New Residence in the Western Suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota



Oram was asked to consult on the design and construction of a new home for clients who are electrically- and chemically-sensitive. The owners have asked that there be no visitors, so in order to respect their privacy, the home is not available for viewing by the general public. You can, however, take a virtual tour through the photos below.

 

 



The Durisol wall form was selected for the walls and foundation of this two-story home. Durisol has the proven ability to withstand the inevitable water intrusion without developing mold, while providing superior thermal performance.

These wall forms do not outgas, making them ideal for multiple chemically sensitive (MCS) individuals. The Durisol Corporation is located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (905-521-0999).

The architects are Dale Mulfinger and Carol O'Brien of SALA in Excelsior, Minnesota (952-767-3208). The builder is Dylan Howard of Howard Homes in Princeton, Minnesota (763-286-1164).



Durisol is known to provide superior thermal performance in both the heating and cooling season, meaning less need for fossil fuels and a reduced summer cooling load. Once the shell was up and the windows were in place, the workmen noted that the building retained heat quite well into the autumn months without the need for heaters.

 

 



The electrical contractor is Andy's Electric of Elk River, Minnesota. Contact Don Horvath at 763-441-7400 office, 612-669-6195 cell or don@andyselectric.com.

Don oversaw the implementation of a healthy wiring protocol provided by Oram Miller of Environmental Design and Inspection Services of California and Spark Burmaster of Environmental Options in Chaseburg, Wisconsin. The guidelines were originally developed by Spark based upon the teachings of the International Institute for Bau-BiologieTM and Ecology.

(More photos below.)

These wiring guidelines incororate many techniques to reduce occupant exposure to harmful electric, magnetic and radio frequency fields. All wiring is installed in rigid or flexible metal conduit to reduce electric field exposure, and shut-off switches are provided in the bedrooms so that occupants can turn off power at night when they sleep to unshielded plastic-jacketed AC power cords for lamps and other appliances plugged in in the room.

Magnetic field exposure is reduced by the use of cross-linked plastic (PEX) potable water pipe throughout the house. Unwanted electric current on the incoming water service supply pipe, which causes harmful magnetic field exposure for occupants, is eliminated because this house is on a well. If the home had been supplied by city water, then polyethylene water service supply pipe would have been specified under the front yard, which is now allowed by many local plumbing codes.

A check was made for the presence of wiring errors, which also cause magnetic field exposure. Two were found and repaired. We find wiring errors in up to 50% of homes we evaluate, including those that are newly constructed.

Radio frequencies are eliminated by the avoidance of cordless telephones and wireless Internet service within the home. In addition, the thick Durisol wall form actually blocks incoming radio frequencies from nearby cell towers, which the owners appreciate. During construction, workers had to go outside to use their cell phones because the signal was so weak inside the building. This fact works in favor of an EMF-sensitive person who is trying to avoid exposure to radio frequencies that enter from outside. The cement in the twelve- to fourteen-inch thick Durisol wall forms substantially absorb and block these frequencies from coming in.



The roof is covered with clay tile, providing a durable and sustainable roofing material without the use of petroleum-based asphalt shingles. A clay tile roof will far outlast shingles and can provide rainwater catchment for flushing toilets and watering landscaping.

 

 

 

 



In-floor radiant heat is used, heated by a geothermal heat pump.

 

 

 

 

 



The geothermal system is installed by Jim Cusack of UMR Geothermal in Maple Plain, Minnesota. Contact Jim at 763-479-6325 or jim@umrgeothermal.com.

 

 

 

 

 



Fresh air is provided by an air-to-air heat exchanger.

 

 

 

 

 

 



All natural, non-toxic finishes and flooring are used throughout the home, including ceramic tile floors. Natural plasters are used on interior wall surfaces and natural stucco (without acrylic) is used on the exterior.

 

 

 

 



This provides a fully "breathable" wall system. Our motto is to design and build a wall envelope that is "waterproof, but vapor permeable." This is in contrast to the current motto of the green building movement, "build tight; ventilate right," that we feel leads to moisture problems and mold. For more information on our approach to building walls that are vapor permeable without loss of thermal performance, see our manual, "Breathing Walls".

 

 


Finally, in the interior, natural wood is used for custom-made cabinets, not particle board. Non-toxic finishes are used on all cabinet surfaces.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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