EMERGENCY Formaldehyde Problems In Denver from TJI’s

An emergency blog post today, as we've just been made aware of an enormous health issue in Colorado due to building materials.  Seems as though hundreds of homes are affected by a batch of TJI Joints made by Weyerhaeuser, in which a flame retardant coating is outgassing dangerous levels of formaldehyde.   While this is horrible, its not new.  Dozens of building materials used today release dangerous levels of formaldehyde.

How can GDC help?  We offer several coatings that are made specifically to reduce and/or completely block formaldehyde.  Applied according to factory directions, these coatings have been tested to reduce formaldehyde up to 100%.  AFM Hardseal AFM Acrylacq and AFM Polyureseal BP are the three coatings we absolutely recommend for these situations.  Each one has there specific use recommendations, so please contact us with your requirements.

If you are not sure whether your home is affected or not, please contact Andrew Pace through his consulting portal to discuss hiring him to test your home for formaldehyde outgassing.  Andrew's consulting company offers a service unlike ANY OTHER available.  They can test individual services in your home and determine within 30 minutes what the formaldehyde off gassing is and its accurate down to 1 ppb.  All this is done IN THE HOME and does NOT disrupt surfaces.  No guessing, no material removal, and most importantly, NO WAITING!  Plus, this will allow you to remediate the surface thats actually problematic and not spend thousands of dollars in "fixing" surfaces that aren't a problem.

** UPDATE 8/4/17**

Several companies have contacted us about our solutions and test methods to prove the effectiveness.   One in particular, Scott Home Inspection, has been digging deep into this and can help with the remediation and inspection efforts.  Although the overall extent of the problem is not known yet, its good to know that professionals like Chris Scott are there to assist.

Reclaimed Wood

Who doesn’t like the look of reclaimed wood?  For decorative walls, furniture, even just wood picture frames.  Old wood has character. All those knots, old nail holes and leftover paint tells us a story of where it came from and what it was used for. Sustainable?  Of course!  Why use new wood when the 100 year old barn wood does just as good of a job and has that story to tell?


Here’s the one big problem, though, when choosing reclaimed wood for your project….finish.  Unless you know that the wood was never finished with old fashioned lead based paints, preparing the surface can be a dangerous proposal.  And what was that wood used for originally?  I bought some wood that was used for the old train trestles across the Great Salt Lake in Utah to be used as interior wood siding! Absolutely stunning wood but because they were completely saturated with salt, I wasn't able to use a water based finish on it because salt migration would've turned the wood completely white when cured, meaning only oil based finishes could be used. Ultimately, we were able to use AFM Naturals Clear Penetrating Oil to finish the trestles, but it derailed my project plans momentarily!


The point here is, using reclaimed wood can result in a number of problems that new, unfinished wood doesn’t present.  Be mindful of this before buying the wood and starting your project.  While you might be doing something eco-friendly by reusing old wood, you may also be asking for health issues due to the surface preparation and the need for less healthy finishes.  Ultimately, thats not sustainable at all.


Contact us at GDC/Building for Health before making that choice and we’ll help guide you through what to look or and how to test it.  Our goal is to make your project as healthy and sustainable as possible.

Andrew Pace

Ozonation- Air Purification for the Whole House

Ozone shock treatment is a powerful method of odor elimination without the use of chemicals or masking deodorizers. Place the ozone machine in your space, set the dial and vacate the area during treatment, then return to an odor free environment. 

Outdoors, nature eliminates odors and microorganisms using both UV light and O3. Indoors, most places that generate odors receive very little UV light or O3. An ozone purifier creates O3, or ozone, in a special process that utilizes an electrical current. ozone-o3Ozone sanitizes by breaking down odors, microorganisms and other pollutants at their source.

Nature creates O3 as a natural cleaner during thunderstorms, and also from sunlight striking the earth’s atmosphere. As an example, we’ve all taken a walk after a thunderstorm and experienced the clean, fresh smell in the air. That's O3, or ozone, at work.

