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.

black-footed-albatross-86579_1280

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!

:0

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.

Come Shopping with us at Reece Plumbing for Low Allergenic Products

A few weeks ago we chose most of our bathroom fittings. I didn’t think it would be an issue, finding products suitable for people with immune disfunction where their health is impacted on by sensitivities to certain chemicals, seeing most products are made from inert materials such as porcelain, ceramic and stainless steal. But I was wrong: Access to Buildings and Services is Everything When it Comes to Even Attempting This!

Since deciding on using tiles throughout our whole house (like we have any other choice!?), I’ve been to 5 tile and bathroom shops where, in 2 of those, I became so ill, I almost decided (only almost!) on letting my boyfriend, and future house partner, choose the tiles and fittings for us. However, when it came to visiting Reece Plumbing in Drysdale, Victoria Australia, I decided to call first, asking if I could please make an appointment with a salesperson not wearing sprays or perfume/aftershave/hairspray. (Yes, I do get nervous asking this, still! But a woman has to do what she has to do.) So I said:

“I am sensitive to chemicals, particularly those used in perfume, aftershave, spray deodorants and hairsprays; and I need to be able to come into a shop and not get sick from breathing them in. I do wear a mask when I go out but this doesn’t stop the solvents, petrochemicals and fragrances—used in the dispersion of these products—from sticking to my clothes, skin and hair, impacting on my health when I take off the mask after I leave. Is there, perhaps, a quite time I can come into the shop? And, is there someone there willing to not wear sprays on that day who can assist us?”)

Once I knew that I could actually have this accommodation made, we popped into Reece for a visit. But first, I went to their website and spent a couple of days (while sick in bed) going over their products and working out what could go where. Reece have a great online system, somewhat like a wish list where you can click products, adding them to a ‘Compare List’. So this awesome tool was my baseline for finding what might suit.

I am determined to create my dream bathroom. I love taking baths. Long, hot (no longer candlelight), relaxing baths in epsom salts. I have symptoms where my joints and muscles hurt; a bath helps with this immensely.

When it comes to bathroom fittings, Ryhs, the excellent and exceptionally helpful Assistant Manager at Reece, went above and beyond to not wear any sprays and also have the air-conditioning on as requested. I was even able to take my mask off while in there. The air quality was great compared to other building product supply shops!

And on another day, when we’d already said we might come in but weren’t sure due to how unwell I’d been all week, Rhys made sure not to spray anything on just in case. Lucky for me, because we did manage to make it in that day, spending almost 4 hours choosing just about everything we need.

In my experience, Reece can accomodate people with a range of disabilities: There, that’s my review of Reece Plumbing at Drysdale in Victoria, Australia… Nah, just kidding: I have a lot more to say about them:

(But first, some background information on smells verses chemicals: I am so lucky, Dan, my boyfriend, does all the sniffing for me. This way, I don’t have to breath in chemical-irritants to which I am sensitive to. This saves my health from getting impacted on via pesky, unregulated chemicals allowed into products sold in Australia. *Thanks* NICNAS. (Of course, the majority of the population is fine with small doses, but I, and many others, have medical conditions where these do impact on our the state of our health. The doctors know it. NICNAS know it. Disability Discrimination Services (DDS) know it. However, there’s a large set of the population who are not educated about it and this is causing problems for some of us). Note to Aussie Government: Address this issue please. Thanks for reading my blog… ) If I have someone, a carer or friend with me, my medically-recognised disability is not impacted on by breathing in substances that have been proven by science-based medicine to make me sick via impacting on my immune system. My boyfriend is so sweet, I think I need to do a post, introducing him to you all soon…)

You know, I just want to decide and move on as far as bathroom products go. There’s so much to work out with building a house; and in my case, the bathroom fittings used need to meet these needs:

1), must be inert and not outgas formaldehyde, VOCS or petrochemicals into the indoor airspace;

2), be functional, sturdy and smart in their design [read they’re not going to leak and cause water damage];

3), aesthetically, they must look amazing;

4), they must carry a good guarantee; and preferably be European in design (They have the REACH regulations too when it comes to safer chemicals used in the manufacturing of them:

REACH is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. It also promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances in order to reduce the number of tests on animals.

Sadly and shamefully, we don’t have that in Australia to protect us.

We have decided on all our toilets, baths and some fittings. 75% of our gear are coming from Reece.

I am especially liking a tap Kale, our plumber, put us onto: it has to tap mixers (levers on the side) (see slide show below) that can deliver rain water using a lever on one side and town water using the lever on the other side! So clever. So smart. (KLM Plumbing have just completed the fitting of most of the internal plumbing throughout the walls of the house. Impressively, Kale, has kept the floor clean by using drop sheets, thus not walking mud over our new (and clean) concrete slab. Mould Illness peeps have to love that, hey?)

I have to point out how good Reece plumbing, compared to other shops have been when faced with selling products to someone sensitive to chemicals: great return policy; provide all MSDS without blinking; they allowed us to open boxes and (Dan to) sniff products to see if any coatings had any particular noxious odours coming from certain coatings on products.

