Site Selection for Our Healthy House

We live south of San Francisco and north of San Jose in Silicon Valley. Because we've been in this area for so long, and because we're very comfortable here, we decided early on that we wanted to stay here. There are many people who believe that the best way to solve indoor air quality problems is to move to the mountains or someplace relatively unpopulated, and keep your doors and windows open a lot. And for some, that probably is the right answer.

The area we were most interested in was the city of Los Altos. We looked for a site that wasn't too far from shopping or schools. We wanted a flat lot that would be big enough to build a one story 3,200 square foot house with a threee car garage. We tried to find something that wasn't close to a freeway or any other roads with heavy traffic. After a lot of looking, when we found a site we liked, we had a survey done to make sure that it wasn't near any toxic waste dumps. I also used a test kit to check the soil for signs of pesticides. Finally, although less technical, we also just smelled some of the dirt and the air.

Because there were so few empty lots in Los Altos, we ended up with a site that had a 40 year old house on it. It was a small, 1400 square foot home with a termite problem. We lived there for a few months while we finished selling our old house, and then we moved into an apartment to wait out the construction. We tore the house down in August 1994, after selling or giving away as many pieces of it as we could during a "demolition sale". We also had to take out a bunch of trees; mostly because they were located in places that would be covered by the new house, but a few others because we were allergic to them. The result was an almost flat lot about 85 feet wide by 210 feet long, on the corner of a cul de sac. It was a little closer to the local expressway than we would have liked. But it turns out that because of the way the prevailing winds blow, that wasn't a problem.