KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Nov 08 2010

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The need for Healthy Homes

A Chicago showhouse teaches us all a lesson in healthy interiors

You have probably been on dozens of home tours throughout your life. (I know I have.) And most of those were probably filled with people making haughty conversation about the lamp from Artemide, the cabinets from Poggenpohl or the fixtures from Porcelanosa.


My own Eco Room entry for the Marin Designers Showcase Home of 2002

Such showcase houses rarely discuss sustainability. Usually there is one room set aside for such things, often referred to as the “Eco Room” on the little floor plan they hand you when you buy your tour tickets. I did one of these myself back in 2002, and you can imagine the strange looks people would give me upon explaining the concept of using healthy paint. Most tend to focus on the things you can see and touch: reclaimed woods, recycled metals, salvaged furniture. The concept of healthy products, especially the entire topic of Indoor Air Quality, is largely unmentioned.


The initial rendering for the Healthy Home 2010 Showhouse, with proceeds benefitting Healthy Child Healthy World. Photo: Healthy Home 2010

Located just 30 miles northwest of Chicago, in the suburb of Palatine, sits the Healthy Home. Weighing in at 5,800 sq. ft., this home could easily be criticized as anything but green, but rather than focusing on efficiency, the designers chose to explore what it would take to make it as healthy as possible.

The materials selected for the home include an all-star cast of experts, among them:

Penny Bonda, FASID, LEED AP
Partner of Ecoimpact Consulting
Author of Sustainable Commercial Interiors

Annette K. Stelmack, USGBC LEED Faculty, LEED AP
Sustainable Design Consultant, Educator
Founder of YRG Sustainability Consultants
Author of Sustainable Residential Interiors

—Leslie Gage, LEED AP
GREENGUARD Environmental Institute

—Leigh Anne Vandusen
Owner of O Ecotextiles

And spearheaded by:

—Victoria Di Iorio, Education Outreach Coordinator
Healthy Child Healthy World

—Jill Salisbury
Principal and founder of el: Environmental Language


One of the gorgeous and green pieces by el: Environmental Language. Photo: el: Environmental Language

Jill was my tour guide and provided the incredible furniture for the home. The idea of healthy and sustainable furniture is an easy one to understand: use sustainably harvested materials and finish them with non-toxic finishes. Despite this simple message, Jill’s company, el: Environmental Language, is still one of the few companies offering furniture that is both well-designed and healthy. Her lines of furniture and kitchen cabinets are the only (and the first) to embrace the Cradle to Cradle design protocol.


The warm and cozy Family Room sits opposite the kitchen and is filled with healthy products without any sacrifice of aesthetics or quality. Photo: Nick Novelli, Novelli PhotoDesign

The furniture market has been the last to delve into sustainability. Since most products are made with potentially toxic and harmful chemical fire retardants, lacquers and sealers, furniture companies are reluctant to explore healthier alternatives. So instead, (nearly) the entire industry sits and waits for either the inevitable legislation or a competitor to push them to action. If you are a designer, the best thing you can do is to start asking tough questions from your furniture suppliers about health (or just spec Jill’s products).

The whimsical Kids Room features healthy paints and draperies from O Ecotextiles. Photo: Nick Novelli, Novelli PhotoDesign

The whimsical Kids Room features healthy paints and draperies from O Ecotextiles. Photo: Nick Novelli, Novelli PhotoDesign

Healthy Home 2010 is the first house in the U.S. to follow the Indoor Environmental Quality Management Plan for Residential Construction from the Greenguard Environmental Institute.

Indoor air pollutants can be up to five times higher indoors. Since we spend most of our time indoors (80-90% of our time) and more and more children are now sedentary homebodies, the need for healthy interiors is more important than ever.


The kitchen of the Healthy Home feature cabinets with no added formaldehyde and zero-VOC countertops. Photo: Nick Novelli, Novelli PhotoDesign

The house is rather traditional in its design and layout, but that is forgiven in the sensitivity taken to all aspects of the Indoor Air Quality. In fact, the design team max’ed out the points in the IAQ Category on their LEED checklist.

This focus on healthy interiors is in deference to Healthy Child Healthy World, the showhouse producer. Running on a loop in the gorgeous media room is their latest educational video. Titled “A Wake Up Story” is a must-see/must-share video focusing on the hidden chemical dangers lurking in your home.

Watch it here:

The Healthy Home 2010 is a LEED for Homes registered project and certification is expected in the Spring of 2011.

The home will be open for tours during the upcoming Greenbuild Conference and Expo this month (November 2010). For additional information on the home and to purchase tickets for events and tours, please visit www.HealthyHome2010.com. All proceeds from the tours support Healthy Child Healthy World.

Healthy Home 2010: Designer Showcase & Tour

All proceeds to benefit: Healthy Child Healthy World

A Wake Up Story


Eric Corey Freed is an architect and author of four books, including “Green$ense for the Home”.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 8th, 2010 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Green. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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