A family can have the largest, most elegant house in the county, but if its components make family members ill -- red eyes, headaches, rashes and so forth -- it isn't much of a "home."
When everyone lived in a log cabin or a stonewalled castle, there wasn't much that would make inhabitants ill. But as technology advanced, more and more components were added to homes -- which might have made homes easier to build, more attractive, more energy-efficient, but also made some of their inhabitants sick.
In fact, Anthony Di Iorio, one of the three sons of Peter and Kathy Di Iorio, owners of Dior Builders of Palatine, was one of those adversely affected by allergies to building materials. Every day that he was on the job back in 2004, he returned home with red eyes and often became ill. His wife, Victoria, noticed and began extensive research on the building materials that could be causing his physical reactions.
Eventually she learned enough and presented her findings to the entire family, advocating for changes in their choice of materials -- for the good of the eventual homeowners and for the good of those working on the sites.
The family quickly chose to make the changes and also decided to showcase those advances by periodically building a spec house that the public could tour before it was sold. They also hoped to prod other builders to incorporate healthier options into their own building protocols.
The fourth Dior-built "Healthy Home" is currently open for tour at 1055 Glencrest Drive in Inverness through Feb. 4. Tour tickets are $20 and proceeds will be donated to the American Lung Association. For tickets and more information, visit www.healthyhome2018.com.
"We are going beyond the notion of what is sustainable and perceived to be healthy and creating a real-life model of what a truly healthy home should be -- from foundation to food," Victoria Di Iorio, founder of the Healthy Home Initiative, noted.
Dior's Healthy Home 2018 is the first in the country to be built under the American Lung Association's revised Health House™ guidelines, featuring everything from energy efficient products and innovative technologies, to green building materials and nontoxic furniture and accessories. It has been created to showcase some of the highest standards of human health and environmental integrity.
"Exposure to indoor air pollutants -- smoke, radon, dust, mold and other pollutants -- can pose serious health risks and can contribute to respiratory disease, asthma and even lung cancer," says Harold Wimmer, President & CEO of the American Lung Association. "By following the American Lung Association's Health House™ guidance, Dior Builders has significantly reduced, possibly eliminated, many causes of indoor air pollution in Healthy Home 2018."
Founded in 1993 to address the growing national concern about the quality of air in homes, The American Lung Association introduced the Health House™ Program to help homeowners and homebuilders learn how to make homes healthier. The revised Health House™ guidelines will bring further awareness to indoor air pollutants besides radon, the leading cause of death in private homes, along with mold and moisture control concerns and will address toxic chemicals and combustion sources such as boilers, furnaces, stoves, fireplaces and smoking, all of which have been instituted in the construction of Healthy Home 2018.
A classic-style 5,700-square-foot, four-bedroom luxury residence, Healthy Home 2018 uses state-of-the-art materials and methods to create a truly healthy living environment with superior indoor air quality and protection from various environmental pollutants including electromagnetic radiation.
Dior Builders relied on a team of Indoor Air Quality and Environmental Health experts, and collaborated with local interior designers Leslie Bowman, Ilene Chase, Mary Jane Derex, Maida Korte, Brynn Olson, Kedra Pai, and Meredith Park to bring together healthy, energy-efficient building techniques with beautiful interiors. Since the top priority was to build a space where residents (and workmen) could breathe easily, every product was carefully scrutinized and selected based on the safest alternative per category.
The detail involved in the process was staggering. Every component of the home was scrutinized and analyzed and if environmental problems were perceived, alternatives were sought, Victoria said.
They started with the property, which consists of five acres of protected wetlands and soil conservation property with no history of pesticides or water contamination in the soil or water table.
Then there are the myriad components of the house itself. For instance, American Rockwool Insulation, which uses no biocides or pesticides, yet is pest-resistant, fire-resistant and breathable, was chosen. The home's metal ductwork was hand-scrubbed with a safe, biodegradable soap in order the break down the petrochemicals traditionally applied to ductwork. Soundproofing between bedrooms was done with Fiberglas that is formaldehyde-free and does not emit particulates. Quartz countertops were chosen over granite because granite has too many crevices and pores that can harbor bacteria, she explained.
A hard-wired SMART system, designed to avoid electromagnetic radiation, was used, as was an energy-efficient HVAC system equipped with IQAir Perfect 16 Whole House HEPA filtration. Lead-free plumbing was used and so were soft mineral paints that have no odor -- made by Ecos, Roman Bio and AFM Safecoat Naturals.
