Universal Design, Safe Rooms, Radon, Mold, Lead, Indoor Air Quality & Healthy Home Building
The Center for Universal Design – “a national research, information, and technical assistance center that evaluates, develops, and promotes universal design in housing, public and commercial facilities, and related products.” They offer quite a few publications including books, booklets, slide shows, videos, fact sheets and consumer product guides.
National Aging in Place Council – NAIPC is a “membership organization founded on the belief that an overwhelming majority of older Americans want to remain in their homes for as long as possible, but lack awareness of home and community-based services that make independent living possible.” Their mission is to promote independent living by offering programs, resources, and support services that help seniors age in place for as long as reasonably possible.
Universal Design Living Laboratory – Dr. Rosemarie Rossetti and her husband Mark were riding their bicycles on a local bike path when a large tree suddenly fell on Rosemarie, causing a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her from the waist down. When she returned home after six weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, Rosemarie quickly realized how difficult it was going to be to remain safe, comfortable and independent in their two-story home. After many years of research and planning, Rosemarie and Mark have assembled a team of design professionals who are building this national demonstration home in Columbus, Ohio.
Federal Emergency Management Agency – FEMA is “the federal agency charged with building and supporting the nation’s emergency management system.” Before you build your new home, be sure to read the Mitigation section of their site. It contains information about protecting your property from wind, fire, flooding and earthquakes.
Tornado Safe Rooms – If your home will be subject to high winds, hurricanes or tornadoes, you may want to review the information about Safe Rooms and Community Shelters and then download complete construction plans, drawings, and specifications for building a Tornado Safe Room inside your house.
FloodSmart.gov – information about flood zones, flood plain management, flood hazard assessment, risk levels, types of flood insurance, and flood related statistics — published by FEMA as part of the National Flood Insurance Program.
Americans with Disabilities Act – information from the U.S. Department of Justice about the ADA and its impact on new construction, alterations and renovations.
Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety – founded by members of the insurance industry, this non-profit organization has a stated mission to “reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other property losses by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.” The site contains information to help you protect your home from flood damage, freezing weather, high winds & hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, hail, water damage, and tornadoes.
AARP Webplace – The American Association of Retired Persons is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan association dedicated to shaping and enriching the experience of aging”, which is open to anyone age 50 or older. Among other information, their Web site includes a section on Universal Design and Home Modification. Whether you are building a new house or making repairs or improvements to an older home, you should consider incorporating some of the ideas and suggestions that are listed in this section. With a few simple alterations, you might be able to make your home a safer, more comfortable, and more convenient place to live.
U.S. Consumer Information Center – while you can still order brochures by mail from this government information source in Pueblo, Colorado, most of them are now available online. There are several health and safety related publications, including environmentally friendly lawn care, should you have your air ducts cleaned, safe drinking water, protecting your family from lead, an electrical safety check list and more.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission – the CPSC is an Independent Federal Regulatory Agency, which “works to save lives and keep families safe by reducing the risk of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products.” The site contains information about consumer product recalls, as well as, hundreds of free publications addressing fire safety, electrical safety, household products, home heating equipment, indoor air quality, playground safety, pool and spa safety, and many other product categories.
BuildingGreen – offering information, resources, and consulting services to further their mission; “to facilitate transformation of the North American building industry into a force for local, regional and global environmental protection; for preservation and restoration of the natural environment; and for creation of healthy indoor environments—while promoting the well-being of the company and its employees, owners, and associates.” They offer free basic access to some information, as well as, annual or monthly paid premium access.
US Department of Housing and Urban Development – the HUD site provides information on many topics, including health and safety related issues such as Healthy Homes for Healthy Children and Accessibility Analysis of Model Building Codes.
Rehabbing Flooded Houses: A Guide for Builders and Contractors – a HUD User guidebook published primarily for professional builders and contractors who are considering rehabbing flooded single-family houses – focuses on “safe practices and the most important activities in the rehab process.”
EPA’s Indoor Air Quality – studies by the Environmental Protection Agency “indicate that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2-5 times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels.” There are a variety of Publications about Indoor Air Quality, including information about asbestos, biological contaminants, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, lead, mold, mildew, nitrogen dioxide, pesticides, radon, tobacco smoke, and other volatile organic compounds. How much time do you spend indoors?
EPA booklets, brochures and information about Mold, Mildew, Mold Cleanup Guidelines, and Moisture Control
Occupational Safety and Health Administration – For years OSHA inspectors have been feared on construction sites. They have the power to impose heavy fines and stop the job should they find safety violations. Now, kinder and gentler, the OSHA Web site offers technical information, safety guidelines, laws & regulations, statistics, job site posters, publications, and other life safety information.
United States Fire Administration – part of the Federal Emergency Managment Agency (FEMA). Unfortunately for the average citizen, the ‘updated’ website seems to focus almost exclusively on providing government reports and professional training to those in the fire and emergency services industry, including a section on “Working with the news media” and what to do before, during and after an interview. There is still plenty of information about fire safety, smoke alarms, residential sprinkler systems, product recalls and facts about fire, it just takes longer for a member of the general public to find specific information.
Cleaning Up a Broken CFL – EPA guidelines for the safe clean-up and disposal of fluorescent light bulbs — you know, those “energy efficient” curly tube light bulbs that cost 3 or 4 times as much as incandescent bulbs, and have to be turned on 20 seconds before they produce the rated amount of light, and which supposedly last for 11 years (wink, wink). According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. The broken bulb can continue to release mercury vapor until it is cleaned up and removed from the residence. To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described below:” (download the 3 page detailed recommendations here)