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The Healthy House

The Healthy House is bright, open, efficient and welcoming. It can be new or renovated, in downtown or suburbia. Wherever you find it, the Healthy House is characterized by five key elements.

1. Occupant Health

Healthy Housing promotes superior quality of indoor air, water and lighting.

2. Energy Efficiency

Homes account for about 20 per cent of all energy used in Canada. Of this, about 67 per cent is used for space heating and cooling, 18 per cent for lighting and appliances, and 15 per cent for heating water. The Healthy House reduces energy use in all these areas, in all seasons. It minimizes heat loss in winter and gain in summer. It relies on efficient heating and ventilation systems, reduces the consumption of electricity and other fuels, encourages the use of renewable energy and the recovery of energy that would otherwise be lost. It also reduces the energy used in the manufacture of building materials and in house construction.

3. Resource Efficiency

The Healthy House makes efficient use of all our resources. It is also readily adaptable to changing needs. Efficient use is made of building materials, and recycling is encouraged. Durability of building components is essential. The Healthy House also conserves water and energy.

4. Environmental Responsibility

The principles that guide the construction and use of the Healthy House are the cornerstone of environmentally responsible housing. The Healthy House may use alternative water and wastewater systems, encourages site planning that reduces land requirements, minimizes waste generation and pollutant emissions, promotes resource-efficient landscaping and considers broader community planning issues such as transportation. It involves a new way of thinking about how homes and communities contribute to the health of the planet. Houses are becoming smaller and more space efficient with multi-use floor plans. While building lots are smaller, they are more creatively used.

5. Affordability

For the Healthy House to succeed in the marketplace, it must be good for the owner, the builder and future generations. Many features of the Healthy House make it affordable to own, and its design makes it easily adaptable to its occupants’ changing needs.

The Bathroom


While it may not look different, much has changed in the bathroom of the Healthy House. Water, in particular, is much better managed.

Nearly 75 per cent of all water used in the home is used here. Wasted water is money down the drain. With new water-saving devices, bathroom water use can be reduced by as much as 50 per cent with little or no change in lifestyle.


Water-efficient Toilet (6L or less)
Uses up to 80 per cent less water than a regular toilet.
Dual flush toilets offer even greater savings.
Refer to the maximum performance testing of toilets on the Canadian Water Waste Association (CWWA) website.
Shower Head (9.6 L/minute)
Reduces water use by more than 60 per cent with no loss of performance.


Tile is easily kept clean and dry and is durable for bathrooms. Carpets are discouraged because they retain moisture, which encourages mold growth.

Water-based Semi-gloss Paint

Semi-gloss paint is washable, durable and enhances a room’s brightness. Use a low-pollutant emission type paint.


Essential for controlling humidity and exhausting odours to the outside. The bathroom can be linked to an integrated house venting system, or a quiet fan (1 sone or less) may vent air directly to the outside.


Special low-odour fungicide-free silicone caulking is available.

The Kitchen


The kitchen is a centre of activity in most homes—and an area where water and electricity are frequently wasted. research shows that kitchen appliances can be used more efficiently or more efficient models can be purchased.

The kitchen of the Healthy House is designed to make efficient use of resources and to contribute to a healthier living environment for its occupants.

Materials frequently used in kitchen construction can give off chemical vapours for extended periods so healthier alternatives are recommended.


Faucet Aerator Taps

A simple and inexpensive aerator tap can reduce water use by more than 60 per cent.


A properly designed skylight or light tube reduces the need for artificial light and saves on lighting costs.

Energy-efficient Appliances

Energy-efficient dishwashers, washers and dryers, refrigerators and freezers can cut energy consumption by at least 15 per cent. Some models can reduce energy use by nearly 50 per cent.

Front-loading clothes washers save clothes-drying energy consumption by removing more water.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

Use bins to collect recyclable materials and to separate wet and dry waste.