Can you believe that, after reading my Immunologist’s letter one shop even asked us to sign a waiver saying that if any of their materials impacted on my health, they wouldn’t be liable, nor could we return them? I’m not naming the business here but would really like to!

(Another shop (that sells blinds) said outright that their products won’t be suitable for me because they come from China and they can’t guarantee what’s in them. Grrr… Discrimination right there. You can’t refuse to sell to someone based on their disabilities. But I did appreciate the heads up; ergo, if they’d known I’m one of those bloggers who puts the colour of their undies on the internet, I think they may have handled that differently. I probably will name this company later when I get to the blinds section of my book/blog because it’s not really very cool; and it’s a great example of what’s wrong with sourcing products from China (without having a Quality Control Policy in place, at least!).)

Anyway, what does signing a waiver like that even mean? Would it stand up at VCAT? I think not. Did it deter us from using their business, yes? Did I tell them that they are actually breaking the law by breaching our Australian Human Rights Act, which states:

Use of chemicals and materials

A growing number of people report being affected by sensitivity to chemicals used in the building, maintenance and operation of premises. This can mean that premises are effectively inaccessible to people with chemical sensitivity. People who own, lease, operate and manage premises should consider the following issues to eliminate or minimise chemical sensitivity reactions in users:

  • the selection of building, cleaning and maintenance chemicals and materials (see Note below);
  • the provision of adequate ventilation and ensuring all fresh air intakes are clear of possible sources of pollution such as exhaust fumes from garages;
  • minimising use of air fresheners and pesticides;
  • the provision of early notification of events such as painting, pesticide applications or carpet shampooing by way of signs, memos or e-mail.

For more information on ways to eliminate or minimise chemical and fragrance sensitivity reactions look athttp://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/MCS.html and http://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/fragrance.html

Note: There are a number of relevant environmental and occupational health and safety regulations and established standards, however, as is currently the case with other standards referenced in building law, compliance with those standards may not necessarily ensure compliance with the DDA.

No, I didn’t bother taking the opportunity to educate them. I just wasn’t well enough at the time, so I just waited until I felt better, taking our business somewhere else, landing right on Reece Plumbing’s doorstep…

:)

These are the shots from our shopping trip to Reece to choose plumbing fittings for our two bathrooms:

Reece have over 450 stores in Australia. You can find one near you by visiting this page. If you have fragrance allergies or any condition where you are impacted on by chemical-irritants, you may want to call, asking to speak to management so that you too can arrange an appointment to visit during a quieter time. You are welcome to show them this page; or you may want to just wing it if you don’t feel shy about it. Either way, Good Luck!

:)

As a side note: MCS was mentioned in this article, my diagnosis is ‘Inhalant Allergies’ to Chemicals

More

Reece: Bathroom Fittings

Reece: The Roca Range

Kado Lux: Toilets and Bidets

Fragrance Free Plumbers for People with MCS and Related Medical Conditions: KLM Plumbing

VOC free, Formaldehyde-Free Walls and Flooring for People with MCS and Related Medical Conditions: Modakboard

Australia: Reece Plumbing

Dehumidifiers that Don’t Give of Plastic Fumes (for most of us): AusClimate (Get the one without the styrofoam in it!)

All Products and Materials Used So Far: Build and Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House

Emerge Australia: What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

NICNAS: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Review

Coming up

Plumbing for the Chemically Sensitive: I interview a plumber!

Get ready for cover Launch: my up-and-coming book: Freedom: an allergy-free, eco-friendly house

The Steps to Building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free house

The Steps to Building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free house and the tradespeople and companies we used (So far we have been really lucky with the team of people who we’ve found to help us build a low-toxic house.):

Design your house. We used Quin Wyatt, eco-Designer, and new beforehand, via testing with a doctor, what to avoid using before hand, plus, and apart from the actual style and design (the look), we knew exactly what we wanted: allergy-wise

Find your workers (yes I have a post: How to Find or Organise Fragrance Free Workers [post coming up]

How to Test Building Products and Products for you own or someone else’s Suitability [post coming up]

How to Apply to Council so that it passes through quickly [post coming up]

A fully, well-cured Concrete Slab, solid as a Rock from D&C Fear Concreting

Low-toxic Pluming installed by a fragrance-free plumbing team: KLM Plumbing

Choosing Fittings for the bathroom, kitchen and laundry: @Reece Plumbing

Choose your internal Building structure: We went with Hardwood from Calco [Post coming up]

Build a frame: we went with Damien and his team from Pristine Carpentry [Post coming up]

Choose a roof style, find a roofer [post coming up] , which are often, but not always a plumbing and roofing job (because plumbers and roofers often do both); We have the maddest Japanese style roof, which we are over the moon about, installed by Yeo Roofing and designed by Quin Wyatt, eco-draftsperson.

Virtual House Tour: using Sun Study Designs made by Quin our eco-draftsperson [up-and-coming post]

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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