Normal oxygen (O2) is converted to O3, which is commonly called ozone. It reverts back to O2 in about an hour if the O3 is unused. This leaves the air fresh and clean because the source of the odor has been permanently removed. And there are no artificial odors so the space becomes free of odors, as nature intended. Employ the cleaning power of nature and create an outdoor fresh environment in your facility!

Locals- Get Fresh this Spring
Rent our commercial ozonator for a day

$40 per day, plus any shipping charges (within the state of Wisconsin if applicable)
Pick up preferred
$500 deposit on a credit card.  

This unit is designed to treat up to 4000 sq ft.

Project Priority Part 2- The Joy of Working with Contractors

PP Contractor part 2-2

Alrighty, so you've got your list, you know whats possible this year and you're ready to make some calls. Have you ever called a contractor before? Where do you start? Do they bite? Lets ask Kelsey, our interior designer at Green Design Center, because I'm pretty sure working with contractors is her forte.



Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 3.48.24 PM
- Have a general idea of what you would like to see done within the project but know that once a walk through of the space has been completed, some details may need to change.
- Do not expect pricing to be quoted over the phone, especially without having seen the space yet.

- Have a budget in mind. If you know you only have X amount of dollars to spend, tell them. This allows for your contractor to budget different elements initially or tell you that your budget will not cover the scope of your project.


What if my contractor seems uncomfortable doing the job I’ve asked them to perform? 

-If your contractor seems uncomfortable with a portion of your project, do not hesitate to ask why.

-If they are unfamiliar with a product, that’s an easy one. We are always more than happy to help contractors with samples so they can test them out BEFORE they start the project, however your contractor might pressure you to use products they're more accustomed to. Be firm if you believe in your products, or do not approve of theirs.

-If they are uncomfortable with a larger piece of the project, they may not be the right contractor for you. You wouldn’t ask a plumber to install your floor, right? In the long run, you are better off bringing in someone who knows and is comfortable with the work being asked of them. Many Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.22.49 PM
contractors are willing to try new things to accommodate their clients and to learn themselves, but do you want to the be guinea pig?


I’ve had a lot of trouble getting someone that I trust. Do I keep shopping, or settle because my project can no longer be put on hold? 

If you cannot trust your contractor, for whatever reason, do not settle. Even if you don’t get along with your contractor on some level, think twice about working with them. This person will be in your space likely when you are not. Inevitably there will be a hiccup or a tough situation that needs to be addressed and if your personalities meet on some level, it will make the tough conversations go a bit easier.


I’m overseeing my contractor’s work but I have doubts the project is going according to my plan. Any tips on bringing up the discrepancy?

IMAGE00061Simply ask for clarification. There are many moving parts and behind the scenes elements to all projects. Everything might be right no schedule and going to your plan.  Imagine driving down a freeway that is under construction- the lane patterns and physical locations change multiple times before they are in their final, planned location.

If there is a discrepancy, you are much better to bring it up NOW than once things have been completed or a next phase begins.


Any advice for my instincts to micromanage? I know they’re the professionals but…

 If you see yourself helicoptering over the contractors, leave. They really are the professionals and nobody enjoys someone watching over their shoulder. If they have questions, they will ask. If you can imagine, having someone watch you work can make you nervous and cause mistakes.76539-67212

Have your contractor lay out a TENTATIVE schedule. I say tentative because surprises or unexpected necessities come up during projects, and at the end of the day your contractor is only human. They get sick and have family emergencies too.

At the beginning of each day, ask for a run down of today’s plan and ask them to follow up with you before they leave for the night.


Please share with us your top Do’s and Don’ts when working with contractors and similar professionals.

-You get what you pay for!
There is no home run deal when it comes to labor, unless your brother-in-law Ted is a contractor by trade, in which case, give Ted a call. That doesn’t mean that the most expensive quote is going to produce the best results. Get a couple of quotes, shop around, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Being a smart customer is exhausting, but the rewards are great.


