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VOL. 44 | NO. 3 | Friday, January 17, 2020

Pendulum swings on how to maintain a healthy house

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Tony Locke, the go-to structural engineer for Realtors in need of structural advice in Nashville, has a dual life with a second calling as a philosopher. Once, he was called to assess a project and noted that the concrete contractor was installing the rebar incorrectly in a sidewalk.

Rebar is short for reinforcing bar and is a steel bar used to strengthen concrete. The concrete contractor installing the rebar informed Tony that he had 30 years of experience with concrete and rebar, and he saw no need for a book-smart engineer to provide instructions as to how to use the rebar.

Tony asked the contractor if he utilized the same procedure in his application of the rebar 30 years ago when he began working with concrete. The contractor replied that he had done it the exact same way for 30 years.

Tony said that it sounded like he had one year of experience and practiced the same mistake for the next 29 years. It is possible to make the same mistake for an extended period if people are not open to learn new techniques and incorporate new ideas into their trades.

Conversely, there are those quick to jump onto the next new thing that comes down the pike. In many cases, time will prove the old practice was better.

In construction, foundation vents were mandatory, allowing the house to breathe, and were to be closed in the winter and opened in the summer.

At some point, someone realized that bringing hot air filled with moisture into a cool space caused condensation and that moisture often leads to mold.

Then it was determined that houses should be tighter and sealed shut so that air could neither come nor go. Eventually that was determined to be unhealthy as well.

Bob Harwood of Woodesigns in Cookeville recently read the book Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn. Harwood, unlike the concrete contractor, is always open for new ideas. The subtitle of the “Never Home Alone” is From Microbes, Camel Crockets and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live.

Harwood says the book explains that we are living with 200,000 creatures in our homes, including a variety of crustaceans. Dunn’s book describes the Egyptian meal moths in the cupboards to lactobacillus on the kitchen cabinets and all life in between.

“As we obsess over sterilizing our homes and separating ourselves from nature, we are unwittingly cultivating an entirely new playground for evolution,” the Amazon synopsis of the book reads.

Dunn says we are providing some organisms opportunities to become more dangerous and perhaps separating our bodies from organisms that could be good for us.

Harwood says we have the capability to learn more about biodiversity and incorporate these findings into home design and construction. The earth’s carbon dioxide level is the highest it has been in 2 million years, he notes, now resting at 410 parts per million after peaking at 436 parts per million.

When houses are tight and windows are not opened with some regularity, humans breathe in CO2 laden particles and exhale even more CO2 into the trapped environment, aka the house. When there are two people living in a home, that is not dangerous, but a family of five living in a home – an arrangement that is more common now than in the past – levels can be dangerous.

There will be more to come on this intriguing book after the gray, Mercedes van visits my home.

Sale of the Week

Crieve Hall continues to prove enigmatic in this wacky Nashville housing market, with property values showing rising consistently while remaining relatively affordable.

532 Barrywood Drive

The house at 532 Barrywood Drive exemplifies the situation. The property sold recently for $485,000 at a mere $203 per square foot. With four bedrooms, three full baths and 2,392 square feet, it was a bargain.

Listed by Hannah Stephenson, the supermom and talented Realtor, it sold in 33 days in the midst of the holiday season. Her description of the home notes the house has an open floor plan, two fireplaces and three living spaces. She failed to mention the microbes and Egyptian meal moths, but she might not have read the book at the time of the listing.

The seller purchased the home in 2013 for $307,000 as the city began to rebound from the Recession and fared well with the quick sale at $485,000, much better than a wholesale price.

The owner before the $307,000 owner had lived there for 24 years, as is often the case in Crieve Hall.

Sara Milligan, one of the top producers at the Wilson Group Real Estate, who arrived in Nashville via New Orleans, represented the buyers who will, no doubt, profit when they sell in a few years. That is as long as they open the windows when weather allows.

Richard Courtney is a licensed real estate broker with Fridrich and Clark Realty, LLC and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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