The De La Pena Home

Located on 718 North Bailey Street near downtown Fort Worth, sits a newly constructed lot with a very modern feel. The Ferriers, the company responsible for building the home, calls it the “Cowtown Contemporary” and it is very new on the inside and out. Just a year ago Thomas & Charolette De La Pena decided it was time for a new house and instead of buying an already built, unsustainable home, they decided to get something more eco-friendly and manageable. Don Ferrier is known for his attention to detail when it comes to foundation so they put down a slab that could stand the test of time and the De La Pena’s decided to keep the foundation as the floor, so that allergens and other carpet creatures were not a problem along with the fact that most carpets are made in very unsustainable ways. The walls, inside and out, are all painted concrete/Hardy paneling (concrete) which will decrease maintenance, increase insulation and has an elegant modern look. The walls are all insulated with spray foam as well; it seems that the De La Penas decided to make the most energy savings by keeping the heating and cooling in the house. The house also boasts dual flush toilets, a tankless water heater, native landscaping, cross ventilation, a TED smart reader (real-time energy use indicator), a detached garage, and duel mini split a/c untis.

The house is truly beautiful, inside and out, but one thing bothered me while hearing just how insulated the house is. It seems that the De La Penas have done such a good job of sealing everything in, that I began to worry about an issue that most do not consider: indoor air quality. Although plugging up any loose ends of a house is good for retaining heating and cooling, it also enables indoor carcinogens to stay and contaminate the air. Now a window could be opened, allowing for fresh outdoor air to circulate and push out some of the indoor air, but Mr. De La Pena explained that his sinuses are sensitive so windows would not be opened often. The mini split units, like most a/c systems, will allow for some filtering of the air in and out of the house, but an easy way to clean indoor air seemed non-existent in the home. Indoor plants were located no where in the house, from what I could see, and I think this would be a great solution for purifying the air in the home. The right indoor plants can greatly reduce volatile organic compounds and create fresh oxygen from carbon dioxide that the homeowners expel themselves. NASA recently compiled a list of the best plants for improving indoor air quality after testing the plants absorption of common pollutants. The list of plants are below and are located at most nurseries and home improvement stores, in fact, Home Depot and Lowes usually have indoor air quality plants on display.

1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’, heartleaf philodendron
2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’, cornstalk dracaena
4. Hedera helix, English ivy
5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’, Janet Craig dracaena
7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’, Warneck dracaena
8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos
10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’, peace lily
11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron
12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen
13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm
14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant
15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena
These plants are beautiful and vary in many ways and the De La Penas could arrange them in many ways throughout their sun lit house. NASA recommends around fifteen samples of these plants throughout a house of 2,000 square feet (the Cowtown Contemporary is 1,730 square feet) or less. The house truly is beautiful and it is great that people are considering the environment when constructing new homes, but homeowners must consider the air they are breathing in as well.

References: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/ssctrs.ssc.nasa.gov/journal_mas/journal_mas.pdf; http://www.ferriercustomhomes.com/home/http://www.epa.gov/iaq/

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