-Ball park pricing is just that, ball park.
Some contractors will low ball you to get you interested, but then disappoint as add-on after add-on gets put on your total. If the number seems high, you might be discouraged, but this contractor doesn’t want to disappoint you at the end of the project but it being more expensive than first stated. Whichever straw you end up picking,


Spring Ahead: Project Priority Part 1

This time of year, many people are planning their projects for the coming season. With windows open, frost melting and sunshine creeping back into our lives, motivation is high. While projects, big or small, might seem easy peasy, the truth is many projects turn into far more than you’d expected. Managing those expectations and planning properly can help mitigate symptoms of project pressure.


So we sat down with Kelsey, our interior designer at Green Design Center, looking for advice on how to make sure your plans go smoothly this year.

So Kelsey, the spare bedroom needs paint, flooring in the breezeway needs to be updated and I need to replace some drywall in areas of my home, amongst a myriad of other small to-do’s. How do I prioritize what should be done first? I’m up to the gills!


    • Prioritize your projects but know that starting one project might open the door to tackle something lower on your list. For example, if you are looking to replace/repair drywall, it makes sense to address the insulation in that wall.  Other things might not be by choice. If you are changing your kitchen cabinets, electrical and plumbing elements might need to be addressed to bring everything up to code. Making sure that everything is done correctly and in order, while addressing any additional components to the project, will make sure your project is successful. Nobody wants to do a job twice, so making       sure it’s done right the first time to the best of your or your contractor’s ability is important.


THE SCOOP: Scope. Figure out what needs to be done overall, and then put them in order as far as what has to come first.


What things should I consider or expect before undertaking all this?

    • Have everything on hand before you start. Nobody likes going to the hardware store 3 times in an afternoon (although we’ve all done it). Oftentimes, some products are not available right away or need a fair head start before their use can come to fruition. Make sure you have all of the plumbing pieces for the new faucet you need before you start taking apart the current one. Inspect your tile to make sure none of the pieces broke in shipping and get them replaced before you begin the project. Open and inspect all your products and make sure you understand their proper usage. If not, ask the questions!
    • Also, expect the unexpected. Opening up walls or removing flooring can uncover problems you didn't know you had. Have some wiggle room in both your budget and your timeline, because as we all know, some (most) projects do not go exactly according to plan.


THE SCOOP: Prepare. Make sure your bases are covered before you run head first into a project.


help-signWho should I call first when planning something I know I cannot DIY?

    • Make sure you are talking to the correct professional for your project. Not every designer should be making recommendations for moving walls, and not every architect should be making recommendations for the best type of flooring for your needs. Research your people and make sure they feel comfortable doing what you’re asking them to. Having confidence in your professionals can make your project go much more smoothly. If you trust your contractor or designer, leaving some details in their hands can take a load of pressure off you.


THE SCOOP: Call. Contact someone who’s job it is to help with the process, such as a contractor, designer, architect, builder or brother-in-law.


I have found labor to be the most expensive part of my project. Any recommendations for success as a do-it-yourselfer?

    • Read the instructions thoroughly. Not only for the installation but also for the preparations and any final steps.
    • Consider hiring someone as a consultant to answer any questions BEFORE you begin. Troubleshooting from the middle of a project is difficult for anyone who has not been directly on the job site regardless of their experience.
    • Know that bringing in a professional to fix or finish what you started may be more expensive than having them do it in the first place. Research and plan for common issues while installing or addressing certain aspects of your project.


hole-in-the-wall.png.625x385_q100THE SCOOP: Prep. Prep, prep, prep, aaaaaand prep. Ask the right questions before you’re elbow deep in plaster.




What should I do if my project suddenly becomes bigger or more expensive than originally thought?

  • There is no good answer to this. Hopefully by having all of the materials on hand before you began brought awareness to some of the finer details that may have been missed. At this point you can decide to postpone the actual start of the project until the funds or timing work out, or do the best you can with what you’ve got. If you’ve uncovered a problem you didn't know you had, its time to start from the beginning and reprioritize what needs to happen. Hopefully you left some wiggle room in your budget and timeline.  Be patient with yourself, you can only do so much!


THE SCOOP: It happens. Breathe, think, and then plan what is possible for the absolutely necessary portions of your project.



