McMansions for People with MCS and CIRS

Why is this house taking so long?

It’s taking us a an extended amount of time, more than 12 months now, to build our Allergy-free House. A good friend who built their own safe house, and has now recovered, told us,

“Take your time. It’s better to get everything right, rather than make a mistake causing your house to be intolerable and unliveable!” 

Seems we have taken this to the extreme as I’ve been watching houses go up in our area that only take 6 months to completion. Houses without eaves, I might add!!!

The first hold up: Back at the draft stage, with Eco Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt, we had our house plans re-sized and scaled down—due to budget restraints—the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project became around 10 square metres smaller. When Dan’s finance manager said to us, “It looks like a bloody McMansion!” and, “Spend a few k now; and save 100 k off the price of the build.”, we were like, “Sure.” Seriously, I moved out of the city, away from big houses with no eaves badly positioned on small blocks of land so that I could build a home to recover my health in; an ecological, chemical free, passively heated and cooled, with hydronic heating for those nights when the bones are sore. (For the allergy-friendly heating, we used a company called Hydrotherm; I have a post coming up next about the installation and excellent service we received from this company in regards to the system itself and how awesome they were with all my allergies.) But while all this was happening I was in a mouldy house of horrors with an ERMI of 17. And another mouldy house before that. I’m in a much better place now.

:)

Our home is our castle; but it’s certainly not a resource guzzling McMansion! It never was but it was mahoosive for only two people. (Child left the nest.)

So we made the castle smaller.

A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia

A sun study of an eco-freindly house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia ~ Virtual house photo by, Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt

This made our heating cheaper also. Thanks, Hydrotherm. (Not sponsored.)

So we had the pleasure of trying out Quin’s new software, focusing on some more eco-friendly and money saving aspects of the house, and we got to see the above sun studies in all it’s virtualness; and the house and cottage on a smaller scale.

(These photos mean a lot to me: 12 months ago, I was flat in bed with what looked like SEID/CFS/ME: I was stuck in a mouldy house, laying in bed with 10 day headaches. Looking at these future-safe-house photos just forced me to focus on a positive future. Thanks, Quin.

Oh, how I needed the sun on my skin at a time when I was stuck indoors: sick when I stayed inside; and sick if I went outside. But these photos represented the future to me. (You can read a blog post I wrote for Quin, here.)

The future is now; and it’s good. The headaches are gone; and I have sun on my skin. In the house, most days.)

Our house has come along, stumbling and fumbling along. Many headaches&amp—of the metaphorical kind—and a zillion worries of immense proportions. I’m at a place now where I cannot rent a house due to severe chemical sensitivity caused by CIRS; at place where if I have to I will sleep in a van in the state forests with my boyfriend’s dog, Bella; a place between here and now.

Sitting in my upstairs #bathroom in the morning sun while work goes on around me. I love how, even though we had water come into the property and we’ve had to replace wood panels because of mould, and we need to get #barwonrestorationservices in with #HEPA #Scrubbers before putting up the walls, my health, headaches and other symptoms ease of tremendously whenever I visit. And there is dust and mud all around the place! It’s been a tough #winter for me but as soon as I’m in #freshair and #sunshine, I just know ? that the #buildanecofriendlyallergyfreehome project is going to be all right. #pristinecarpentry and #zenitwindows were here today to help get this place to #lockup Dream bathroom: here I come??

A photo posted by Michellina (@michellinaoutofthelabyrinth) on

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Virtual Eco-House Tour

All readers, welcome to our home:

My safe, allergy-free and eco-friendly home. Ready for the tour we promised? Take your shoes off. Only socks or Japanese slippers allowed. 

“Would you like a cup of coffee or tea? Do you take sugar? Soy milk okay? A herb from the garden perhaps?”

[Miche pops the kettle on.]

“Why, thank you for going fragrance-free. I really appreciate it; and it’s so lovely to have you here to visit! xx “

“Here,” Miche says while holding out a bright flowing fabric with a flock of exotic birds scattered across it (or a white Tyvek suit–your choice), “Pop on this will you? It’s just to protect the furniture from any washing powder or fragrance residue on your clothes.”

It’s an exciting day: Because today, I warmly, virtually invite you into our home by taking you all on a Virtual EcoHouse Tour, using the latest technology in architectural drawings for our ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House‘ Project, These were done by Eco Draftsperson, and our friend, Quin Wyatt; he’s known as an ‘EcoDesigner’ around the Peninsula Coast (I am on Victoria’s Surf Coast near Queenscliff but I was just 1 hour by boat away at Portsea: the air and seaweed, beaches are mostly the same. Except we have marshland that rubber boots won’t help you with, it sinks that much, which makes it a perfect haven for birds. So it an actual Marine National Park with a few different things going on: Army training, hooded plovers, Mud Island (sink in sand there for sure!) all types of bird and seagrass.

