Tag Archives: homes

Working hard towards a future of healthy, safe, sustainable and efficiently improved homes in Chicago

Our landing page: Working hard towards a future of healthy, safe, sustainable and efficiently improved homes in Chicago and the North Shore. http://ow.ly/iI1yi #healthy #green #homes


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.

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.

Eco-novice: Going Green Gradually

Eco-novice: Going Green Gradually: Ten Green Goals for 2013 http://ow.ly/gGfsB ^HH

Developers braced for ‘green’ building codes in Washington DC

See on Scoop.itHealthyHomesChicago

Developers braced for ‘green’ building codes in Washington DCSustainable Business OregonWashington D.C.

Jim Gramata‘s insight:

Love the concept they’re trying for here – to implement policy wide in DC better building code standards. In order to make the most impact on our local, regional and international methods we must move these ideas to the legislative levels.

See on sustainablebusinessoregon.com

#USGBC Is at it again with this awesome interactive and innovative website they just launched to promote the global initiatives being discovered and improved around the world. GBIG

Green Building Information Gateway http://ow.ly/fYHml #healthyhomes

Geo Thermal Heat pumps. Theory and operation from Sibley. | lowcostheating

See on Scoop.itChicago healthy homes

Another from Mr. Herbert’s Science class, using a practical, personal application as a lesson, we study the operation and repair (Geo Thermal Heat pumps.


Sustainable Green Building Materials from CalRecycle

Green Building Materials


The concept of sustainable building incorporates and integrates a variety of strategies during the design, construction and operation of building projects. The use of green building materials and products represents one important strategy in the design of a building.

Green building materials offer specific benefits to the building owner and building occupants:

  • Reduced maintenance/replacement costs over the life of the building.
  • Energy conservation.
  • Improved occupant health and productivity.
  • Lower costs associated with changing space configurations.
  • Greater design flexibility.

Building and construction activities worldwide consume 3 billion tons of raw materials each year or 40 percent of total global use (Roodman and Lenssen, 1995). Using green building materials and products promotes conservation of dwindling nonrenewable resources internationally. In addition, integrating green building materials into building projects can help reduce the environmental impacts associated with the extraction, transport, processing, fabrication, installation, reuse, recycling, and disposal of these building industry source materials.

What is a green building product or material?

Green building materials are composed of renewable, rather than nonrenewable resources. Green materials are environmentally responsible because impacts are considered over the life of the product (Spiegel and Meadows, 1999). Depending upon project-specific goals, an assessment of green materials may involve an evaluation of one or more of the criteria listed below.

Green building material/product selection criteria

This information was based on Lynn Froeschle’s article, “Environmental Assessment and Specification of Green Building Materials” (Adobe PDF, 1.4 MB), in the October 1999 issue of The Construction Specifier, a publication for members of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). Selection criteria similar to what is presented below was also used for the East End Project as identified in the Review of Construction Projects Using Sustainable Materials.

Overall material/product selection criteria:

Resource Efficiency can be accomplished by utilizing materials that meet the following criteria:

  • Recycled Content: Products with identifiable recycled content, including postindustrial content with a preference for postconsumer content.
  • Natural, plentiful or renewable: Materials harvested from sustainably managed sources and preferably have an independent certification (e.g., certified wood) and are certified by an independent third party.
  • Resource efficient manufacturing process:Products manufactured with resource-efficient processes including reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste (recycled, recyclable and or source reduced product packaging), and reducing greenhouse gases.
  • Locally available: Building materials, components, and systems found locally or regionally saving energy and resources in transportation to the project site.
  • Salvaged, refurbished, or remanufactured: Includes saving a material from disposal and renovating, repairing, restoring, or generally improving the appearance, performance, quality, functionality, or value of a product.
  • Reusable or recyclable:Select materials that can be easily dismantled and reused or recycled at the end of their useful life.
  • Recycled or recyclable product packaging: Products enclosed in recycled content or recyclable packaging.
  • Durable: Materials that are longer lasting or are comparable to conventional products with long life expectancies.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is enhanced by utilizing materials that meet the following criteria:

