A beautiful, well-designed and well-crafted home is about more than the pretty countertops and gleaming floors. Often, what lies beneath the surface is just as important.

“When you go into a new home, you are bombarded by volatile organic compounds (VOCs),” said Kevin Mullen, president of Empire Custom Homes. “The off-gassing of the carpets, the millwork, the paint, the flooring, the furniture – all of those things combine and are reflective of the indoor air quality.”

Although homebuilders have been building energy-efficient homes for years now, tight homes aren’t necessarily well ventilated, meaning indoor air quality can suffer.

“We focus on the quality of food that we select, on staying fit, but no one is really focusing on how we live in our homes, and in our climate, we spend 90 per cent of our time inside,” said Mullen.

Healthy homes are the new trend, and Empire Custom Homes is stepping up to take a leadership role in the industry.

The initiative came on the heels of the 2013 flood, an event that precipitated a change in Mullen’s health.

“At the time, I was working in a number of homes, including my own, and was starting to feel very unwell from the chemicals used in mould mitigation and new-home construction,” he said.

“I had to build it using healthy products that didn’t off-gas and that had minimal or no VOC content, so that I could go to work every day.” – Kevin Mullen, Empire Custom Homes

So, when it came time to build his company’s new head offices, along with the Empire Kitchen & Bath showroom, healthy was the name of the game.

“I had to build it using healthy products that didn’t off-gas and that had minimal or no VOC content, so that I could go to work every day,” said Mullen.

Mullen is now passing that experience and valuable knowledge along to the homeowner.

Known for its high-end, personalized creations, Empire Custom Homes builds and renovates homes throughout the city. The company also has multi-family projects on the go in Currie Barracks, including the award-winning Valour Park.

Mullen stresses that a healthy home can also be luxurious. In fact, Mullen says that building a healthier home is really no more expensive than using standard products.

What does change are the products used beneath the surface. That means healthy insulation and drywall that doesn’t off-gas, non-VOC paints and water-based stains, the use of formaldehyde-free materials and adhesives, and sticking to hard flooring surfaces, as carpet is a big contributor to low indoor air quality.

“But it is just one piece,” said Mullen. “It is a combination of everything together that is going to make your home healthier.”

The conscious choice of healthy materials, coupled with improved ventilation or heat-recovery ventilation systems and the best building practices, should ensure the quality of the home.