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Black footed albatross (image source: Pixabay)

Why we are taking so long to build:

Our house is smaller, which is why it took another 6 months to get started because of the re-sizing. Plus all the testing of the products. Then we had to wait on Boral Bricks by 3 months, luckily, Ashley from Boral in Geelong made up for this by giving me a heap of research about mould and bricks and how to remove the horrid stuff. We are supposed to be at lockup stage by now. Been told hold ups are normal on this business. Issue is we need to be locked up before the rains come.

It was downsized by 10 square metres, which is like the size of an average room. This took a load of the cost of the build. The front balcony was rejigged so that it didn’t form part of the indoor area by intruding into the house, which would have looked more contemporary modern; instead it’s just your old-school 6 post balcony. This way if there’s ever a leak it won’t flood into the house, it ill run straight off the balcony. Smart thinking, Slobodan <3 And, it still works as an eave for the passive heating and cooling effect.

Passive Design Coupled with Ideal Orientation

A good ecologically designed home, utilises orientation because the way the house faces, which is to the north, plays an enormous part in passively heating and cooling the home. So long as the occupants are active in summer by closing blinds and roof-window blinds early in the morning, closing off any rooms that catch warmth on days of high heat; only opening up again at night, putting on fans and opening windows strategically positioned to cross-ventilate, which will also allow thermal lag to cool your house off, you too can design an eco-home.

Ideally, the home should be placed so the living areas faces north (south if you’re in the US, I think, correct me if I am wrong) to take advantage of the winter sun. The eaves overhang 90 centimetres to block out the higher-in-the-sky summer sun, while allowing the lower-in-the-sky winter sun into the house, warming the tiles or polished concrete floor.

Because the Zenit thermally-broken, double-glazed uPVC windows are designed to go low to the floor, the sun hits the concrete warming it in winter while the concrete acts as the thermal mass (unless you cover it with carpet or something else, which acts as insulation or has rubber in it that will impede on this all-important function). Coupled with the Hydrotherm Hydronic panel heating, the most allergy-friendly heating possible, the house will always be a warm home. On sunny winter days we won’t need heating as the sun heating the thermal mass will be enough, even at night when heat from the slab is released via thermal lag, or if closed up, the thermal lag will still be keeping the place warm as the temperature drops outside. But more on the other eco-friendly elements that help facilitate a truly efficient home later…

The cottage is in the far right hand corner. The Garage is seperate, with a breeze-way as specified as what Interviewee, Katryn Treat said when I asked her what she would do differently if building again,

The cottage is in the far right hand corner. The Garage is seperate, with a breeze-way as specified as what Interviewee, Katryn Treat said when I asked her what she would do differently if building again,

The little cottage out back, the one for fragrance-free visitors to stay in, had to lose its bathroom, which is no big deal: there are two inside the house. Both run on filtered rain water supplied by EcoBright Tanks (all stainless steel! No plastic lining!), then town water if the tanks become dry. (If you have advice on tanks please share below.) The toilet is fully ecologically minded, with it’s own 2000-litre-rainwater tank too. We’ve got this tank covered with Reece plumbing in Drysdale. And our plumbing was done by KLM Plumbing whose team went fragrance-free; I highly recommend their services if you’re on the Surf Coast or the Bellarine Peninsula of Victoria, Australia!

We also have an outdoor shower: visitors Beware: Come fragrance free or go nude and wash outside in the garden of Eden.

Nah, just kidding, the outdoor shower is for the dog and beach visits!

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Yes, we will give our composting toilet back to Natural Event at the end of the build. It’s still working out really well feeding the soil of the neighbour’s apricot tree, I’m sure.

One positive that came out of halving the garage is that now we have all this space between the cottage and garage. Is the extra room for gardening and paving areas: bonsai garden, outdoor shower. This space is a medium sized courtyard that’s surrounded on three sides by the brick fence separating ours and our neighbours property and the brick walls of each out-building.

Oh, and the other brilliant thing about kids flying the coop is the room for a proper yoga room and gymnasium.

Now just notice where the sun falls and the time of the year and day. This will show how it’s positioned for good orientation taking advatage of the full northerly aspect so on winter days the sub comes right on in. Quin Wyatt did a remarkable job designing and then re-designeing this house to suit my needs. 

We did this re-jigging of the house via Skype last winter when I was horribly ill from Pullaria mould and possibly the mould in the room with the water-damaged ceiling. [Update: I’ve since been diagnosed with CIRS, so it’s not just Pullaria mould that was the problem.) So I wasn’t exactly coherent but luckily for me Quin and Dan and I worked it out: We have an unusual front balcony, which I will show you all later. Welcome to my prototype for an Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly House!

