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Local Builders Aim To Increase Home Ventilation, Decrease Health Risks

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Energy efficiency is a selling point for many homes, but experts say it can also create health risks.

A new study from Advanced Energy found evidence linking home building practices to problems like asthma and allergies.

Tthe Triangle is trying to find ways to build healthier homes. The study found Chapel Hill's Meadowmont townhouses to be some of the healthiest in our area.

"They can have a dramatic impact on our health, particularly people who are sensitive -- asthmatics in particular," said John Morrison, vice president of operations at Advanced Energy.

Morrison said some contemporary houses are too energy efficient, which affects air quality.

"Although we want a tight house, we want to make sure we ventilate it well," he said.

Meadowmont town homes had several modifications to improve air quality, including small changes such as upgraded fans in the bathrooms and kitchen to help draw out moisture.

"Moisture is the key to a healthy building. Managing moisture helps reduce mold and mildew [and] reduce things like dust mites," said Morrison.

Sealed ducts keep air out of crawl spaces.

"We all know what sort of wonderful things grow in our crawl spaces sometimes," said Morrison.

Dan McFarland, a building science specialist, said the most unique feature at Meadowmont is an air duct that brings in fresh air, filters it and then releases it into the home.

"It's just a very small amount, but it's enough to know that we're getting the fresh air we need in this tight building," said McFarland.

He added that air quality improvements are not about reinventing home construction, but rather an effort to make them healthier.

"We don't have to do a lot of new and innovative things. We just tweak what we've been doing all along," said McFarland .

Once construction is completed, Advanced Energy tests air tightness, airflow and measures for moisture.

The upgrades can add about $1,300 in extra construction costs.

However, the heating and cooling bills in these homes cost less than $23 a month.


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