  • Low or non-toxic: Materials that emit few or no carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, or irritants as demonstrated by the manufacturer through appropriate testing.
  • Minimal chemical emissions: Products that have minimal emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Products that also maximize resource and energy efficiency while reducing chemical emissions.
  • Low-VOC assembly: Materials installed with minimal VOC-producing compounds, or no-VOC mechanical attachment methods and minimal hazards.
  • Moistureresistant:Products and systems that resist moisture or inhibit the growth of biological contaminants in buildings.
  • Healthfully maintained: Materials, components, and systems that require only simple, non-toxic, or low-VOC methods of cleaning.
  • Systems or equipment: Products that promote healthy IAQ by identifying indoor air pollutants or enhancing the air quality.

Energy Efficiency can be maximized by utilizing materials and systems that meet the following criteria:

  • Materials, components, and systems that help reduce energy consumption in buildings and facilities. (See Green Building Basics for more information.)

Water Conservation can be obtained by utilizing materials and systems that meet the following criteria:

  • Products and systems that help reduce water consumption in buildings and conserve water in landscaped areas. (See Green Building Basics for more information.)

Affordability can be considered when building product life-cycle costs are comparable to conventional materials or as a whole, are within a project-defined percentage of the overall budget. (See Environmental and Economic Assessment Tools for links to resources.)

Three basic steps of product selection

Product selection can begin after the establishment of project-specific environmental goals. The environmental assessment process for building products involves three basic steps. (Froeschle, 1999)

1. Research. This step involves gathering all technical information to be evaluated, including manufacturers’ information such as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) test data, product warranties, source material characteristics, recycled content data, environmental statements, and durability information. In addition, this step may involve researching other environmental issues, building codes, government regulations, building industry articles, model green building product specifications, and other sources of product data. Research helps identify the full range of the project’s building material options.

2. Evaluation. This step involves confirmation of the technical information, as well as filling in information gaps. For example, the evaluator may request product certifications from manufacturers to help sort out possible exaggerated environmental product claims. Evaluation and assessment is relatively simple when comparing similar types of building materials using the environmental criteria. For example, a recycled content assessment between various manufacturers of medium density fiberboard is a relatively straightforward “apples to apples” comparison. However, the evaluation process is more complex when comparing different products with the same function. Then it may become necessary to process both descriptive and quantitative forms of data.

A life cycle assessment (LCA) is an evaluation of the relative “greenness” of building materials and products. LCA addresses the impacts of a product through all of its life stages. Although rather simple in principle, this approach has been difficult and expensive in actual practice (although that appears to be changing).

One tool that uses the LCA methodology is BEES (Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability) software. It allows users to balance the environmental and economic performance of building products. The software was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory and can be downloaded free on their Web site.

3. Selection. This step often involves the use of an evaluation matrix for scoring the project-specific environmental criteria. The total score of each product evaluation will indicate the product with the highest environmental attributes. Individual criteria included in the rating system can be weighted to accommodate project-specific goals and objectives.

Source: Green Building Materials: Sustainable Building.


  1. Lynn M. Froeschle, “Environmental Assessment and Specification of Green Building Materials,” The Construction Specifier, October 1999, p. 53. (Back)
  2. D.M. Roodman and N. Lenssen, A Building Revolution: How Ecology and Health Concerns are Transforming Construction, Worldwatch Paper 124, Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C., March 1995, p. 5. (Back)
  3. Ross Spiegel and Dru Meadows, Green Building Materials: A Guide to Product Selection and Specification, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1999. (Back)

Healthy Child Healthy World: A Shared Mission of Health

Check out this video and if you believe in the simple message support this awesome organization! Quite a simple inspiring video…

We share this mission of education of empowering families through education and a better understanding of living in safer and healthier home environments.

Healthy Home in Chicago Gets National Attention

The SF Chronicle ran an article about this Healthy Home in Chicago. If you’re a Healthy Homes maven, you probably know about it, but the Chicago Trib didn’t even do a story–at least that I could find. Here’s a cut and paste from the Chronicle piece (which is really a lift from the PR Release from Sponsor Dwell Magazine).

