In many ways, this discussion is like organic foods. People walk into Whole Foods Market and assume because it’s organic food, it’s automatically healthier – which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Granted, organic foods are cleaner than conventional foods, in that they aren’t sprayed with the same pesticides, and are grown in a more sustainable fashion. But organic doesn’t have anything to do with healthier eating. Organic chips, organic sugar, organic soda, etc., all are proof you can still eat food that's organic and bad for you. That’s a good perspective to look at green building through. Green has nothing to do with the health of the building, or it’s occupants. Yes, it’s a wonderful way of thinking about building because sustainable, environmentally friendly, and energy efficient building methods are all valuable and important. But you could build a net-zero, solar-powered, home that is made from sustainably produced materials, and is filled with toxins, built too tightly for building envelope breathability and is the epitome of unhealthy, conventional building.
Healthy building is a value. One that places the health of the people who will live inside of that building first. When you do that one thing, so many other things fall into place. AND, it’s not any harder to make a healthy house green than it is to make an unhealthy one. Green homes and healthy homes shouldn’t be confused with each other – as values, they are pretty distinct. Of course, my feeling is that many green builders gloss over that fact with their clients, and are okay with the assumption that many people make: green building is healthier. This was our experience trying to find a builder that took health seriously – all of the green builders in Austin talked a good game about sustainability and energy efficiency, but few had anything to say about the health of the home and the safety of the materials used.