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“We Shape Our Buildings; Thereafter They Shape Us”

“We Shape Our Buildings; Thereafter They Shape Us”
March 30, 2017 Sabine H. Schoenberg

Winston Churchill once said “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

Think about it. Does this apply to your life and home?  Personally I could not agree more. It is why we recently completed The Greenwich House, where we consciously selected smart, healthy, and green installations inside and out along with an open, light filled design plan.

Many visitors have commented on how easy it is to breathe the air in the home. The air quality as well as really good energy in the house contribute to a very welcoming atmosphere. The Zehnder fresh-air system, also known as an energy recovery ventilation system (ERV) has a lot to do with it. Since the house is super insulated (part of the green building envelope) this system brings in fresh filtered air from outside and it exhausts stale air from inside the home, particularly in bedrooms where higher levels of CO2 are found at night when we are sleeping. What are the benefits of an ERV home system? It is well-established that people sleep better and breathe easier. People are also known to have higher levels of productivity.  ERV’s are difficult to retrofit into a house but if you are thinking of building a new house I highly recommend it.

Have you ever noticed the smell in a brand new house? Sometimes builders will call it that “new car smell” to mask the real culprit. Considering just how many products are installed in a house – from flooring to cabinets to paint and many more – these smells should not really be a surprise. What is alarming is just how toxic this brew becomes in today’s super insulated homes.  

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that indoor air quality in new super insulated homes is 2-5 times more polluted than outside air.

You hope the smell or off-gassing goes away over time. But do you open windows on a regular basis to vent the house? Likely not, and your body has to deal with this chemical blast every day. There is good news, healthier products are now available. Some may be more expensive, but then again, what is your health worth to you?

The tricky part is that many chemicals in our homes come from off-gassing that come from glues that are often found in our flooring, cabinets, and behind the walls fixtures.  At a recent open house at The Greenwich House one real estate agent had a lightbulb moment when I described that our Haecker cabinets are made with zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) glues and materials. He responded “now I know why the glasses I take out of our kitchen cabinets always have a funny smell to them. We thought it might be the dishwasher detergent. We tried all kinds of things unsuccessfully to get rid of this awful smell.” For him there is only one real option. Rip out the cabinets! Better to pay a little more initially and stay clear of these kinds of health hazards.

The design and flow of your house has a great deal to do with lifestyle as well. It’s easy to imagine how an open-concept kitchen, family, and dining room can make meal preparation and even clean up a social experience versus someone separated and isolated from family life in the kitchen. At The Greenwich House we created several pocket and barn doors so that rooms can be used in multiple ways – open and contiguous – separated and formal at other times.

Lighting can also make a real a difference. The right indoor and outdoor lighting system will put you and your family and friends in just the right mood, providing bright and functional settings when needed.

I could go on but see for yourself – check out our videos and articles on product choices that went into the construction of The Greenwich House in Greenwich, CT.  We call it simply living better – smart, healthy, and green.