So maybe
some things get slated for next year, maybe with the right motivation, time, and finances, you’ll get everything finished according to your heart’s desire. All in all, the recurring themes here seems to be managing your expectations and planning to the teeth. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and crush the development stage of your projects, but remember to be honest with yourself on what is accomplishable and what is not. Thanks Kelsey!



Join us the next couple weeks with part 2 and part 3 of
Spring Ahead: Project Priority

Next time we'll be exploring helpful hints on working with contractors!


Insulation is a mystery to most folks…










For those who are unfamiliar with insulation, making a healthy choice for this necessary feature in our lives can become confusing.


Fiberglass is probably the most familiar type of insulation when it comes to your home, available in both a batting and shredded/blown form. Fiberglass is essentially molten sand, spun like cotton candy. People like it because it’s easy to work with, is fire resistant, and makes a great insulation. One of the reasons we aren’t keen on recommending conventional fiberglass batt or spray insulation is due to it’s urea formaldehyde content, added as a binding agent. Urea formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and contributes to poor indoor air quality as well as causes monumental issues for individuals with Multiple Chemical sensitivities. Formaldehyde exposure can trigger watery eyes, nose irritations, wheezing and coughing, fatigue, skin rash, severe allergic reactions, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans. These effects can be compounded when your house breathes during typical temperature fluctuations. If possible, search your locp_Knauf_EcoBatt_Glasswool.jpgal area for formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation, which can be found available in both batt and blown. We love working with Knauf EcoBatt insulation as a trusted, reputable source for toxin and formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation. In lieu formaldehyde as it’s binder, Knauf EcoBatt insulation uses mineral oil and is safe for use by chemically sensitive individuals.



If formaldehyde-free versions are not available near you, choosing something traditional and sealing is your next best bet.  Use a garden sprayer and apply AFM Safecoat Safe Seal undiluted. Apply two light fog-like coats, with about 20-30 minutes between coats. Spray the exposed (inside) face before putting up drywall. Safe Seal can be used in a myriad of applications around the home, and is particularly useful with new construction conundrums like these.


Another commonly used insulation, spray foam, is at the bottom of our list as a healthy option. While it’s a great, effective product and can get deep within crevasses traditional insulation ccloseup-spray-foam-insulationannot, it is compromised of 100% synthetic chemicals, typically polyurethane. Spray foam is used quite often in new construction, in all areas of the house. If your new construction home is filled with the stuff, followed the aforementioned instructions on applying Safe Seal. This will prohibit the chemical hodgepodge from outgassing into your home.


Blown in cellulose has become clever option for recycle-minded. Made of shredded or modified paper, it seems like a great way to repurpose the material into something useful. We tend to caution our chemically sensitive customers away from using this as insulation material, as it it’s content is often chemically de-inked in addition to being treated with flame retardants. We do not currently have a solution to seal or treat cellulose in order to make it usable by those with MCS.


Cotton fabric that comes from pre-denimjeanconsumer denim jean scraps, can also be shredded and spun into a batt-like insulation, has peaked interest across the US.  Boric
acid is used to clean the fabric and provide flame resistance, but the use of dyes and subsequent de-inking chemicals makes this an expensive and somewhat suspicious product to recommend.


When considering insulation for your new or old home, our bottom line is to recommend a formaldehyde-free fiberglass. Breaking even for runner-up options include cellulose filling or Safe Seal-treated traditional fiberglass. Causing this tie- we’re not sure what might be contained in the treated-cellulose, but it’s also unlikely you’ll 100% seal all your home’s insulation with Safe Seal. It’s possible, however unlikely, to reach every cranny with a fog of this product. Remember, sealing is only as effective as it’s application, so make sure to be thorough, diligent and to manage those expectations. Regardless, Safe Seal can be incredibly effective in prohibiting the majority of in-house emissions from the insulation when applied properly.

