"Prescriptions for a Healthy
"Prescriptions for a Healthy House",
by Paula Baker-Laporte, Erica Elliot and
If you're planning on building or renovating this summer, Prescriptions for a Healthy House should be by your side from the moment you begin the planning process. The book is useful, practical and packed with information.
Each of the authors comes to the field of healthy building after life-changing personal experiences with poor indoor air quality. "If someone had told me in the early years of my career that I would be writing a technical 'how to' book about healthy homes," writes Laporte, "I would have looked at them with total incredulity. I would have explained that, as an architect, my main concern was the creation of beautiful and interactive spatial forms and that my aspirations were artistic rather than technical. It seems that fate had a different course for me. I joined the ranks of the chemically sensitive."
Laporte traces her illness to overexposure
to formaldehyde when she lived for a short period in a brand new mobile
home. Erica Elliott, an MD and world class mountaineer, traces the beginning
of her illness, and consciousness of the importance of healthy building,
to a period when she worked in a medical clinic in a new building with
non-opening windows and wall to wall carpet. John Banta was introduced
to the impacts of conventional building materials when he and his wife
painted and carpeted a nursery to welcome their first child. The baby developed
serious medical problems which turned out to be acute sensitivity to chemicals.
Banta, a medical technician working with formaldehyde, benzene and toluene
"The homeowner who desires to create
a healthy building or remodel an existing one is still a pioneer facing
... major obstacles including the primary one; building for health is not
the current standard of the construction industry," points out Laporte.
Architect Laporte understands the thousands
of details that make up the process of building, most of which are so ingrained
they are seldom questioned. She has used her training to develop
sets of instructions which the reader can incorporate into a contract with
a builder to specify what products and practices are acceptable and unacceptable
in a building project. In addition to providing a clear framework for contractors
and subcontractors in language they can understand, such specifications
also provide a written record which can be invaluable if problems do arise.
This is one of the book's strong points, information which is not found
"The average person lacks a background in chemistry and has a false assumption that in order for building products to be allowed on the market they must be reasonably safe," writes Laporte. Prescriptions provides lists of brand names of products found to be less harmful, and explanations of what makes these products healthier. This provides a valuable shortcut in the time-consuming process of finding less toxic building materials.
Although the books contains mainly US products, many of them are available in Canada. The explanations provide the reader with a enough understanding to know what questions to ask in looking for alternative products if the ones listed are not available locally.
Interspersed with building information
are case studies of people who became sick from exposure to poor indoor
air. Reading them underlines the significance of healthy building, and
the importance of careful material choice. This book exposes how many of
the invisible choices which are made
Two additional must have books on this subject are The Healthy Home: How to Build One, How to Buy One, How to Cure a Sick One, by John Bower and Understanding Ventilation, also by John Bower .
Barb Harris is chemically sensitive and acutely aware of the value of a healthy home.