Aquatherm Pipe Integrated into Green Home Designed to Minimize Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
The Sausalito Purhaus was in some ways a labor of love, and yet was also a necessity to help alleviate the MCS symptoms of one of its owners. In the end, the home was so well designed that it was featured in Architectural Digest magazine.
What do you do when your home is making you sick? If you are Matt David and Renee Rech you build a new one. The idea took some serious determination but after almost seven years, the Sausalito, CA couple has mastered a tight-rope balance of aesthetics and health, with the result being a 2,500-sq-ft coastal home that is standing proof of their architecturally relevant, eco-vision.
For Renee, who suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), creating new construction offered the chance of developing a more sterile and pure environment to live in. For those with MCS – also known as Environmental Illness – exposure to even small amounts of commonplace chemicals becomes toxic and can affect numerous organ systems. For homeowners, the problem is that chemicals are found almost everywhere in everyday building products such as laminated plywood and the formaldehyde found in upholstered furniture.
Aquatherm Green Pipe® was used for domestic water distribution throughout the home. It came highly recommended from the project’s healthy home building consultant who had used it on several other MCS projects around the country.
Hand-picked Building Products
The focus on Renee’s health made the build and design process of choosing each building product essential to keeping her chemical sensitivity away. “We considered a lot of things that normal people don’t have to consider,” said Matt, “like being upwind or downwind of certain things, where the electrical box is relative to the bedroom, as well as the condition and temperature of where we would be.”
Dubbed the “Sausalito Purhaus,” the home was built by McDonald Construction and Development (which built the Bay Area’s first LEED Platinum-Certified custom home), designed by architect Perez-Roeder Studio. and included feedback from healthy home building consultant Marilee Nelson. Nelson, president of The House Doctors (Hunt, Texas), explained that the team hand-picked building products for the home based on being free of a long list of chemicals, passing the highest standards for health quality and the ability to minimize or delete toxic exposure.
PP-R Tapped for Safer Domestic Water
The team’s innovative, non-toxic building strategy included the use of Aquatherm polypropylene random (PP-R) pipe systems. “With copper it’s a potential that the metals will leach into the water, and with Aquatherm it was a 100 percent promise that it was non-leaching and so it was an option to have safer drinking water,” said Matt. “Also your skin is your largest organ and with it absorbing all the water from a shower, it was important to have that water as pure as possible,” he added. “The whole house has a water filtration system so when combined with the inert, non-leaching Aquatherm pipe, when we shower; we are getting the same quality water as the potable water.”
Initially the plumbing contractor planned to use another plastic pipe, but Nelson recommended Aquatherm based on past experience with it on other MCS projects.
Aquatherm’s pressure pipe systems are ideal for these types of applications, she said, because of their non-leaching and nontoxic characteristics.
“What I’m looking for is a means of moving water without bringing chemical contamination issues into the home, and because of the nature of Aquatherm it presents less chance for bacteria. It’s not leaching any chemicals into the water and we’ve found that PEX has a problem in that area, so I don‘t even look at PEX,” she said.
Additionally, Aquatherm is connected without flames, chemicals, or mechanical connections, and once fused; the pipes and fittings have the same physical properties, thus eliminating systematic weaknesses. “I like it a lot – much better than PEX and copper. We used to only spec copper but then PEX came out and we used that. But PEX and copper both have chemical issues, and Aquatherm is perfect, I love it,” added Nelson.
The heat fusion process turns the Aquatherm pipe and fittings into a single material – creating long-lasting, monolithic connections that eliminate potential leak paths. This eliminates systematic weaknesses and fail-points in the pipe without the use of toxic chemicals or mechanical connections.
An Educational Experience
Aquatherm’s local manufacturer’s representative, Sustainable Building Products, provided outstanding support and helped educate all the key parties about the product and its installation techniques. SBP’s Gibran Farrah provided the plumbing contractor, O’Reilly Plumbing with the standard Aquatherm factory training, which allowed O’Reilly to offer Aquatherm’s insurance policy/warranty.
When installed by Aquatherm-trained and certified technicians the pipe and fittings carry a 10-year, multi-million dollar warranty covering product liability, labor, personal injury and property damage issued by Zurich Insurance. The reassurance provided by the pipe warranty helped the owners embrace the relatively new to North America PP-R pipe. The fact that it has been used in over 70 countries for nearly 40 years also helped.
Meeting all the Codes and the MCS Needs
Since the Purhaus is located in a very moist environment – it’s on a cliff overlooking the San Francisco Bay – it presented plenty of construction challenges. It was built on piers and posts, which required for structural ingenuity, but in the end it, met all the necessary seismic codes as well as local standard building codes.
Other healthy building product choices included a whole house HEPA air filtration system, VOC-free paint, carpet-free flooring, pesticide-free wood and energy-efficient and no-VOC silicone roofing. The couple also used cotton insulation from recycled blue jeans and prior to installation the product was tested for pesticides, toxic flame-retardants, phthalates and other chemicals.
Matt said the green materials and efforts made to help prevent Renee from being sick are working so far and the home, which has already received praise from Architectural Digest, is a place where the couple can rest and their bodies can detoxify and heal.