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A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia

A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia. This is not our kitchen just a generic image of the design. Pretty cool, hey?

If you take a look at the sun study done for June, which is mid-winter, and since 2012 and living in two water damaged buildings (WDB), I’ve suffered every winter since due to outdoor moulds; now when I was in mid-winter of last year, sick as I’ve ever been (before CIRS diagnose), I took impeccable comfort: the type that just wraps you in cottonwool, allowing you to feel everything is going to be alright, that type of comfort, when looking at these photos. The sun coming through the window. Picturing myself in our safe house. Knowing all is going to be just fine.

On another positive, it’s near close to all bricks and mortar now, and I’m busy, busy, busy, testing and organising samples, asking, sometimes hounding for MSDS and product contents. I’m finding there are two business models:’ don’t share a thing’ and ‘here you go’ when it comes to building products and materials… especially MSDS or proof of composition of materials of VOC release per cubic metre. Also, Australia is lacking in ecological products; but we do have access to some incredible European products.

So this is the roofline of the house:

The front of the 'Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House' project

The front of the ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House’ project, which I am also writing a ‘How to’ Book about the Process itself

I know you are picking up the Japanese them now. Do you like the design so far? Ant questions on passive design?

More

Where we are getting the doors: Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Modified Shoji Doors

All the posts on ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House

Quin Wyatt Building Designers: Created This House Around my Allergies and our Environment!

Stainless Steel Rainwater Tanks: EcoBright Tanks (I’ve a post coming up on rainwater tanks (the 3 companies in Australia who sell them!) and on catchment and delivery systems to the bathrooms. Full Eco Housing ideas coming up.

Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating, the best heating for people with chemical sensitivities or allergies (also the best price out of many quotes)

Natural Event Portable Compositing Toilets (no head splitting chemicals)

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

How to Begin Building a House… with Ganesha

We bought our block, out on the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia, back in 2011. In 2012 we engaged the services of EcoDesigner and Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt, hoping he could help us create an allergy-free, eco-friendly home made from non-toxic, low VOC materials: a safe home capable of protecting my immune system from mould spores; a home designed with passive heating and cooling in mind; a home that’s mindful of climate change and our precious planet.

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From 2012 up until this present day, we’ve been testing materials: glues, grouts, paints, silicones, waterproofing materials, wood, cement sheeting, plaster, magnesium board—even tiles. In August 2014 we finished the design. I began the mammoth task of organising quotes and tradespeople; however, after completing this task, we ran into some foreseeable financial hiccups and have had to return to Quin Wyatt asking him to make our house more affordable: we resized our footprint. When we first designed the house, we had another family member to provide for. Now that we are empty nesters, it makes even more sense to downsize. And it will cut costs:

(Before we go any further, here’s our running joke on this situation: my partner, Dan, and I took so long designing, planning and testing materials for this house that we grew older, therefore, as empty nesters, we’ve had to downsize.)

Costs: Just a hardwood house frame—in comparison to the traditionally used terpene-emitting pine frame—costs double that of an ordinary house frame. Include all the double-glazed, thermally-broken windows, and the price has tripled in comparison to ordinary windows. But without these two factors (there are a many others too, but these are the $bangers!), the house won’t be safe for me to live in. Like most chemically sensitive people I desperately need a safe house that won’t impact on my health. My main issues are moulds (outdoor and indoor), solvents, petrochemicals, wood-smoke (PM2.5 particles, particularly). I’ve also had to organize fragrance-free and chemical-free workpeople. It’s been a buzz! And I’ve been diligently taking notes so I can share them all here, at The Labyrinth ~ and finding my way out, with you.

I’ll give you a run-down of the completed plan as soon as I can; otherwise, if I do this now, this post will be my usual 2000 word essay! [For now: think tiles, magnesium board, brick, colourbond, rainwater tanks, balconies and sea air. A vegetable garden set in the front yard—with a duck lurking in amongst the broccoli. Rabbits running free. Two boxers laying out in the sun with me: Freedom: an allergy-free eco-friendly home]

The good news: just like the draftsperson we found, we’ve managed to find some compassionate and understanding tradespeople who’ve agreed to do what absolutely has to happen for this house to ever be a safe, health-tolerable place for me to live.

(When I meditate each morning, gratitude flows from me like the flush of pink petals from a lotus flower in full bloom.)

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And, get this: we’ve rented a composting toilet and placed it on our block so the workers (and Dan and I) can use it. No obnoxious chemical fragrance fumes! (More on this in another post. You will love this!)