In a groundbreaking partnership with leaders and advocates in green design, Healthy Home 2012 is a real-life educational model for healthier living, raising the bar on sustainable design by focusing on healthier indoor environments. This one-of-a-kind endeavor is intended to help educate and inspire people to create non-toxic living environments, from foundation to food.

The contemporary home, built and designed for a growing family, is located in the prestigious Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago and features an outstanding display of sustainable design, furniture, lighting and accessories – and showcasing the highest standards of environmental integrity.

Spearheaded by sustainable experts and green design leaders, Victoria Di Iorio and Jill Salisbury, the project has brought together a standard of healthy and stylish living that is unsurpassed. From construction to design to lifestyle choices, the home showcases the best in sustainable design, innovative technologies, green building materials and healthful living.
“We are going beyond the notion of what is sustainable to create a home that has health and wellness at the heart of our objectives,” noted Di Iorio. “This project seeks to raise awareness on all the ways we can achieve a healthier environment – from cleaning supplies and food choices to how we construct and decorate our homes – so anyone can aspire to cleaner, greener, healthier living.”

The Home
Designed by architect Joe Trojanowski, this modern home with large expanses of glass boasts the advantages of natural light and views of the neighborhood and the Chicago skyline. The exterior is clad in dark colored brick and large cast stone panels, and is designed to accommodate outdoor living with an enclosed yard, raised dining terrace, a large roof deck on the top floor designed for entertaining, and a private green roof for the Master Suite.
The homeowners desired a contemporary living space designed for entertaining while meeting the lifestyle needs of their family. The family’s consideration for environment, health and balance are reflected throughout all the interior spaces and in every selection made for this home. The unique double volume space in the living room and open floor plan allow for the entire first floor to illuminate with daylight with the incorporation of an open staircase and sliding glass doors. The basement and third floor are designed for family activities, entertaining and includes a private office, while the second floor is tucked away for privacy. The home reflects a neutral and earthy palate with clean lines and contemporary details that flow from the exterior spaces throughout the interiors of the home.

Green Highlights
The house employs a number of materials and technologies that are environmentally friendly by doing a number of things – conserve energy, use less water, improve its indoor air quality, reduce the ‘heat island effect’ in the city and utilize sustainable building materials.
The heating system of the house is 98% efficient, meaning nearly all of the energy consumed is converted directly to heat, rather than wasted
The insulation envelope of the house is very high performing with insulation that exceeds the standards set by the City of Chicago Green Homes Program Guidelines
The windows in the house are constructed of thermally broken aluminum frames, which prevent ‘thermal bridging’, or the direct transfer of heat through the window frame
The glass in the house is 1” thick insulated glass manufactured by PPG, with ‘Solarcool Grey’ reflective coating, which not only provides daytime privacy, but further reduces the heat loss and heat gain through the glass areas. This reduces the home’s energy consumption.

The home is designed to maximize greenspace and is extensively planted, which reduces the stormwater load, and helps to reduce the ‘heat island effect’ of buildings in the city

  • The metal roof has a high solar reflective index (SRI) which reflects much of the suns heat and helps to reduce the cooling load.
  • The house is enclosed in a continuous insulation including under the basement slab, which reduces the heating demand.
  • The house includes mechanical connections for future solar thermal and solar photoelectric systems.
  • All appliances are energy star-rated
  • All structural floor systems are constructed of engineered lumber which are manufactured from sustainably grown forests
  • All wood flooring in the house is FSC certified sustainably harvested bamboo
  • Renewably harvested cork flooring is used in the basement
  • All water fixtures are low water consumption
  • All interior paint finishes are no VOC
  • All adhesives are minimal VOC
  • Roof decking surfaces are made with composite wood decking, which is made from scrap wood and recycled products

Healthy Child Healthy World Healthy Child Healthy World is the nation’s preeminent nonprofit organization that advocates for and protects children’s health—to help create cleaner, healthier indoor environments for children and their families.
Healthy Home 2012 in collaboration with Healthy Child Healthy World is a residential prototype for best practices in healthy living and improved indoor air quality. By meeting some of the world’s most stringent indoor air quality standards — the house will serve as a model for safe, healthy, and breathable indoor environments for millions of children and families.
Greenguard Environmental Institute 
Healthy Home 2012 features dozens of GREENGUARD Certified low-emitting products and building materials—including paints, wallboard, flooring, countertops, tile, and certain furnishings. By meeting some of the world’s most stringent indoor air quality standards, these GREENGUARD Certified products help reduce the number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxic contaminants in the home’s interior, thereby creating healthier indoor air.

