As this nation debates health care reform and frets about the economy, a crawl space sealing contractor is preaching a unique path to recovery that he believes offers three essential benefits: improved home values, safer personal environments, and endless green-collar jobs.
The health care debate too often blinds us to an alarming truth: one of the greatest dangers to health is the accumulation of poisonous gases and other pollutants in the underbelly of residential real estate. Without proper mitigation, American homeowners and their families remain vulnerable to costly and deadly chronic respiratory diseases – regardless of health care innovations.
I’m convinced that as a nation we are ignoring our health and safety. It amazes me that even in this modern age, many homeowners and realtors are not aware that fifty percent of the air we breathe in our homes originates in the basement or crawl space. Radon gas, pesticides buried in the soil and the off-gassing of oriented strand board (OSB) that is used to build our floors and foundations, all contribute to the danger.
Encapsulating a crawl space is the first step when cleaning indoor air. The next step is installing an Active Moisture & Soil Gas Management System. This innovative approach uses a wireless Sunsei solar-powered shed ventilator to reverse a home’s field of pull so that soil gases and vapor are sucked out of the living environment. The fan is a back up measure that will ensure the removal of airborne contaminants in the event that the encapsulation is compromised.
If I had it my way, each community would sponsor a meeting of contractors, government officials, real estate professionals and homeowners. Together they would debate the facts and set much higher environmental standards for housing. Fortunately, doing so would spur the economy in two significant ways. First, improving indoor air quality through proper encapsulation of crawl spaces can actually add value to a home – and a “Cadillac” upgrade is relatively inexpensive – while cutting health costs. Next, the increased demand for these services would create green-collar job opportunities. In 2008, both presidential candidates articulated the need for creating this type of work force.
It’s a win-win situation. A contractor with his head held high could provide a quality ‘green’ service that will grow his business and perhaps allow him to hire more workers. The homeowner benefits from a service that won’t break the bank and eliminates a health risk. If I can add value to my home and get it back on the sale, why wouldn’t I do it?
Homeowners would be wise to calculate the dire financial consequences of job loss due to poor health, and then compare that to the cost of indoor air quality remediation. Contractors eager to expand revenue might do the math for prospective clients. Help the homeowner understand that they either have clean air or contaminated air. There is no in-between.
Home buyers and sellers are familiar with inspections for radon gas, a natural but poisonous soil gas. But there are other dangers. For example, many new sub-divisions are built on land that was once used for agriculture, where fertilizers and pesticides were prevalent. Buried, forgotten fuel tanks might also be a source of contamination. Homeowners should research the history of the land they live on.
Homeowners must always be aware that many contractors specialize. Perhaps they are HVAC or radon experts only. These professionals tend to micromanage one element that affects indoor air quality without looking at big picture.
Once again, the lack of correct information provides an opportunity for contractors and other workers who may be seeking a career change: Become a ‘green’ indoor air quality specialist. Those who answer the call may find themselves at the forefront of a movement that wants it all – clean air and economic stability.
Lou Cole is the president and owner of Emecole, Inc., a manufacturer of concrete crack repair epoxies and polyurethane foams since 1987. Today, Emecole is a leading supplier of basement waterproofing and indoor air quality control products through the United States and Canada. For more information, visit http://www.emecole.com or write to 50 E. Montrose Dr. P.O. Box 7486, Romeoville, IL 60446.