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Green building vs Healthy building

Are they the same?

Both styles of building have great intentions and are a step in the right direction. However a lot of people think green is the same as healthy. This common misconception couldn't be further from the truth.

You may be wondering which home building philosophy is best for you. This blog post outlines some important things to consider from both camps...

Green office space with natural light and indoor plants


As construction professionals, we spend a lot of our time out in the field at JS2 Partners Healthy Home Builders. And frankly we've lost count of how many times someone has come to us mistakenly thinking that green and healthy homes are the same thing.

Green building is about using the Earth's resources efficiently. Healthy building is about creating a space that promotes human health and well-being.

In a nutshell, healthy building eliminates the use of harmful materials inside a home to create a wellness supporting living environment. While green building focuses on reducing the negative impacts of construction materials on the earth's environment. Both are very important to improving the lives of humanity, with two very different sets of goals.

And while there is some overlap between the two, they are not the same thing. Put simply, if you're thinking about building, remodeling or even decorating a home, don't get caught up in the myths about what you need to use (or not use) to make it happen. Do your research, keep a clear head, and make sure you're getting the best information before you start construction. Your family's health (and your wallet) will thank you for it.

First, let’s clarify “green” vs “healthy

White linen couch with throw pillow and blanket

Most of us know that it's important to eat healthy and exercise regularly in order to maintain their health. But did you know that the buildings we live and work in can also have a significant impact on our health?

Healthy building is an emerging field that focuses on using materials and methods that put occupant health front and center. As healthy home builders, our primary goal is to promote healthy living for a home’s occupants, which includes people, animals, and even plants.

Healthy buildings are constructed with nontoxic materials for everything from what’s inside the walls to the visible surfaces around the interior. Things like flooring, glues, paints, cabinets, insulation, and more, are chosen because they don’t emit dangerous chemicals into the air. The goal is to use design and construction methods which have a positive impact on the wellbeing of the family and pets that live inside. Plus things like weatherproofing and waterproofing around a home are optimized, so the people inside can play, relax, cook, sleep and work with maximum productivity. What's not to love about being confident that your space is built to make you feel good.

As healthy home builders, our goal is to promote a wellness focused living environment for our homeowners using beautiful quality construction.

So where does that leave green?

Let's talk green building philosophy

Green and sustainable are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different.

Green building reduces the impact a home has on the earth's environment from from the time it's built to when people live there. Energy efficiency is usually a top priority.

Sustainable building reduces the impact of a home on the surrounding natural environment. Often reclaimed and recycled materials are used and water conservation equipment is installed.

Both green building and sustainable building are important for reducing our environmental impact, and they take different approaches to doing so. However, lessening the carbon footprint during construction is a priority for both - something we should all be mindful of in our daily lives.

As home builders, it's our duty to respect our planet by lessening the amount of waste throughout the build process. We do this through repurposing materials like lumber scraps from framing that can be used as wall bracing for heavy cabinets and shower glass. Plus a lot of what is taken down during demolition of a property can be recycled, like metal from HVAC components, rebar and old plumbing pipes.

So what’s green living got to do with healthy?

natural rope and wood indoor hanging chair

Short answer, not much at all.

Some people think that healthy home construction requires the use of straw, hay, clay, hemp, or a myriad of other bio-based products, many of which have not been adequately reviewed for performance and probably won’t pass local building codes. Even worse, many companies that manufacture these alternative building materials claim they are nontoxic when they can actually harbor their own unhealthy substances and even mold.

Don’t get us wrong. We love and respect Mother Earth. And much of what we do as healthy home builders is right in line with the cleanest, most sustainable best building practices by default. But when it boils down to brass tacks, the health and wellbeing of homeowners and pets should be the primary goal. More on this in a moment.

Are green buildings unhealthy?

In terms of indoor environmental quality, research by Current Environmental Health Reports shows that, on average, green buildings had reduced amounts of harmful substances like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) compared to their traditionally built counterparts. This is another step in the right direction. Healthy building takes this a step further by building to eliminate harmful VOC indoor air.

Modern healthy home kitchen with natural wood floor

But these studies do not always account for every factor that makes for a healthy home. Lesser known factors that often get overlooked are things like acoustics, which scored lower in green buildings in several studies. This means the study's occupants living in a green home were less satisfied with the structure’s noise control. And, as we discuss in our book Healthier Homes , noise pollution is just one factor that many of us don’t even think about that affects human health and can add to our stress levels.

Cluster of gold dome light pendants

It's not just the construction process that can have an impact on the environment - the materials themselves can be labeled as sustainable, too.

Earthen homes are made out of natural materials like hay and straw. While these materials are renewable and therefore sustainable, it doesn't mean they are good for your health. They can be prone to mold growth and don't keep things like high levels of humidity out of a home.

Stachybotrys chartarum, a type of black mold, produces some nasty mycotoxins in humid conditions on hay and straw. These vapors can cause severe illness, so it's important to be aware of the potential problems with earthen materials before using them in construction.

Then there's the use of recycled plastics which often smell like synthetic fragrance from recycled laundry soap bottles. So while green buildings may have some benefits over traditional ones, it's important to consider all aspects of what makes a healthy home before making any green assumptions.

Why healthy building is better for people and pets

Natural brown leather couch inside of a chemical free home

It’s clear that sustainability and being green has a large place in our lives -- which means respecting Mother Earth for the sake of the world today and for generations to come. This is why doing our part for sustainability and going green is a group effort.

But healthier living is an individual choice. You get to curate your own healthy, wellness-driven living environment within your home. You get to stock your fridge with your favorite organic foods. You have the opportunity to choose natural beautiful furnishings, rugs and décor free from nasty lacquers and glues. You have the power to inspire a clean relaxing space.

And best of all, you get to reap the benefits of positive wellbeing and an enhanced quality of life.

Ultimately the choice is yours. And the benefits of a healthy home are yours for the taking.


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