And luckily, I’ve just experienced a blissful summer and autumn where my health improved enough for me to have actual consecutive days where I was well. (This has not happened since 2011.) Every morning I exercised, then spent the day on the phone organising every detail I could think of; nights were on the computer, compiling notes for my book, the soon-to-be-completed book, Freedom: an allergy-free, eco-friendly home. Thankfully, during this time, most products were already tested for safety—ergo, not all, though (We are stuck at the waterproofing (balcony and bathroom) stage!)

Unluckily, due to moulds and bloody wood-smoke, since winter began—and now the Solstice has passed, which means we’re half way through—I’ve had chronic illness as my companion once again. At least this year, I can deal with it. Some days I even accept it: Yoga, meditation, a supportive partner, energy from a plant-based diet, my latest treatment: the NSP Protocol, my dog, dwarf rabbits, my internet friends, and the faith in building a safe home are getting me through.

At times though, it’s not been easy: hesitation, trepidation, apprehension: a three-headed beast has eaten me alive.

Since I’ve had these well-documented mould symptoms: upper-respiratory inflammation (dry eyes, sinus pain, facial pain, sore throat), fatigue, vagueness, headaches, depression and sadness that mimic actual depression and sadness—all dispelling once the chemical exposure and the mandatory recovery period have passed—not only am I too physically and mentally exhausted to continue in the bull-at-a-gate manner I thrive on, but my confidence, my self-advocacy—swallowed by the inability to follow even my own internal conversations, let alone ones with carpenters/plumbers/manufacturers on the phone—have deserted me. Leaving me alone, plugged into a light socket, buzzing with paralysing fear, emanating through me as I lay in my bed. Unlike the previous times I’ve lost my cognitive abilities (cognitive symptoms started in 2012) I’ve learnt to accept the capabilities of my own brain and memory, especially over the last few weeks; instead of fighting it, I press pause, take the phone off the hook, put a movie on.

It’s okay, this time. I’ve been here before. It, too, shall pass…

I’m lucky, I’m in this build with, and only because of my partner, Dan; and even though, because I’m the chemically sensitive one, I want, need! to be in control of all the materials (for testing and research purposes) and speaking to tradespeople, putting the particulars into writing (for legal reasons), yet, I’ve relinquished this miracle work over to him. He’s actually more assertive than me. If you can imagine that [just add hyper-masculinity and swear words]! I have to trust in his capability. (Of course, I’m still doing the testing; he’s just organising the products and samples for now.)

Here’s how to build a safe home:

Have Faith…

I admire people who believe in God. Any God. The closest thing I have to God is meditation and exercise; and my Dog, which we all know is God spelt backwards. Yoga has been my thing lately. Even my dog has got some type of pose going on:

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Enter Ganesha:

This is the brass statue we picked up while searching for this exact statue. We wanted an actual large stone statue for the garden but only found this: still, a statue for the garden. To be buried there, actually.

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In the book, 99 Thoughts on Ganesha—Stories, Symbols and Rituals of India’s beloved elephant-headed deity, the author, Devdutt Pattanaik, describes Ganesha as an organic god, one who has transformed throughout time, space history and geography. Pattanaik reminds us:

“Of all the gods in the Hindu pantheon, he alone allows his form to be re-shaped and re-imagined and recreated as devotees will it. Thus, he reminds us constantly that:

Within infinite myths lies the eternal truth Who sees it all?
Varuna has but a thousand eyes Indra, a hundred, You and I, only two

Pattanaik explains how Ganesha takes the form of the self-created Supreme Being, also known as God, declaring that “whenever social order (dharma) is threatened, he descends to set things right. He offers his devotees three paths to reach him: the path of intellectual introspection (gyan yoga), the path of passionate devotion (bhakti yoga), and the path of detached action (karma yoga).”

During the 7th century CE, after some dudes who just happened to be Tibetan kings married some Buddhist princesses from China and Nepal, Buddhism spread to Tibet. This form is known as Mahayana Buddhism, in which, Ganesha is also known as Vinayaka.

Ganesha of Tibet has two forms: when in the benevolent form, he is the remover of obstacles; in the malevolent form, he is the instigator of obstacles.

Two weeks ago, during a weekend when I was ill, we drove the five minutes it takes to get to our block and held a ceremony: we buried a brass statue of Ganesha, asking for his help to remove any obstacles that may be placed in our way.

I feel better now…

Do you have any beliefs, rituals or deities that get you through the tough times? If so, please share…

Oh, and if you know of a low VOC, waterproofer for balconies (that are to be tiled) and for placing under tiles in the bathroom, please let us know. It has to be inert once dry (it’s the chemicals that outgass, not the actual smell, that’s the problem.) and it must be non-toxic to someone sensitive to chemicals, please.

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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