Use a covered compost bin to store organic waste for composting outside.

Recycle and compost to reduce the volume of household garbage sent to landfills.


Store materials whose odours can reduce air quality—cleaners, toiletries, compost and garbage—in sealed containers.


Low-toxicity sealers can be used to seal the exposed surfaces of cabinets made with manufactured wood products such as particle board and plywood.

Use low-pollutant-emission board materials and finishes for cabinet construction.

Solid-surface Countertops

These countertops emit few vapours. Because they are reparable, they can last the life of the house.

The underside of countertops should be sealed with a low-odour sealer.

Source Control

Choose materials that emit few chemical vapours.

Plaster walls, for example, are attractive, durable, cleanable and inert.

Ceramic Tile

Set in thinset mortar, ceramic tile is easy to maintain and durable. One type consists of 70 per cent recycled glass.


Ventilation is a must to control cooking-related moisture and odours. An outside-vented quiet range hood or downdraft fan can help keep your kitchen fresh.


Chose natural biodegradable products for cleaning (for example, baking soda, vinegar, borax).

The Living Room and Study


Today, bigger is not necessarily better. In the Healthy House, floor plans make efficient use of space, less building material is needed and less energy is used. Moreover, the emphasis is on open, adaptable, multi-use space that can change with your personal needs.


Large Windows

Generous windows let in natural light and give your house a more spacious appearance. South-facing windows allow for substantial heating from the sun. Exterior shades can prevent summer overheating. Frame material, special coatings, the number of panes of glass, gas between panes and spacer materials all contribute to energy efficiency of windows.

Area and Task Lighting

Wiring your home so that the lights can be individually controlled lets you illuminate specific areas of a room independently. Lighting the whole room wastes electricity.

Automatic Timers and Dimmer Switches

Using automatic timers and dimmers saves electricity.

Energy-efficient Lighting

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75 per cent less energy than the incandescent variety. Halogen bulbs are another environmentally responsible choice. Both types last longer than conventional bulbs. Make sure compact florescent lights (CFL) are disposed of properly as they contain mercury.

Natural Furniture

Furniture made from low-emission, natural materials—wool rugs, sofas and chairs made of untreated cotton with hardwood frames—makes for a healthy indoor environment.

The Hidden Home


How we build our homes has a great effect on occupant health, energy and resource efficiency, the environment, and housing economy. Applying the principles of the Healthy House can lead to important but often simple changes in construction practices and the selection of materials. These are at work for you behind the finished walls and floors of the Healthy House.


Sealed Concrete Slab Floor

A low-emission, water-based sealer provides a lowmaintenance finish while eliminating concrete dust.

Rigid Board Insulation

Placed under the concrete slab, this high-performance, waterproof insulation helps raise the temperature of the floor slab and increases comfort. It reduces heat loss by up to 75 per cent.

Polyethylene Plastic Sheeting

To prevent soil gases from entering the house, place this sheeting between the floor slab and foam board insulation. It reduces moisture seepage by breaking the soil’s natural capillary action.

Kiln-dried, Finger-jointed Spruce Studs

Spruce is a domestic, fast-growing, renewable softwood.

It also has the lowest chemical content of the softwoods, so it has a reduced impact on the quality of the indoor air. Finger joints connect short sections of lumber, reducing mill waste while conserving resources.

Birch Trim and Moulding

Birch, a fast-growing domestic hardwood, emits few chemicals and is very durable. It is an excellent choice for decorative trim and moulding when sealed with a water-based dispersion urethane, a low-odour finish.

Fibre-reinforced Drywall

This gypsum drywall minimizes taping, filling and sanding. It contains recycled material and creates less dust and volatile chemicals during installation.

Airtight Drywall Barrier System

Including low-density polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foam tape and low-emission silicone caulking, this drywall system eliminates drafts and minimizes the entry of outdoor air pollutants and moisture through the building structure. It also helps reduce heat loss due to air leakage by 75 per cent.

