Every once in a while, one of our purchasers asks us about radon gas. Perhaps they have heard an item on the news, or have read something on the internet. They want to know if radon gas is a potential problem in our homes, and if there is anything that we, the builder, do to protect them against this. These questions fall under the general concern for safety; will their new home be safe and secure for their families.
With this blog entry, I would like to talk a little bit about radon gas, and how new home buyers are protected by the planning process, the building code, and by builders like Tartan, who build all our homes to the ENERGY STAR® standard.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released when uranium in soil and/or rock breaks down. There is a considerable variation in the levels of underground uranium. The amounts of radon that enter the outside air and water is miniscule. Radon gas can reach unhealthy levels in buildings that are built on high radon soils, and do not have adequate sealing against the intrusion of outside gases, or adequate ventilation. I’ve provided numerous links at the end of this blog for further research.
There are three ways that purchasers of new ENERGY STAR® homes are protected from radon.
First, during initial planning process, the land developer is required to access the level of radon in the soil. If the level is above a certain amount, then the builders will be required use specific building practices to protect against the introduction of radon into the home. These building practices are spelled out in the Ontario building code, and will be reviewed and inspected by civic building inspectors. I should say here as an aside that Tartan Homes is not building on any sites that have high concentration of radon in the soils.
Second, if a home is being built on an area that has been designated as having higher concentrations of radon in the soil, the builder must install extra caulking around the meeting point of the basement floor and the basement walls, as well as around the base of any pipes or structural posts that extend into the ground below the basement floor.
Finally, if you are buying an ENERGY STAR® home, you are further protected because all ENERGY STAR® homes maintain a positive air pressure with respect to the air outside your home. In other words, most of the air entering a Tartan home comes in through the intake vents of the heating and cooling system, or through open windows and doors. Tartan’s heating and cooling system (HRV) ensures a full exchange of air in the entire house two or three times per hour.
So, radon gas is not a new problem. If we were building in a high radon area, we would caulk the areas in the basement as described above, according to the building code. Then, if there was some small seepage of radon into the basement, it would get swept up into the air circulation system, and never achieve any kind of concentration that would be of concern.