Tag Archives: healthy homes chicago

Four Healthy Homes Lifestyle Categories to Consider When Going Green

I have started to organized my thoughts on how to start going towards a fully healthy lifestyle by breaking down my healthy home choices into four separate categories which should be considered when establishing our own baseline goals for healthy lifestyles.

Each category must be taken into account when pursuing the goal of a healthy life. Our outdoor environments,  neighborhoods, our office environment and even our commutes as well as so many other factors come into play into establishing a healthy lifestyle, but I believe you might consider each of these four categories to better understand and define a complete healthy homes lifestyle. If you miss on one area you may be missing some opportunities.

Category 1- Food & Nutrition–  the way I eat – food and nutrition and products I use to maintain and clean my home. The consumables both of my family and me but also products used to clean and routinely maintain the home on a daily basis. If my diet is poor then clearly I cannot live and sustain my life in an active and healthy manner.

Category 2: Furnishings & Finishes – the products and services that I bring into my house. Such as the couches, tables or chairs I sit on or the furnishings I bring into my home.  Also, the  finishes of my home including including the bathroom tiles, the paints and flooring finishes I use in my home. If the finishes or furnishings are made of unhealthy or unsustainable products then we must ask why are they a part of our healthy homes lifestyle.

Category 3: Systems – this category gets more into the  mechanical systems, the type of delivery of the heating and air-conditioning and mechanical and water delivery systems of our home as well as the plumbing systems and ventilation systems; Also it should consider and understand the new sustainable delivery methods such as geothermal energy sources, wind and solar as well as the higher velocity mechanical systems which can deliver warm comfortable well filtered air which will significantly improve the indoor air quality and healthy living environment. If this is sounding too complex I will explain all this in detail later.

Category 4: Building Structure & Shell – this category focuses more on the shell of the building;  the building envelope and the exterior walls – the structure itself. If I am eating my organic apple on a non-fire retardant treated couch with my high-efficiency furnace creating healthy air quality levels but the plywood under my floors is emitting formaldehyde off-gasses or there is an ongoing leak in the basement allowing mold to grow, then I believe three out of four does not constitute a complete healthy home life.

How healthy is my home lifestyle? Well the point is that the goal should be to incorporate all four categories into the healthy homes lifestyle design.

The way I look at it is that if I am eating really healthy and nutritious and getting my exercise and if any of the other three categories are not living up to the healthy way they should be or could be then I am not living a healthy lifestyle. I would then by my definition be living in an unhealthy home.

So where to begin? Because that really is the question  all who think about this stuff are asking. First we each need to individually ask ourselves what kind of life do we want to live and how far do we want to take this? I think the only way to really answer this is to be informed and made aware about the consequences and options available for each of the four categories outlined above.

I can say with certainty that we all want to live a healthy life. No one would disagree with that statement. However, I  know for sure that most people are not aware of what it means to make healthy choices in each of these four categories. You might be eating well but if you buy a couch that unknowingly has fire retardants on its surface that you absorb each time you sit down that can cause cancer would you do so? Or when you buy a home and you’re told the furnace works are you also told how well it performs? How much better it would perform if the air it filters went from filtering dust to filtering dander and even viruses. Do you think most homeowner’s know to ask their mechanical contractors how to improve their indoor air quality? Not most because it is not really a hot sexy topic.Wanna talk energy audits? Won’t see that on television. Wanna talk organic natural pure life improving green products? The airwaves are full of it.

Most believe the choices they’re making are healthy and some may be. But I know in my own experience many choices I make or have made I did without knowing they were compromising my health or the health of my children.

Yikes. That is not good.

It’s not so much redefining what it means to live a healthy but becoming aware of the choices available to live a healthy life and on this blog specifically about how to make our homes from the interior walls and woodwork, to flooring and foundation and structure and roofing and siding and finishes and appliances and mechanical systems and new energy methods. The complete package mostly related to categories 3 and 4 above. I will be focusing on how to do this primarily in existing homes but also in new construction since I am a designer and architect I want to understand not only how to improve our existing housing stock (reuse) but also I want to improve the standards by which we build our new housing and establish much much higher healthier standards which take into account the materials and methods used and the sustainable path to making sure the resources are renewable and available for the next generations to come.

Enough about this – let’s start moving forward. Let’s get our entire lifestyle from food and nutrition to the furnishing we fill our homes with to the systems within our homes to our actual built structures and the shells of our homes.

Becoming aware is the first step. Let’s take a look together and begin the first step to a healthier, happier, more comfortable and sustainable place we call home.


Illinois’ Third Passive House built in River Forest

The home’s cobalt blue siding sets it apart from older brick houses in its River Forest neighborhood. But the color of the house on Jackson Avenue is the least of its distinguishing factors.


As northern Illinois’ first certified passive house, Corinna and Rodrigo Lema’s new house is a celebrity in architectural circles. Originated in Germany, a passive house has maximum indoor air quality and is super energy-efficient.