Only real stone tile was applied to the walls and polished nickel fixtures were chosen over chrome, which has more issues. Clean Elfa shelves and racks were used exclusively in closets and cabinets where air pollutants traditionally gather because they are small and closed.
Products that were free of phthalates, formaldehyde and other "chemicals of concern" were actively sought and exclusively used whenever possible, Victoria stated. The one exception was the countertop adhesive, since no safer alternative has yet been developed that will adequately hold the heavy slabs.
Even the furnishings, bedding and window treatments staged in the home were scrutinized and only used if they were free of potential chemical problems. In addition, hardwood and ceramic flooring was used throughout the home, except for inside the lower level theater room, where there is carpet.
Meredith Park, owner of "Impeccable by Meredith Park," an Inverness interior design firm, designed the home's dining room using a mixture of traditional and transitional styles including a vintage table and buffet (which outgassed years ago and is now safe), a beautiful antique gold chandelier and coordinating wall sconces, barrel-shaped open frame side chairs, upholstered end chairs and silk drapes. There is also a fascinating vintage Oriental rug that had the pile shaved down to look even older.
Kedra Pai of Kedra Chalen Design, also located in Inverness, handled the design elements in the kitchen, family room and powder room.
"We wanted everything here to be organic and attainable," Pai explained. "Yet we wanted to create a space that you don't see every day and which would inspire people."
She used beautiful painted tile on the wall in the kitchen, alongside softly-finished white cabinets. Unique pieces beyond that abound, including a breakfast table with a concrete top and wooden base, organic wool rugs, a reclaimed and refinished 1920s cabinet for the power room vanity and a huge, very contemporary DaVinci custom, non-heating fireplace (surrounded by Lincoln Calcutta marble slabs and accented by a reclaimed wood mantle) in the gathering space.
The home's walkout lower level features a family-friendly space with a bar, game room, movie theater and workout room. An old-growth oak was cut, stained and shaped to transform it into a countertop and rough-sawn walnut was used for the fireplace mantle. And old, reclaimed Chicago brick was used to face the lower level fireplace. Wood-look ceramic tile was used on the floor everywhere except in the movie room and a gorgeous hammered nickel sink was installed in the bar.
It also bears noting that Victoria had the entire home hard-wired for data because she didn't want residents to rely on Wi-Fi. There are data ports in virtually every room so that residents will be able to plug in when they choose, but unplug, too. She even had a "Good Night" switch installed in the bedrooms so that all electricity can be turned off in the bedrooms while residents are sleeping, making bedrooms a "healing sanctuary," as she put it.
Healthy Home 2018 illustrates what is possible when building with both aesthetics and one's health in mind, Victoria stated.
"With this home we have been working hard to make it as a chemical-free as possible from the foundation to the cleaning products used and everything behind the walls, too," she explained.
Even the window treatments were analyzed. Linen, cotton and silk are safest. Polyester should be avoided.
Once the "Healthy Home 2018" program has ended, this home, located in the Glencrest of Inverness subdivision south of Dundee Road, will serve as a model home for Di Iorio Builders' next community, Fountain View Estates, which will be breaking ground in Inverness later this year, Victoria stated.
It also bears noting that while the vast majority of Americans will not be able to live in a healthy home like this, she emphasized that there are steps anyone can take to make a home healthier. They can purchase a closed, sealed HEPA vacuum and use it three times each week.
She also suggested uncovering hidden hardwood floors that have long been covered by carpet in older homes or removing carpet in newer homes and having hardwood installed.
Finally, Pai suggested opening all of the windows in your house for ten minutes every week in order to air it out. "Just this small act will greatly improve the air quality inside your home," she stated.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cites that indoor pollutants can be two to five times higher than outdoors. In addition, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma in their lifetimes, 7 million of which are children. Of particular concern is the fact that indoor air pollutants have been shown to trigger asthma symptoms, especially for sensitive populations.
Founded by Peter Di Iorio more than 37 years ago, award-winning Dior Builders has established themselves as a leader in high end custom homes.
Dior Builders is committed to creating healthy living environments and is the leader in sustainable building options offering environmentally-friendly features focusing on air quality, low impact and locally sourced materials, water conservation, and certified energy efficient technology. For more information, visit www.diorhomes.com.