Re: Non-toxic building materials
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 26 May 2018 13:39:22 -0700 (PDT)
> On May 25, 2018, at 12:22 PM, Mitchell Darer <mitchell.darer [at]> 
> wrote:
> We are couple who are active in a new co-housing group that anticipates 
> breaking ground next month.

If you are already breaking ground it may be too late — are all the 
construction bids in?

I don’t know about products —we built in 2000 and think things were spec'ed 
before that. The one thing I know is that in 2000 the contractors had not a 
clue about the materials we had specified. I wasn’t on that team but watched 
the email as one thing after another had to be redone because the wood wasn’t 
arsenic free or the glue non-toxic, etc. The contractors just followed standard 
practice. So it will take work upfront to get them to actually read the RFP and 
follow the contract.

Hire a professional to help you decide when it makes sense financially to use 
the more environmentally sustainable and non-toxic material. Sometimes there 
isn’t a reliable alternative and sometimes the alternative is unreasonably 
expensive. A professional will also know

AND, this is a big one: Figure out how you will get the system serviced, 
repaired, maintained, refinished, etc. If no one in your area is an expert on 
geothermal systems, don’t install one. If the windows are super efficient, be 
sure the installers know the product and install it right or it won’t matter 
because there may not be the right seal between the windows and the framing.

It’s a two edged sword. Think about the year after you move in. Where is your 
help? Do you understand the technologies yourselves?

It’s been 20 years but it took at least 10 years and 4 service providers before 
our geothermal system was working optimally. The best maintenance company only 
serviced the systems they installed. My system didn’t work for 2 years. Many 
people looked at it and did various things but it took two years before they 
figured out that my pump was pumping water the opposite direction than the pump 
upstairs. They had no clue that they were connected.

That happens with conventional materials too but hire a professional.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
"We're only the light bulbs, and our job is just to remain screwed in.” Bishop 
Desmond Tutu

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