Healthy Housing Research Institute

Welcome to the website of the Healthy Housing Research Institute, located in the town of Rockvale, Colorado, 81244 (between Florence and Cañon City).

My name is Gary Johnson. I am a retired electrical engineering professor from Kansas State University, and have both Electromagnetic HyperSensitivity (EHS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Cell phone and WiFi signals make me ill, although I am not nearly as sensitive as many with EHS. I tolerate the ambient fields fairly well where I live in Cañon City, Colorado, as long as there are no cell phones or WiFi in the house. But I decided to look for a place with lower field strengths where I might build a house (if my sensitivity got worse) and bought 59 acres in the small mining town of Rockvale, Colorado, on foreclosure in March, 2012. (A developer had platted a property of 80 acres, and sold 21 acres of lots before going bankrupt.) The larger portion of the 59 acres is a 40 acre lot which includes a gulch or box canyon with very low signals. The remaining 19 acres are in six lots varying in size from 1 to 8 acres.

In May of 2014, a three bedroom, two bath house on a 1 acre lot adjacent to the 59 acres already purchased became available on foreclosure, which I was able to buy at a favorable price. The house and four of the empty lots are on a cul-de-sac at the end of Shaft Avenue. The house (745 Shaft Avenue) has been repurposed as my office/laboratory/man cave, a place where I can go and putter, and get away from the beginning piano students that my wife teaches in our home in Cañon City.

The Rockvale property is about six miles to Home Depot and seven miles to Walmart. Colorado Springs is about an hours drive away, and Pueblo is a little closer. The climate is quite nice, with the site located in what is considered the `banana belt' of Colorado. All houses in Rockvale are on septic systems, which is not a problem. Most houses are heated by electricity or by propane. There are no cable TV lines to 745 Shaft. An outdoor TV antenna on the house receives CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, and Fox from Colorado Springs. Internet to 745 Shaft is provided wirelessly from a nearby tower to a receiving dish on the house, then by Ethernet cable inside. I use Vonage to get Voice Over Internet phone service inside the house. The wireless Internet signal does not reach the bottom of the gulch, so Internet service there would need to be from cable, probably fiber optic.

The property has been used as a playground by Rockvale children for over a century. It is bounded on the south by the 185 acre Rockvale town park, with no fence or signage. I have not put up any Keep Out/No Trespassing signs, so it is not unusual to see a half dozen high school kids walking by the house on their way to the top of the mesa (which has a really nice view). There are several deer that often camp out in the front yard (and eat the flowers in the planter and any overripe fruit on the porch!). The hummingbird population is large in warm weather. A local realtor who grew up a few houses down the gulch and played on what is now my property all summer long claims to have seen a medicine circle here. I have not seen it and would guess that it was just a few rocks used for holding down the flaps of a teepee. We are located a little too far south for medicine circles, but who can say for sure? In short, I consider this property to be 'good' (tending toward sacred, for those who think in those terms), as opposed to 'evil'.

I could not identify any place on earth where EHS was being investigated, so I proposed the establishment of the ElectroMagnetic Sensitivity Research Institute (EMSRI) to do research on methods to improve the wellbeing of those of us with EHS, back in 2012. The dream was to recruit medical personnel, biochemists, engineers, and other technical people to do funded research on many aspects of EHS. As of early 2018 there was still only one researcher (me), doing research on healthy housing out of my retirement assets. It appeared to be time to sharpen the focus, to make plans that one person has some hope of completing. EMSRI had not been legally established, so I changed the proposed name to the Healthy Housing Research Institute (HHRI). The new name suggests that the research focus will be on housing. Medical aspects can be added later if the right people feel a `calling' to associate themselves with the HHRI.

So how does one do research on housing that is hopefully helpful to those with EHS and/or MCS? I was Principal Investigator on several research projects while teaching at KSU, so I know a little about doing research. My projects were all labor intensive. Most of the cost was for student salaries and a fraction of my time for supervising, with a little for meters. We never built anything with a long term life after the project was over. Housing research, on the other hand, is inherently capital intensive. My plan is to build an on-grid test house and measure parameters like energy efficiency and reduction in interior fields compared with 'conventional' houses. I will recruit people with EHS/MCS to sleep in the house a few nights to validate the meter readings. After a year or so of testing, I write a final report and move on to the next project. But what happens to the test house? In particular, what about the income from rental or sale? Things get complicated very quickly if I were accepting money from government, industry, or some crowd source plan. Everyone wants a share of any income. For that reason I am planning to run the project with my own assets.