Vapour Diffusion Sealer

When applied to all interior gypsum board surfaces, this low-emission sealer retards vapour diffusion into insulated wall cavities and serves as a primer for paint.

Interior Water-based Paint

Use low pollutant emission paint to reduce vapours.


Properly designed and constructed sunspace provides passive heating from the sun and offers occupants a warm, sunny place during the winter.

The Mechanical Room


Ventilation equipment is as essential to comfort as the furnace, water heater and dehumidifier. You can economize by integrating the functions of all your mechanical equipment. You can also save by using smaller components because higher levels of insulation reduce heating and cooling demands.


Ventilation Intake and Exhaust

Exercise care when designing and locating ventilation intakes and exhausts. Ventilation exhaust must not re-enter the house. Intakes should not be near an outside pollution source or inaccessible for cleaning and inspecting.

Air Filtration

Odours and particles, including molds, dust and pollen, should be removed from indoor air. Pleated paper filters remove fine particles that conventional glass fibre filters cannot. Ventilation systems can be designed to accommodate highefficiency filters to remove dust particles from outdoor air.

Heating Equipment

The equipment that heats the air and water in our homes has improved dramatically. Today, high-efficiency condensing furnaces, heat pumps well-suited to cold climates, and integrated space and water heating systems are commercially available.

When choosing a high-efficiency furnace, ensure it has a higher-efficiency fan motor as well to reduce electricity consumption.

Thermal Storage

Passive solar design techniques can be combined with high mass elements (for example, concrete floors) to store daytime solar energy for use during the night. Extra water heaters can be used to heat and store hot water during the night when there is excess electricity capacity. This stored energy can be used later when it is needed.


To ensure the efficient supply and return of ventilated air, ductwork must be well design and installed. Ducts should be airtight yet accessible for cleaning.

Water-based Duct Sealer

Using a water-based sealer (mastic) is the best way to seal ducts to ensure efficient distribution of heating, cooling and ventilation air.

Heat Recovery Ventilation System (HRV)

HRVs help provide healthy indoor air quality. They can recover 70 per cent of the heat from stale indoor air while providing a continuous supply of tempered fresh air to the home. This reduces ventilation costs. This system draws fresh, filtered air into the home while removing stale indoor air moisture and odours. Together, the fresh air system and associated heat recovery ventilation provide a healthier, durable, more comfortable home.

Pure Water System

If it is necessary to improve water quality, consider installing a separate drinking water filter with its own kitchen tap. Water purification systems for the whole house are also available.

Gas-fired, Direct Vent, Fan-assisted or Sealed

Hot Water Tank

These appliances reduce the risk of flue gas spillage into the house while improving energy efficiency.

Central Vacuum

The central vacuum system should direct its exhaust outside the house, so it removes dust directly to the outdoors. This eliminates the kicked-up dust common to conventional vacuum cleaners.

Healthy Landscaping


Resource-efficient landscaping contributes to all the elements of the Healthy House—health, energy, resources, affordability and the environment. It can provide an area for growing food, a welcome microclimate (for example, shade, protection from wind) for the home, and reduce stormwater runoff. In addition, through well-designed landscaping, the garden need not be expensive to construct nor tedious to maintain.



Cisterns (water storage tanks) are an effective way to collect and save rainwater. They can provide water for all outdoor needs and reduce use of treated potable water.

Drip Irrigation System

A drip irrigation system, placed on or below ground level, reduces water losses due to run-off and evaporation in comparison to conventional sprinkler systems.

Native Grasses

Switch from thirsty, exotic grasses to hardy native varieties, and limit lawns to social and play areas.

Trees and Shrubs

Native trees and shrubs need less water than grass. Because their roots are deeper, they often do not need watering. They also provide privacy, shading and pleasure.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

With a backyard composter and garden, you can put most of your food wastes to good work where they belong—back in the land.

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