls,
www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae www.healthyhomedesigns.com
rectilinear bricks, cob lends itself to organic shapes: simple construction, low costs, and the conversion of an
curved walls, arches and niches. Cob homes are cool in the agricultural byproduct into a healthy building material. • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry • Habitat for Humanity ReStore Directory - New York
summer and warm in winter. Cob has been used for mil- Properly constructed and maintained, straw-bale houses The NCEH/ATSDR Information Center www.habitat.org/env/restore_detail.aspx?place=70
lennia even in the harsh climates of coastal Britain, and remain waterproof, fire resistant, and pest free. In humid 888-422-8737, Fax: 404-498-0093
at the high latitudes of the Aleutians. climates, as with conventional materials, efforts need to www.atsdr.cdc.gov/contacts.html
be taken to prevent moisture accumulation. Once the
CORDWOOD MASONRY house is constructed, the interiors and exteriors are
Cordwood Masonry is a low-cost, energy efficient, easily plastered over, so the appearance is very similar to a
constructed and aesthetically pleasing building technique conventional house.

30 31
ALTERNATIVE HOUSES RESOURCES

Until now, we have focused on building or renovating a in which short logs are laid widthwise within a special INTRODUCTION • The U.S. Department of Health and
traditional wood-frame house. However, there are housing mortar matrix. The wall derives excellent insulation and • Edwin Piñero Human Services
designs that don’t rely on the traditional techniques or thermal mass characteristics from insulation sandwiched Acting Federal Environmental Executive 200 Independence Ave., S.W.
building materials. These houses consume fewer resources between the inner and outer mortar joints. Cordwood The Office of the Federal Environmental Executive Washington, D.C. 20201
in their construction, and often rely on inexpensive, local- masonry is also beautiful, combining the texture of stone Mail Code 1600, 401 M Street, SW 202-619-0257, 877-696-6775, www.hhs.gov
ly available materials. If you are interested in learning masonry with the warmth of wood. Washington, DC 20460
• World Health Organization
more about these green building techniques, check out the 202-260-1297, mcpoland.fran@ofee.gov
www.who.int/en/
resources section of the guide on the next page. PAPERCRETE
• The UN World Commission on Environment
Papercrete, also called fibrous cement, is a remarkable • US Environmental Protection Agency
and Development
ADOBE building material composed of recycled papers mixed with Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
www.sovereignty.net/p/sd/sdtut.htm
Adobe construction is arguably one of the most popular sand and cement to form walls, blocks, panels, domes, Washington, DC 20460
green building techniques. Adobe homes are made up of etc. This is potentially an ideal building material because • PRé Consultants 202-272-0167, www.epa.gov
mud bricks, composed of clay and sand mixed with water it is cheap, utilizing unwanted newspapers, magazines, Plotterweg 12, 3821 BB, Amersfoort, The Netherlands
• INFORM Fact Sheet on Construction &
and heated in the sun. Building with adobe has numerous cardboard and other recycled paper materials. Papercrete +31 33 4555022, Fax: +31 33 4555024
Demolition Dumps
advantages. First and foremost, adobe is probably the homes do not mold, swell, or attract insects, and are sur- support@pre.nl, www.pre.nl
www.informinc.org/fact_CWPconstruction.php
easiest material to build with. Since it is made of mud it prisingly fire resistant. This is a new method, still untest-
• Definition of “Economies of Scale”
is easy to cut and shape. Adobe bricks consume low ed in some environments, but the potential is enormous
www.investorwords.com/1653/economy_of_scale.html ALTERNATIVES
amounts of energy, emit low levels of pollutants during for do-it-yourself builders.
• Environmental Home Center
manufacturing, and in combination with good passive
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CONVENTIONAL www.environmentalhomecenter.com
solar design, make for an effective energy-saving solution RAMMED EARTH
PRODUCTS?
in cold winter areas. This type of house is built just like the name states: • The Green Guide (may helpful articles on “green”
• Healthy Building Network (HBN)
