Seventh Heaven: Creating a Healthy Home

Seventh Generation founder Jeffrey Hollender shares his secrets for creating a healthy home—a safe haven for his asthma-prone son and family.

| January/February 2006

About ten years ago, when five-year-old Alex Hollender was diagnosed with asthma, he was living with his family in a converted century-old barn in Long Island. “It was the worst environment for him,” says his father, Jeffrey, president of Seventh Generation, a natural household products company. “He was frequently sick, and there was no way to make it better for him.”

A specialist—who had no idea Jeffrey’s company sells nontoxic household products—explained to Jeffrey and his wife, Sheila, that for many asthma sufferers, a cleaner, more hypo-allergenic home environment is the most effective treatment. Jeffrey and his oldest daughter, Meika, also suffer from frequent and often extreme allergies, but Alex’s health was “paramount in the decision to build a new house,” says Jeffrey. The Hollenders left the damp barn on the family’s Long Island property and sought land in rural Vermont on which to build a healthy home for their family.

After choosing property in Charlotte, Vermont, Jeffrey and Sheila sought help from Tom Cullins of Truex Cullins and Partners Architects, a firm in which all forty-two architects are LEED accredited. With Tom and their good friend and builder, Jeff Bradley of Bradley Construction, they found nonallergenic materials that wouldn’t pollute the air inside their home.

Since the Hollenders moved into their new home, Alex suffers from asthma only when he gets a cold. “This house has been ideal for all of us—it’s a very healthy home,” Jeffrey says.

Whole house decisions

Air exchange system and humidifier: The Hollenders chose an air-exchange system that’s more commonly found in buildings than private homes. Mitsubishi heat-recovery units bring in fresh air to two high-efficiency (93 percent) York hot air furnaces. This air-to-air heat exchanger works by exhausting stale indoor air to the outside and simultaneously replacing it with fresh outdoor air. The clean, incoming air is automatically preheated or pre-cooled. Additionally, because the two air streams never mix, there’s no need to worry about cross-contamination. The system eliminates airborne toxins and viruses and reduces energy consumption. One of the Hollenders’ key considerations was maintaining the highest indoor air quality, so they easily justified the extra expense (more than $5,000).

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