Building a Healthy House
For a chemically sensitive homeowner, a cleaner indoor environment meant focusing on six key concepts.
Synopsis: Four months after moving into a house that was meticulously built to eliminate mold, biological irritants, and chemical toxins from the indoor environment, and that was landscaped to minimize pollen and other allergens, Lisa Kauffman Tharp set aside her asthma inhalers and allergy medications. This experience led her to a new career in interior design, with the mission of educating clients on how to build more healthful homes. In this article, former editor Debra Judge Silber shares Kauffman Tharp’s six key concepts for creating a cleaner indoor environment: (1) work with nature; (2) minimize ductwork; (3) build fast, dry, and tight by eliminating ground contact, using fast and efficient panelization, building to shed water, insulating well, promoting drying with an airspace, protecting from above, choosing a durable roof, and using durable siding; (4) beware of natural irritants; (5) preserve the larger environment; and (6) specify nontoxic materials and finishes.
Things that most of us barely notice have led Lisa Kauffman Tharp to take some pretty drastic action. Like repack her entire family the morning after arriving at an oceanfront vacation cottage because she awoke feeling like there was a pile of bricks on her chest. Like relocate from her home in Austin, Texas, to—quite literally—put some breathing room between her highly sensitive lungs and the native cedar trees. Like finally pull out all the stops to build a house in Concord, Mass., in the hope that it would allow her to live her chemically sensitive life in peace and in good health.
The final move seems to have paid off. Four months after moving into her new house, Kauffman Tharp was able to set aside her asthma inhalers and allergy medications. She is, she says, 80% healed thanks to a home that was meticulously crafted to eliminate mold, biological irritants, and chemical…