Construction Materials and Air Quality, a Wrap Up
Construction on the Passive House will be complete within the next few weeks. We will then do the final blower door test, followed by the interior fit out, and the house will be complete! It’s been quite a journey from concept to design to construction. We’re all excited to see the final product.
During the process of building this house a review was done for each type of construction material used inside the building envelope, to ensure a clean and nontoxic environment. Working closely with Bill Stratton and our architects at Barlis Wedlick, we compiled a spreadsheet documenting the research on each item.
Previous posts detail concerns with new construction and indoor air quality (Is Green Always Clean?), and list out third party certifiers and IAQ standards (More on IAQ and Making a List). In addition to materials used, this Passive House construction prioritizes a tight building envelope and continually circulating air, which prevents mold growth and keeps the air refreshed and pure. The durability of all materials was considered in addition to their air quality appeal, so that the goals of efficiency and sustainability for the house are also maintained.
Here are just a few of the specific items we have chosen for this Passive House:
- Drywall: Lafarge drywall and joint compound (Greenguard Gold certified)
- Wall paint: Ben Moore Aura (Low VOC). Though there are no-VOC paints available, experienced people have shared that they have more confidence in the performance of this product, and that less coats are required than the no-VOC paints available.
- Construction adhesives: OSI Green Series (Greenguard certified)
- Wood finish: Bona (Greenguard certified)
- Grout: Laticrete (Greenguard Gold certified)
- Plywood for casework, cabinetry: Commonwealth Plywood (suitable for LEED IEQ point, and FSC certified for sustainability)
Materials that are Greenguard certified or that meet the LEED recommendations for Indoor Environmental Quality were generally considered okay in construction of the house.
The UL Sustainable Product Guide is a helpful source for finding products low in Volatile Organic Compounds, or that meet other preferred specifications. Another resource is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which usually tells the VOC content (Section 9) and other helpful information about each product, and can generally be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website. Sometimes VOC content is not found on the MSDS, but is contained in other informational sheets. Proper knowledge and application of materials by the construction crew and ventilation is important as well, to protect their safety and to ensure proper curing. Details about maintaining indoor air quality with new construction can be found in the ASHRAE manual, Indoor Air Quality Guide.