Green Interiors

"Renovation Nation" comes to Tucson
by Pamela Portwood

Last January in the same week that Tucsonans were mesmerized by the local production of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," another national TV home show was quietly shooting three episodes in Tucson. "Renovation Nation," which runs on the Planet Green channel, features host Steve Thomas visiting homes across the country that doing eco-friendly remodels. Thomas is best known as the former host of "This Old House."

I was able to watch the taping of the Tucson "Renovation Nation" episode about Mike and Amber Schwartz's green remodel up close because I appeared on the show as an expert to address indoor air quality (IAQ) issues in their new nursery.

Mike and Amber were building a new office on the slab of a former carport. After moving their existing office into the new space, they planned to switch around the rooms in their three-bedroom home to accommodate a master bedroom, a new nursery and a bedroom for their two-year-old son, Zane. Amber's expected delivery date was a week after the shooting started.

Working with Francis Maasland of Maasland, LLC as the contractor, Mike and Amber tried to make the new construction as sustainable as possible within their budget, reusing bricks, lumber and electrical wiring from the former carport. They also increased the energy efficiency of their whole house by added new windows, more insulation and a ceramic roof coating.

As for why they decided to go green, Amber says, "We are passionate about trying to do the best we can to help the environment." Part of being green for them is to create a healthy home for their family. "Renovation Nation" also asked me as a green interior designer to help Mike and Amber select some healthy and sustainable materials for the nursery.

Infants are especially sensitive to chemicals because their organs and systems are still developing, so we chose materials to reduce hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the nursery. That meant selecting no-VOC paint and a beautiful crib that used water-based glues and finishes as well as sustainable woods and bamboo.

Cork was a great flooring choice for both children's rooms. It doesn't off gas VOCs, and it's a renewable resource that is naturally anti-bacterial. Its spongy surface will cushion falls for toddlers and absorb sound from rowdy kids. Ultimately, the cork flooring became part of Mike and Amber's long-term plan when they opted for the energy-efficient roof coating.

When it came time to tape the Schwartz home remodel for "Renovation Nation," a shoot that was scheduled for 1-2 days stretched into multiple days. The crew even came back to shoot after Amber had her baby boy, Bryce.

As he typically does on the series, Steve Thomas really did help paint the walls. Saying he's a funny, high-energy person on the set is an understatement. Watching and being part of a location TV shoot was fun although everyone spends much more time standing around than appearing on camera.

This column will have gone to press before I could see the show to know what's in it. The "Renovation Nation" episode about the Schwartz home ("Philadelphia PA: Habitat Goes Green") is scheduled to first air on May 8, and it will be replayed on May 24 at 4 p.m. on Planet Green.

I bet the scene where Mike's firefighter coworkers drove up in a fire engine with the siren wailing made the cut. The producer did tell me that the scene where Steve Thomas painted my nose with yellow, no-VOC paint isn't in the show. That's a relief.

Watch a clip from this episode of "Renovation Nation."

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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly Tucson Green Times).


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