A “Safe House” at Mountain Meadows

Story by Diana O’Farrell

Think of the words “safe house.” These are good feeling words that describe Tamsin Taylor’s house on Great Oaks Drive in Mountain Meadows 55+ Community. Not safe from an outside source, but safe from health threatening indoor chemicals. Remember how formaldehyde and flame retardants were used in many building materials a few decades ago? They are still around, plus hundreds more, and may be impacting us without our awareness. After a serious health crisis caused by a chemical exposure, Tamsin began researching the relationship between chemicals in our environment and our health.

When she purchased her house in Mountain Meadows last fall, Tamsin’s first call was to an expert in this field, Ashland based architect Paula Baker Laporte, FAIA, to provide specifications for safe products for her remodel. Baker Laporte suggested hiring general contractor Steve Sirianni of Walls of Time, an Earth Advantage Builder. Nothing was allowed into Tamsin’s house unless it was confirmed to be chemically safe.  During construction, a long list of things not allowed in the house, and posted on an easel just inside the front entry, was provided by Baker Laporte. She is a “healthy building” consultant, instructor for the International Institute of Building Biology and Ecology, and the primary author of Prescriptions for a Healthy House, which is now in the Mountain Meadows library.  “Your house is like a lung,” said Sirianni. It is where you spend most of your time, especially in the bedroom.” If the air in it is unhealthy, you can become sick. Asthma, irregular heartbeat, headaches, memory loss, and nose bleeds (to name a few), caused by chemicals are common;  but most of us wouldn’t relate them to the carpeting, wall paint, flooring or even cleaners in our home.

Tamsin had a list of priorities for her remodel, which was divided into several categories: Clean Water/Air, Comfort/Function, Environment, Safety, Beauty and Fun.  Although Tamsin was able to achieve her healthy home wish list, she recognizes not everyone can or will go as far as she has. Her priority in every decision was for protecting her health.  “There are so many good choices for healthy building [and cleaning] products, but unless you ask for them, you won’t have them.” said Baker Laporte.

Baker Laporte believes that our health begins at home and that it is a form of self-empowerment to create a safe environment.  “Everybody is different, so the challenge is to find what in your environment you are sensitive to,” said Tamsin.