My wife and I are naturally frugal people, driving old vehicles and shopping at GoodWill. We have been debt-free since 1983. I get Social Security plus a retirement annuity from my teaching days, more than enough for monthly expenses. Between teaching, an inheritance, and some blessings from God, we have been able to invest about a third of a million dollars in the Rockvale property. It will someday be an inheritance for our two children (or perhaps it may go to long term nursing care!?). I feel good on the property and enjoy being there to just putter around. I am not interested in getting some exorbitant return on investment (the kids would probably not appreciate it!) but at the same time I am not ready to give it away. I have five empty lots on Shaft Avenue of size 2.844, 2.568, 2.561, 1.503, and 1.423 acres, that are appropriate for on-grid houses. My business plan is to build a test house on a lot. After a year or so of testing and outgassing, I sell it to a family that is impacted by EHS. The price would be my actual out-of-pocket expense plus perhaps $25,000 for the lot plus another $10,000 or $15,000 for site preparation and supervision of the subcontractors. The final price would be competitive with similar houses on the street, something under $200,000.

I take the proceeds of the sale and lessons learned from the first house, and build another test house on a different lot, and repeat until the five lots are sold. Five families are benefited with healthier houses, with research findings published on this website. I own five fewer lots but have more cash in my checking account. I think it is win-win for all. At that point I can start developing off-grid rental housing on the remaining 48 acres. My dream is to build up to 24 cabins in the gulch. However, as I look at the details of permits, I have come to the realization that it is illegal to build affordable housing in Colorado. This is broadly true for any type of housing in any location. Everyone has to deal with ordinances about housing density and minimum size that quickly make a project unaffordable. In my case, there are additional social and political barriers. A discussion of these barriers is in IllegalCabins.pdf. But who knows: a good sales pitch to the Rockvale Town Board and some of the regulatory bodies in Denver might help it to happen. Until it does happen, I do not have anything available for a long term rental.

The first test house was actually completed in January, 2019. But it was permitted as a shop (no kitchen, no bathroom) and built just behind the existing house at 745 Shaft. It is a 30' by 48' metal building on a concrete slab. The superstructure is wood, with powder coated steel panels attached with wood screws to form the roof and the exterior walls. The walls are insulated with large batts of R-19 fiberglass insulation and covered with a plastic vapor barrier. Wood nailers are attached on top the vapor barrier. Electrical receptacles and wiring are installed inside the vapor barrier so the vapor barrier does not need to have holes cut in it, making the building tight. Finally, more metal siding is installed on the walls and ceiling. That makes the building into what is basically a double-wall Faraday cage, the standard historical method of producing an interior space with low electromagnetic fields.

The test house has one interior 8' by 8' storeroom with metal siding on the walls, and two 12' by 14' rooms with knotty aspen on the walls. Twenty three linear feet of these walls are filled with slag from the steel mill in Pueblo. The slag adds thermal mass to the house and also lowers the cell phone signals that leak into the house by about 5 dB. The test house is in an area with a solid 2 or 3 bars of cell phone signal. One of my contractors was inside the house when his wife called. When he answered his phone, she immediately commented on the poor call quality. He had to leave the house to complete the call. So we know the house reduces the cell phone signal substantially. Details of various signal measurements are given in the Research portion of this web site.

The test house has a cast-in-place concrete countertop with a stainless steel sink, with hot and cold running water. The countertop is covered with low-VOC epoxy. The sink cabinet is made with untreated two-by-fours and knotty aspen; no plywood with formaldehyde. No paint or polyurethane has been used in the building. We have basically a bare concrete floor (no additives in the concrete), powder coated steel panels, and natural wood in the building. The amount of man-made chemicals in the building is very minimal.

The building is heated with baseboard electric heaters. These produce a 60 Hz magnetic field above 0.1 milliGauss (mG) only within a distance of three or four feet from the heater, and less elsewhere. My threshold for noticing an effect is somewhere in the range of 2 to 10 mG, so the heaters do not bother me. Those who are more sensitive than I am can turn off all the heat in the building at the breaker box, and let the thermal mass keep the temperature in a reasonable range overnight. With the heaters off and all the lights on, the magnetic field at the middle of the building is about 0.1 mG. This drops to about 0.02 mG when the main breaker is thrown. I believe this will be acceptable to a large majority of those with EHS, although I know people who need even a lower magnetic field to thrive.

The shop/test house was build by Morton Building Corporation. Morton is a nationwide company that has been in operation over a century, specializing in agricultural buildings with metal roofs and metal siding. The site is surrounded by a `forest' of junipers and pinion pines which pose a significant fire risk in dry, windy conditions. It therefore makes good sense to build all buildings with metal roofs and either metal or stucco siding in this environment, independent of any concern for the EHS/MCS individual.

