Browsing Topic: Indoor Environment

Plants for better indoor air quality

June 21st, 2009

I just saw a very short but fascinating TED Talk by Kamal Meattle called How To Grow Fresh Air.

It describes the 3 plants you need to take with you when living in a sealed bottle (or any other environment where you’d like to improve the air quality) and what they do:

The Living Room Plant
Areca Palm (Chrysolidocarpus Lutescens)

  • Converts Carbon Dioxide to Oxygen
  • You need 4 shoulder height plants per person.
  • The leaves should be cleaned once per week
  • It should be taken outdoors every 3-4 months.

The Bedroom Plant
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevierio Trifasciata)

  • 6-8 Waist High plants per person.
  • Converts co2 to o2 at night

The Specialist Plant
Money Plant (Epipremnum Aureum)

  • Removes formaldehydes and other toxins

I’ll need to dig a little more into this but it looks very interesting.

Posted by Colin

Air quality upon completion

July 25th, 2008

As I wrote that last post about the late start date I realized something else changed when we lost our May 1 start date: If the house is completed in the dead of winter, we won’t be able to leave the windows open to help clear out the construction dust.

You might recall that in a previous post I mentioned that the micro-particulate released into the air during construction acts as “sandpaper for your lungs” and takes several weeks (if not months) to settle. This is of particular concern as our newborn’s lungs would be highly susceptible to such particles (not that they’re harmless for anyone).

More research is needed here to see what can be done to clean the air — it does seem like the kind of thing one could rent a large air filter to take care of. (Since we are using radiant floor, we’ll have no central air filtration system as part of the house.)

We’ve considered leaving the house empty for a couple of weeks post-construction just to clean the air before moving in. It would be great if we could find a way to get a reading on the quantity of particulate in the air.

Posted by Colin


September 25th, 2007

We had gotten our hopes up pretty high, thinking that we were actually going to be able to build this year, despite the amount of time we had already lost. Also because the general contractor who initially said they thought they could do the job for ‘budget + 10-15%’ came back with a number closer to ‘budget + 80%’.

Even then we weren’t completely convinced we weren’t going ahead: we realized that perhaps we could do it if we could subsidize the mortgage with a rental unit in the basement. This would remove a big part of the functionality of the house we had designed, but it seemed like the only avenue we had to travel if we wanted to build.

The problem with this plan, of course, is that it meant spending even more money (on finishing the rental unit in the basement) to be able to afford the already-over-budget house. We eventually came to the realization that we would be moving outside our financial comfort-zone to proceed with building this year. Plus if we did get into a position where we had to sell the house, we’d never be able to get what it was costing us (once you factor in the what we paid for the land + construction cost).

And there was another issue: when our build-plans started going sour in May, we decide not to put off having kids until after the house was built because we were worried something like this might happen. So part of our urgency to build right now was that we would want to move in to the house in February/March just around the time the baby was born.

While the builder thought this might be possible, we figured that was probably wishful thinking on both our parts. (Possible: I’m sure it is. Probable: I’m sure it isn’t.) We really didn’t want to be stuck somewhere other than a place we call home in those first few months.

We also heard from the junior-architect something we hadn’t heard (or at least can’t remember hearing) before: For 3 months after construction ends there is an enormous amount of fine particulate in the air that acts like “sandpaper for your lungs.” (Oh perfect. That’s where we — and our baby! — want to live. In winter, with the windows sealed shut. Cozy! Just us, our lungs, and the sandpaper.)

Indoor air quality is very important to us since Stacey has asthma. We’re trying to find ways to reduce off-gassing from the building materials as well. By waiting until next year, we’re hoping to have the time to let the house air out some before taking occupancy.

The junior-architect suggested we’d really want to get a secondary high efficiency air filter for the first 3 months, but I think we could reduce the time necessary to clean the air by going in a couple of times per day with a high-pressure air compressor and blasting the walls, floor, etc. to get the dust into the air and thereby into the air-filter.

So, that’s where we are at: waiting for a better time to build. It was also mentioned to us that a report released in the U.S. was predicting that housing starts would drop 50% (!) in 2008. If this does happen, its effects could extend north, and lower construction prices here.

Posted by Colin