Learn Why A “Green” Home Is Not Equal to a “Healthy Home”

“Green” generally describes something that is environmentally friendly and sustainably cultivated. “Green Building” or “Green Construction” is similarly devised, with its primary goals being: (1) Environmentally Responsible – i.e., inflict minimal harm to the environment from the materials and methods used in construction; and (2) Resource Efficient – i.e. design and construct the home so that in the short and long term, it wastes as little as energy and material as possible.


The LEED standards, developed by the US Green Building Counsel, are the “standard” for Green building in the US, and set out in great detail, a system for guiding and measuring the “Green-ness” of a home construction project. While Green building standards sometimes cover things like indoor air quality, their primary goal is to protect the rest of the world, not necessarily to protect the home’s inhabitants directly.  


While this intention is honorable, unfortunately it can fall short of establishing standards for a home that is healthy for its inhabitants.  In fact, just because something is labeled “Green” or “Sustainable” does not mean it is any less toxic to the home’s inhabitants than a non-Green material.  In fact, in some cases, materials labeled “Green” can be more toxic than their “standard” counterparts.  For example, if you heavily insulate your home, from a “Green” standpoint, you’ve done an outstanding job!  The extra insulation means your home is very energy efficient, and hence good for the environment and good for your monthly electric and gas bill.  However, what you may not know is that most insulation contains toxins like formaldehyde or flame retardants, and those toxins leak through the walls and spread throughout the living environment1.  While you made your home more “Green” you unfortunately made it less “Healthy” at the same time.


Unfortunately “Green” homes often ignore many of the other aspects and principals of building a healthy home, like the reduction of electromagnetic radiation from the wiring, reducing ad mixtures in concrete, the use of proper water and air filtration, etc.  So, it’s important for you to be clear in your priorities when planning for construction.  Is your priority to protect the rest of the world, and be “sustainable” and “Green?”  Or should you also prioritize protecting yourself and your family?   In many cases these two things go hand-in-hand, but sometimes, they do not.  With all construction projects, there are budgets and there are tradeoffs that need to be made.  I encourage you to read more about how to build a “healthy home,” on this website, so you can be better informed about what is most healthy for you and your family.



References


1 http://greensciencepolicy.org/non-toxic-building-materials