The Morton technology also works nicely for residential houses by simply adding insulation and interior walls and ceiling. They will install drywall wall and ceiling surfaces if requested, but their preference is to use the same metal panels inside as outside. That means that their `standard' house is basically a double-wall Faraday cage. They supplied steel doors, which I think are standard. The seven windows were standard low-e glass, double glazed, half the window fixed in place and the other half that can be opened. The openable half had a fabric screen that was quite transparent to electromagnetic signals, which I replaced with aluminum screen from Home Depot. I bought frame kits and a 3 ft wide roll of aluminum screen from Home Depot and fabricated larger screens that covered the entire window on the outside. These were simply screwed to the metal trim with sheet metal screws. Mine are quite adequate electrically, but if you want the fabrication to look professional, you should hire a professional! This reduced the cell phone signals coming from outside the house substantially. Distance from the neighbors is adequate such that the WiFi signals are low outside the test house, and undetectable inside.

The same building shell suitable for on-grid housing would also be suitable for off-grid housing, of course. The very sensitive individual will need a house like we are investigating, even if in a very low background signal level from cell towers. There are also fields from satellites, aircraft, and the newer automobiles that can injure some of us. There are many other aspects peculiar to off-grid houses that need to be studied carefully. One example would be appropriate LED lighting. Some of my work on this topic is in ledcomparison.pdf.

To fully evaluate the test house, I need some volunteers to spend time in it. People interested in moving to the high desert, building a similar structure back home, or just wanting a low-emf place to stay while on a Colorado vacation, could schedule a few nights in one or both rooms. Visitors can use the TV, shower, refrigerator, stove, washer, and dryer in the adjacent house. The computer in the shop has a new 32" monitor and full access to Netflix and Hulu. I can provide air mattresses and bedding if desired. It should be emphasized that this is a zero star facility, barely one step up from tent camping. I hope that making it available for free to people with significant health issues will keep me out of trouble for running an unlicensed Bed and Breakfast.

Those coming from near sea level should be aware that the site is at 5400 feet above sea level. There are people who get a headache from the altitude change, but it usually disappears after a day or two. There are other issues that could influence a proper evaluation of the test house, including getting used to the nighttime lighting (fairly dark-Rockvale cannot afford streetlights), getting used to the bed, recovering from the trip, etc. My guess is that a fair evaluation would ideally require something like 7 nights in the test building. But life is seldom ideal. I will try to work with your schedule.

There will need to be a few rules, of course. No wireless devices are allowed in the shop or house. Lock your cell phone in your car trunk. If you must use a cell phone, the porch of the house has a cushioned swing with a nice view of the Arkansas River Valley. No smoking inside. Hold the use of fragrances, deodorants, and the like to a bare minimum. The hope is that others, perhaps severely MCS, will be checking the place out, and we do not want them impacted by your perfume. I prefer no pets, but will try to work with you if you have no decent alternative to bringing your pet. Note that there are big cats in these foot hills. The life expectancy of small yappy dogs and roaming house cats is short. (I have not seen a big cat during my tenure in Rockvale, but I have seen some interesting footprints and scat.)

I will need your reaction to spending time in the building and also your personal history with EHS/MCS, probably by personal interview. I will not use your name in any reports on this web site. There is tremendous variability among we sensitives, so I fully expect some to not tolerate either this part of Colorado or the building itself. My hope, of course, is that a good majority will find the situation at least tolerable.

I am hopeful that having several with EHS living in adjacent houses will evolve into a community that wants to heal, sharing suggestions that each found helpful at some point, sharing the occasional supplement capsule, even praying for one another. This Institute may never be a Mayo Clinic in reputation, but it can still be a place where healing regularly occurs.

Visitors are welcome. Dr. Johnson is usually somewhere on the 60 acres between 8:30 and 4:30, Monday through Saturday, in good weather. A 48 hour notice would be a good idea. The phone number at the Institute is 719-458-1111, with Voicemail capability. The email address is gjohnson@ksu.edu. I have not heard of any problems with GPS finding 745 Shaft, although it may think the address is in Florence rather than Rockvale. If you do not have GPS (or cannot use it) then the following directions may be useful. From Canon City: Find the intersection of Highway 50 (Royal Gorge Blvd) and HW 115 (9th St.). This is adjacent to the historic downtown. Go south on S. 9th. After the roundabout you will be going east on Elm St. and still on HW 115. Follow HW 115 for about 5.5 miles (from HW 50). Turn right at the road sign with WILLIAMSBURG ROCKVALE and COAL CREEK on it. This is County Road 11A. Go about 2.7 miles on this road. The street signs say CR11a, then Churchill, then May. Turn right on Shaft Ave. and follow it to the cul-de-sac at the end of the street, about 0.4 mile. 745 Shaft is the last house on the street, on the left.

From Florence: Find the intersection of HW 115 (Main St.) and HW 67 (Pikes Peak) at the center of town. (Note: there are at least 20 antiques stores in a two block radius of this intersection.) Follow HW 115 west for about 2.8 miles, then turn left at the sign WILLIAMSBURG ROCKVALE and COAL CREEK. Then follow the directions in the previous paragraph. This section of HW 115 is very crooked. Watch out for the corner where HW 115 leaves Main St. (turning north) just a few blocks west of HW 67. It is marked, if you are looking in the right place.