The Lemas’ house is the third certified passive house in Illinois, according to the Passive House Institute U.S., which certifies them. The other two are in Urbana and Champaign.


“If it were a car, it would be getting 300 miles per gallon,” said Mark Miller, executive director of the Passive House Alliance United States, which advocates for these homes. “Europe has embraced this for years. In the U.S., we’re just catching up. There are only 34 certified in the U.S.”


Green Celebrity Homes. Oh the excitement

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Celebrities building green, environmentally friendly homes inspire homeowners Green Celebrity Network Celebrities building green, environmentally friendly homes are being lauded for making sustainable lifestyle efforts.
See on greencelebrity.net

How Do the Top Brands for Refrigerators Rank on Energy Efficiency?

How Do the Top Brands for Refrigerators Rank on Energy Efficiency?

Great article from Home Energy Magazine outline and graphically showing significant differences and efficiencies from various brands and locations. Great article and keeper.

Before jumping at the next sale on refrigerators, you should be aware that fridge 
energy costs range from $277 to as high as $2,898 over the lifetime of the product.
Yes, you read that right. You may find, based on energy costs, it is cheaper to buy 
a state of the art new fridge than keep your old one. Just as MPG (miles per gallon) 
measures the fuel efficiency of cars, the Enervee Score ranks the energy efficiency 
of electronics and appliances by making it super easy to choose the best product with 
the highest score to save you money.

From: Enervee.com

This report answers the following questions:

  1. How much does an energy efficient fridge save? Choosing the most energy efficient 25 cubic feet Refrigerator can easily save $769 over 12 years.

  2. What is the most energy efficient refrigerator type? Top freezer models are far more efficient then any other type.

  3. Does size really make a difference on energy cost? The total volume of a refrigerator is a critical factor for energy consumption. The difference in energy cost between a smaller and a large fridge can be hundreds of dollars over the life span.

  4. Which brands have the most energy efficient refrigerators? Samsung is the energy efficiency leader receiving the “Platinum” award based on having the highest average Enervee Score of 68 across their refrigerators. The “Gold” award was given to LG with an Enervee Score of 66.

  5. Does where you live affect your refrigerator’s energy costs? Electricity rates vary greatly by provider and community. They can be as low as one third or as high as three times the national average.

  6. How much can you save by choosing a fridge with higher Enervee Score? On a 18 – 22 cubic feet fridge you can save almost $800 over 12 years.

You can read more about Enervee here: “Know Your Score: Energy Efficiency Made Easy

US Welcomes New Green Building Standard – DesignBuild Source

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New standards from New standards developed for housing industry including renovation standards and scoring including energy and efficiency of existing buildings. Great progress but is it enough? DesignBuild Source US Welcomes New Green Building Standard DesignBuild Source The American National Standards Institute has approved the 2012 ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS), which was developed by the International Code Council
See on designbuildsource.com.au

Green buildings can help encourage green behavior | gallondaily

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More support showing awareness matters and sustainable design can have an impact on behavioral changes towards positive healthier living. Recently published research indicates that sustainable buildings may encourage more environmental behavior among their occupants.
See on gallondaily.com

Home Energy Magazine – Blog :: Californians See Significant Increase in Solar Water Heating Rebates

See on Scoop.itSustainable Modern Homes

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved an increase in rebates offered through the California Solar Initiative (CSI)-Thermal Program of up to 45%.

Jim Gramata‘s insight:

If you’re going to start in solar here is a nice entry level approach. Hot Water Heaters although this picture would indicate enough hot water to supply about 10 homes. Small and compact soution to consider…

See on www.homeenergy.org

Ellis Residence: A Stunning LEED Platinum Home on Bainbridge Island

See on Scoop.itSustainable Modern Homes

Ellis Residence in Bainbridge Island, Washington designed by Coates Design is a LEED Platinum home that shines as an example of modern design made green.


Situated on Yeomalt Bluff overlooking Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline, the Ellis Residence is a renovation that resulted in the reuse of more than 80% of the existing materials. The new home cuts energy consumption by 70% with the innovative use of geothermal heating, photovoltaic energy systems, and smart construction techniques. Other key sustainable features include rainwater collection, FSC and recycled wood products, triple-glazed windows and a green roof…


Jim Gramata‘s insight:

Some great design solutions on this Bainbridge Island escape. Way to go!

See on inhabitat.com

The Biggest Air Leak in Your House You D

The Biggest Air Leak in Your House You Don’t Know About http://ow.ly/gZBCz

Eco-Broker: Simplify Going Green

Image of a couple at home

For home buyers and sellers today, there are many green home certifications as well as options to make existing homes greener. But what makes the most sense for you and your family? What will benefit your health and comfort as well as your budget? With extensive education on what makes homes healthier and more energy and resource efficient, I can help identify green ratings and certifications to address your specific needs and concerns. In addition, I have a network of trusted service professionals who can implement green upgrades that may ultimately increase the efficiency of your home. After all, a home that is green is a home that can help save you green.

