By Lou Cole
Founder of Emecole
What value do home buyers put on indoor air quality? I think I know the answer. But before I weigh in, let’s pretend you are searching for a home to buy. You find two houses in the same neighborhood and each looks good. Both are about the same price and both fit your family’s needs. But one home has an invisible advantage that may save you thousands of dollars in health care costs.
The hypothetical home I’m talking about has excellent indoor air quality. I can guarantee and prove as much, because we serviced and certified the home. The other home is a different matter. Perhaps it has passed a state-mandated radon test, but beyond that there are no assurances that the indoor air quality is acceptable and will remain that way.
Now here’s the big question: how much more would you pay for the home that comes with a guarantee of excellent indoor air quality?
In many cases, the answer today is probably zero. Here lies the problem, because despite increased health care costs and more awareness of contaminants in our dwellings, as a society we have yet to find a way to promote this potential increase in the market value of a clean air home. Knowing the connection between proper lower level moisture control and air quality, we as waterproofing contractors need to bring this link to the public.
My colleague Richard Walter, the CEO and owner of A+ Engineering Construction in Gardnerville, Nevada, knows what I know: indoor air quality doesn’t sell – yet. He also can tell you that following state-mandated tests doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a long healthy life.
“My concern is the government has taken an inadequate approach. In Nevada I can call the University of Reno and ask for a radon test today. But that doesn’t mean my house will be safe two years from now.”
Walter believes our nation suffers from an epidemic of poor quality of air in residences. That’s because too often home buyers don’t test for mold, a serious enemy of indoor air quality caused by moisture, or they don’t see moisture remediation as an essential, ongoing task.
“Our company takes the approach that all homes are contaminated because we now add more insulation and close up our homes tighter and tighter as we become more energy efficient. But at same time we’re polluting the houses we live in by allowing excess moisture (greater than 50% relative humidity) in the basement and crawl spaces to exist.” We are also not effectively preventing pollutants, such as radon gas and other soil gases, from entering the house via the porous basement floor and/or unsealed crawlspace.
Basement waterproofing contractors and crawl space sealing and insulation installers can help to educate homeowners. In addition, housing contractors might be willing to use indoor air control techniques in basements and crawl spaces when building new homes – but only if they believe home buyers will pay the extra money for a safer environment. Even if the necessary steps are not taken during initial construction, basement waterproofers should promote that the damage to air quality can be addressed with after-construction methods.
I salute the Green Movement. It has turned an important corner. Public awareness and common sense have merged. Now Green innovators can finally enjoy a win-win market advantage. Meanwhile, I’m hopeful that one day indoor air quality will be a deal maker or breaker. But how will I know?
Picture this: I’m finally ready to retire, sell my house and move to Aspen. I put my family home on the market and ask for a firm $285,000. Then a knowledgeable young husband and wife pull me aside and whisper, “We’ll give you $300,000 if you can guarantee the indoor air quality.” When that happens, we’ll know our message has been received.