pounding damp soil into movable, reusable frames with products.) Subscriptions are $12/year.
927 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
BAMBOO manual or machine-powered pneumatic tampers to create www.thegreenguide.com
202-898-1610 x219
Bamboo has been used in the construction of homes for a firm and steady house. Mass walls absorb solar energy
info@healthybuilding.net, www.healthybuilding.net • Rainforest Action Network
hundreds of years. Bamboo is a renewable product. during winter days and then re-radiate that energy to off-
www.ran.org/ran_campaigns/old_growth/
Hardwood trees require over 40 years to grow to maturity, set nighttime heat losses within the building. In the sum- • Greenpeace USA
but bamboo can be harvested in just four to six years. mer months, the mass of the walls absorbs excess heat 702 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 • A Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing: Developer
Bamboo has an extensive root system constantly growing generated during the day, keeping the inside spaces sur- 202-462-1177, greenpeaceusa.org/ Guidelines for Resource Efficiency and Sustainable
underground, replenishing itself naturally. By using bam- prisingly cool, and then releases that stored heat to the Communities. Summer 1999. 142 pgs.
• Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride
boo you help to preserve the habitat of endangered night sky. In a properly designed and oriented building, www.globalgreen.org/publications/index.html
Building Materials
wildlife, unlike the harvesting of other hardwoods. this can mean significant savings in heating and cooling
By Joe Thornton, Ph.D. 2002. 110 pages. • Santa Monica Affordable Housing Green Checklist
bills. Rammed earth buildings are fire resistant, pest
www.globalgreen.org/pdf/
COB resistant, long lasting, resistant to weathering, and do not • The Economics of Phasing out PVC
SMGreenBuildingChecklist.pdf
Cob construction uses hands and feet to form lumps of outgas hazardous fumes. December, 2003. 53 pages By Frank Ackerman,
earth mixed with sand and straw, a sensory and aesthetic Director of Research and Policy Program • Green Building Advisor
experience similar to sculpting with clay. Mixed well, this STRAW-BALE HOUSES Global Development and Environment Institute (for architects and building professionals)
special mud is applied to the foundation in continuing People have built homes using straw, grass, or reed greenbuildingadvisor.com/
• Tufts University
layers. When dry, the walls are very hard and load bearing. throughout history. Building with tightly packed straw-
Global Development and Environment Institute • Healthy Home Designs
Cob building techniques are easy to learn and inexpensive bales has become increasingly popular in recent years.
44 Teele Avenue, Somerville, MA 02144 (architectural designs for houses)
to build. Because there are no forms, ramming, cement or Straw-bale buildings boast quiet, well-insulated walls,
www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae www.healthyhomedesigns.com
rectilinear bricks, cob lends itself to organic shapes: simple construction, low costs, and the conversion of an
curved walls, arches and niches. Cob homes are cool in the agricultural byproduct into a healthy building material. • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry • Habitat for Humanity ReStore Directory - New York
summer and warm in winter. Cob has been used for mil- Properly constructed and maintained, straw-bale houses The NCEH/ATSDR Information Center www.habitat.org/env/restore_detail.aspx?place=70
lennia even in the harsh climates of coastal Britain, and remain waterproof, fire resistant, and pest free. In humid 888-422-8737, Fax: 404-498-0093
at the high latitudes of the Aleutians. climates, as with conventional materials, efforts need to www.atsdr.cdc.gov/contacts.html
be taken to prevent moisture accumulation. Once the
CORDWOOD MASONRY house is constructed, the interiors and exteriors are
Cordwood Masonry is a low-cost, energy efficient, easily plastered over, so the appearance is very similar to a
constructed and aesthetically pleasing building technique conventional house.

30 31
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
33 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12210

518.462.5527
Fax: 518.465.8349

www.cectoxic.org
www.ecothreatny.org
www.kodakstoxiccolors.org