Beyond the View

Making “home” healthier is more than a fad, from passive solar design and glass tinted by the sun to toxin-absorbing gypsum boards and VOC-free paints.
Modern home with glass ceiling
Photography by William Hebert/ Courtesy Visbeen Architects Inc.

Waterfront homes can provide more than a tremendous view. In fact, some of the latest innovations that could benefit lake-dwellers relate to health and wellness.

In the planning stages, finished walkouts with a wet area for guests to enter from the lake and take their towels to a stackable laundry are in demand. “It’s almost like a lower mudroom,” says Todd Hallett, architect and owner of TK Design & Associates in South Lyon.

Sun Screen

Today’s outdoor living spaces are featuring multiple levels, like a screen porch and a covered lanai with a fireplace. Passive solar design that positions the home in relation to the sun’s rays and incorporates extended overhangs is another growing trend, shares Hallett, who often works on waterfront homes.

Chad Simkins, vice president for Pleotint in Grand Rapids, notes that the company’s Suntuitive windows are like sunglasses for a home. The window only tints when there is direct sunlight on that side of the structure. “As the sun moves around your home, it rotates around the building,” he says. “The glass will tint as it follows the sun and it will maximize daylight and minimize heat.”

It also helps with glare. For those watching TV or working on a computer, this is an issue, particulary on a lake. “We all want a view to feel connected to nature, but you end up with too much light and too much sun,” Simkins says. “Waterfront homeowners pay for that beautiful view. You don’t want to shut the shades and turn that window into a wall.”

Healthy patio
Photography courtesy Thinkstock

All Together Now

Products need to be integrated, expresses Brian Lieburn, residential application technology leader for Dow Building Solutions in Midland, which provides solutions that go beyond code requirements for a more energy-efficient, durable, comfortable and healthy home.

Though extreme conditions are common in Michigan, homeowners can ward weather off with Styrofoam insulation sheets, which act like a Gore-Tex parka for your home, Lieburn says. Dow’s Great Stuff Foam Sealant is another pro-active product.

“Nothing good happens when you have a leaky house,” he notes. “We build homes to keep the outside out and the inside in — gaps and cracks allow air and energy to escape and critters and bugs to enter. You need to seal (home) tight, but also ventilate it properly.

“You want to control how much fresh air comes in and where it enters. You don’t want it coming from the garage or the dryer vent.”

Air Things Out

People are putting more effort into air quality, notes John Bitely, president of Sable Homes in Rockford, just north of Grand Rapids. “We want to exchange air efficiently and control those pollutants.” AirRenew by CertainTeed is a gypsum board that absorbs toxins in the air, reducing VOCs and pollutants like the formaldehyde found in hairspray.

WhisperGreen fans help with the air exchange and reduce humidity that can directly impact mold and mildew. VOC-free paints and toxin-free glues are also part of the plan. “It’s been more and more important to talk about the whole envelope and how everything works together, not just one or two parts,” Bitely emphasizes. “Our homes have become high performance models, just like our cars.”

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