Create a Natural, Healthy Bedroom

As an avid racquetball player, I’m often reminded that the best method for recovering from a twisted ankle is RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation. It’s simple but highly effective. It gives the body the time and tools it needs to effectively heal itself. Rest at least six to eight hours a night. But how and where you rest might play a much bigger part in the healing process than you think. It’s even more important for common ailments like headaches, allergies and, counterintuitively, insomnia. One of the keys is to create a natural, healthy bedroom that promotes healing. Most people don’t realize that the average home contains 10,000 to 15,000 chemicals that are emitted from the building materials used during construction. While the number dwindles as the home ages, other chemicals are introduced in their place from clothing, cleaning materials, electronics, etc. Using flooring and wall finishes that are nontoxic and free of chemical outgassing will reduce the initial emissions by up to 75 percent. The use of a high-quality air purification system will ensure particulate capture, reducing allergens and that morning stuffy nose. The materials you surround yourself with during the night should be healthy and chemical free — most importantly, the mattress and bedding.


Flooring and finishes

While the feeling of something soft and cushy underfoot is nice in a bedroom, there really is no flooring material that is less healthy than carpet. Besides the chemicals that emit from carpet (for over 20 years!), carpet will trap allergens and pollutants that cannot be removed with vacuuming.  Hard surfaces, like wood, cork or, best yet, natural linoleum are recommended. These materials are far easier to maintain and keep clean. Natural linoleum is inherently anti-static and anti-bacterial, too. Anyone who really wants a soft surface to step on in the morning should consider a natural wool area rug. For wall surfaces, use nontoxic paint (not just zero VOC) or other natural finishes that do not outgas. Clay plaster, which is completely free of chemical outgassing and actually helps reduce chemical fumes in the rooms where it is applied, is a great option.

Mattresses and bedding

The average mattress contains chemical flame retardants, formaldehyde, heavy metals and various other VOCs. Look for a natural latex mattress encased in an organic cotton or wool cover. Not only is natural latex chemical-free, it is a responsive surface that provides pressure relief and appropriate support for your spine and specific shape. Unlike the synthetic “memory foam,” natural latex breathes, which discourages the buildup of moisture and heat in the mattress interior. No more musty smell! For sheets and blankets, look for natural and organic fibers that are GOTS certified. The Global Organic Textile Standard is the world’s toughest processing standard for organic fibers. Thus, consumers know that no pesticides or chemicals were used in the growing or manufacturing process.


Air purification

After everything else is done, the final bit of insurance is the implementation of a quality air purification device for the things you can’t really control. Dust, mold spores, pollen and outgassing from clothing and furniture can still build up in your bedroom. Portable purification units that use a four-stage filter containing medical-grade high efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) and activated carbon will address the most serious household airborne contaminants. There you have it. A quick and easy checklist for creating your healthy haven. You’re just a few steps away from a truly restful, healing night of sleep!

Do Green Schools Really Improve Student Performance?

Green Schools has been the hot topic in trade publications lately.  Do green schools really improve student performance? Touting natural daylighting, improved ventilation and a more "comfortable" approach to design, the green design and education communities want us to believe that these fresh ideas will somehow improve the 20 year slide in overall student academic performance.  I beg to differ.


I wrote an article about building healthy spaces about 10 years ago.  In that article, I refer to the trend towards connecting our indoor environment to the outdoors, with the use of natural daylighting and  materials that give the feeling of the outdoor environment, such as wood, cork, natural grasses, etc. Fortunately, the design industry listened to my recommendations.  However, also in that article was a long paragraph about the need to make sure that the materials in use are less toxic to the occupants.  A theme that seemed to get lost in the shuffle when these so-called "green" experts began to promote the idea of healthy schools.


The latest article on this topic points out that 71% of teachers and administrators in this one particular school said they saw a positive effect on student performance.  While this number seems fantastic, one needs to only dig a little deeper in the story to reveal that this number is based solely on perception, not any facts.  Stating "public school system privacy issues", they cannot actually give out performance numbers.  Nor can they tell us if student sick days have been reduced.  In essence, this public school cost 15% more to build, using tax payer funds, for the sheer argument of perception, not reality.


To create a truly healthy school, the materials used cannot just be considered green because they don't contribute to outdoor air pollution (VOC regulations).  You can't just focus on the energy saving HVAC designs either.  To really do this right, you MUST approach this project in a truly encompassing fashion.  Healthy materials, better design. Its a simple concept.