Image of men building a house

As an NAR Green Designee, I can help you:

  • Market and sell your green certified home or home with green features.
  • Identify green features and upgrades that offer the best payback period.
  • Connect with industry professionals who can facilitate green upgrades.
  • Identify ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
  • Take advantage of available tax credits and incentives.

Complete your green home transaction with confidence. Work with an NAR Green Designee. Get started today contacting me directly or by visiting GreenResourceCouncil.org. NAR’s Green Designation is awarded by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).


How healthy is your home? How to start going green gradually and over time

Jim Gramata - Healthy Homes ChicagoHow healthy is your home? or perhaps better… how healthy is your entire home lifestyle? I have researched thousands of articles, blog posts, white papers, books and websites studying the concept of sustainable, ‘green’, safe and healthy homes. I’ve seen the impact unhealthy choices have had on people, families, neighborhoods, communities and our environment through research and stories told. I’ve been appalled at the ‘green washing’ efforts the public is facing from the media which is only adding more confusion to the question of what is true, who can be trusted for a consolidated collection of information of the best path to healthy living.  I am committed to providing an honest introduction to the concepts of living in healthy homes.

Most of us can agree on what makes a home unhealthy. Poor indoor air quality, mold, lead or radon in a home etc. But each definition of what is a healthy home should be self-constructed because each persons efforts and vision may differ, but I believe in order to make educated decisions we must first know what questions to ask in order to define our vision and awareness of what is a healthy homes.

This blog is my effort to share my knowledge, thoughts and resources with homeowners who are unsure about where to begin on making your home (present of future) healthy. It can be so overwhelming.

Many choices were made for you from the previous owners of your home who were stewards of the home. Or they were made by the developers who built your home and who (along with the architect and designer) made so many of the choices of the components that make up the house. They made decisions related to healthy living whether they framed the decision matrix in this light or not. In some cases they did and in others I am sure they did not. 

This blog will also focus on current (or future) homeowners who continues to make maintenance decisions or improvements decisions which may unknowingly be having a harmful effect on your health without you knowing it. This is where the awareness factors is brought to light for readers or followers. 

To me as an architect who makes material choices for renovated or newly built homes I know the consequences are very real on many levels.  As I continued to watch designers and builders make the choices many of them are making, I became committed to publishing a message that these poor choices have consequences. This hopefully will be a wakeup for someone who will take the message to heart and take small steps (or large) to make their homes and neighborhood healthier and safe places to live.

Jim Gramata
The Gramata Realty Group
2214 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60614

How to Replace Weather Stripping

Unfortunately, nothing in your home stays perfect forever. And sometimes it’s not until the colder months that you realize you’ve let something go by the wayside.

Protect your home from air leaks and your wallet from high energy costs by replacing worn weather stripping around windows and doors. It’s an easy DIY project, and will only take a short time from your afternoon while giving you a long-lasting and cost-saving effect.

HouseLogic.com offers up a great guide to this simple home update including installation tips, product suggestions, and more. For the complete article, click here.

Guest Post: Misconceptions About Building Green – Green Building Elements

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Guest Post: Misconceptions About Building Green Green Building Elements There are some additional costs during the construction phase of building green. But the operational and maintenance cost of a green-built home are significantly less.
See on greenbuildingelements.com

In Rural Minnesota, a 70-Acre Lab for Sustainable Living

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Imagine a house that can go without heating for two days in a bitterly cold winter. Or a greenhouse with what may be the largest hot-air solar panel array in North America. (Looking for sustainable building guidance?
See on green.blogs.nytimes.com

Green Building Trends for 2013 | Inspiring Sustainable End-to-End Supply Chain

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Among the top 10 trends is an increasing focus on retrofits, water, net-zero, and avoiding red-list chemicals.
See on www.scoop.it

ANSI Approves Next Generation of the ICC 700 National Green …

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The resulting ICC 700 National Green Building Standard is the first and only residential green building rating system to undergo the full consensus process and receive approval from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
See on www.realestaterama.com

Rochester Memorial School recognized as high performing ‘green’ building – Wicked Local

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Rochester Memorial School recognized as high performing ‘green’ building Wicked Local “Massachusetts School Building Authority has been a strong supporter of sustainable building design throughout the years, and we are thrilled that our schools and…
See on www.wickedlocal.com

U.S. Government Seeing Big Savings From Green Buildings – Greentech Media

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Greentech Media U.S. Government Seeing Big Savings From Green Buildings The U.S. Treasury has always been a place where people could find something green, but this time the term is not referring to money.
See on www.greentechmedia.com

DEWA’s Sustainable Building attracts visitors at WFES 2013 – AME Info

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AME Info DEWA’s Sustainable Building attracts visitors at WFES 2013 AME Info The Supreme Council’s pavilion showcased Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA’s) Sustainable Building, the first green building built for the public sector in the…
See on www.ameinfo.com

Designers, planners to tackle building health, efficiency – Charleston Gazette

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Designers, planners to tackle building health, efficiency Charleston Gazette.
See on wvgazette.com