Dwell magazine is the exclusive sponsor, giving Healthy Home 2012 in Chicago a national platform to educate the public on how truly green and healthier living can be achieved in a hip and design-forward way. The showcase home offers modern design enthusiasts innovative and stylish solutions for healthy living.

Here are some links from other groups that covered this very cool event.




Healthy Homes Mean Clean Water

Healthy Homes / Want to make sure your water is clean? http://www.newliving.net http://bit.ly/UUab3U

Do the Danes get CleanTech right?

Do the Danes get CleanTech right? Check this out from TreeHugger.com http://ow.ly/eYtTw

How healthy homes reduce health risks

How a clean home reduces health risks – by Tiffany Adams – Helium http://bit.ly/X3qcK8

Making a Difference One Healthy Home at a Time

One builder is making it right in Valpo Indiana. Sustainable and green housing design/build concepts with an outline of some real numbers and the specific systems used to meet their Healthy Homes targets and beyond. Great job!

Since building the Gem, the first National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) Emerald-Certified House in the state, Treasure Homes Inc. continues to be a green building leader in northwest Indiana.

“Green building is much more than energy efficiency. It’s a holistic approach to healthy homes that minimizes environmental impact and is certified through third-party verification,” Sarah Oudman of Treasure Homes and leader of the Green Building Alliance for the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana (HBA of NWI), explained. “There are 7 keys to a green home – lot design, preparation and development; resource efficiency; energy efficiency; water efficiency; indoor environmental quality; and operation, maintenance and building owner education.”

Making a Difference One Home at a Time.

Which home would you choose?

Which would you choose: to live in a home you could afford, or one that is healthy for your family? Check out #HealthyHomes for Healthy Families http://1.usa.gov/USc0OO

Why healthy sustainable home designs? How about 84 Billion reasons

Why am I so interested in healthy and sustainable housing? Well the primary reason is because it makes sense to want to live in a healthy environment in built homes that are using resources that will not be gone in 100 years. The idea of designing and building without regard for the impact on the occupants health or the availability of resources and environmental impact of our future generations (my children) is in comprehensible. May nay-sayers balk at these ideas as nonsense but the world population has already doubled in my short time here on earth and it will double again by the time my daughter reaches her adult life.

It is inevitable that path cannot be sustained. So where does this leave us? In my opinion if you’re not interested in these principles at least you may be interested in business opportunity because they are real and if you have vision they are very real. Look at this study and consider if nothing else look at the idea of healthy sustainable design as a real and economically viable business opportunity worth pursuing. Regardless the reason all I am interested in is the end results of healthy sustainable and environmentally responsible design/builds.



While conditions in residential construction throughout many parts of the world may be challenging right now, those seeking long term growth opportunities need look no further than the green building and energy efficient housing sector.Indeed, over the next decade, the value of work done in energy efficient residential dwellings – properties which are built to exceed the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code by 15 per cent on a kilowatt-hour per square foot basis – will grow by around sixfold from around US$14 billion now to around US$84 billion in 2020 according to a report from Pike Research, a global market research and consulting firm specializing in clean energy.

Check out the full story here via Pocket : $84 Billion in Green Building Residential Opportunities.

Healthy Homes Resources / This links to

Healthy Homes Resources / This links to the report “Healthy Environments: A http://bit.ly/TtnoVd

What is Residential Green Building Desig

What is Residential Green Building Design? Here are some Frequently Asked Questions to help demystify the process http://bit.ly/SQqEE5