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. I have both Electromagnetic HyperSensitivity (EHS) (for perhaps 30 years) and food intolerances dating back to early childhood. The EHS was a major factor in taking early retirement at age 55. Cell phone and WiFi signals make me ill. I have had to leave three different churches where I live in Cañon City, Colorado, because of the electromagnetic fields inside.
Anticipating that I would eventually need to build a well shielded house for me, I bought 7 parcels of undeveloped land (sizes: 1.423, 1.503, 2.561, 2.568, 2.844, 8, and 40 acres) in the small mining town of Rockvale, Colorado, on foreclosure in March, 2012. In May of 2014, a house (745 Shaft Avenue) 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. I repurposed the house as my office/laboratory. The 5 smaller lots are on a paved street, with town water and Black Hills Utility electric lines, hence are appropriate for `conventional' single family houses (except well shielded from electromagnetic signals). The 2 larger parcels are more suited to off grid housing (solar panels, batteries, compost toilets, a deep well, etc.)
I have been doing research on how to build healthy housing for the person who is significantly EHS and/or MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) since 2012. This is a retirement activity that I find more enjoyable than fishing or golf, funded entirely out of my retirement assets. Basically, I have been functioning as a one man `Healthy Housing Research Institute' even though the paperwork has not been done to formally establish the HHRI as a Nonprofit. PDF files and pictures of several different projects are scattered throughout this website. I have also been doing site preparation (building driveways, leveling house sites) on four of the smaller lots.
It is becoming more and more obvious to me that we who are EHS and/or MCS really need a fully functional Healthy Housing Research Institute to do the necessary research. Many issues need to be explored, far more than one old geezer (born in 1938) can hope to do. A Nonprofit can write research proposals, and receive grants and gifts. It can hire the necessary technical people. These people can design, build, and test houses that have the potential to be healthy. They take the lessons learned from one house and try to improve with the next house. They publish the results in detail so others can benefit. After ten or twenty houses, we should be homing in on good ways to build a healthy house.
I like the idea of a second organization, perhaps structured as a not-for-profit, that owns the land where these test houses are being built, and serves as property management and the Home Owners Association. A prospective renter buys a share in what I will call the Community at a deeply discounted price. When the renter leaves, the share is sold back to the Community at the same price. All the staff of the HHRI will also be shareholders of the Community. Community shareholders review and select prospective renters, make and enforce rules about drugs, parties, and noise, and do maintenance on solar panels and batteries. They charge rent somewhat less than Fair Market Value, but enough to show a 'profit', which will be reinvested into the Community for the benefit of the shareholders (e.g. greenhouse, community center).
In the early days, the house at 745 Shaft could serve as Headquarters for the HHRI, and the adjacent 48 acres, where test houses can be built, could be owned by the Community. Growth might result in the HHRI moving to larger quarters, but the Community will own and operate the 48 acres indefinitely. A Board of Directors will be necessary to establish both the HHRI and the Community. Once established, I will lease the two properties to the HHRI and the Community for a dollar per year, and will put them in my will to receive ownership when I die. If you would like to volunteer to be a Director for either the HHRI or the Community, let me know. Additional details can be found in dream.pdf.
My first experimental structure was completed in January, 2019. 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. This footprint is similar to other houses on the street. 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. 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. More details are available at Morton.pdf.
The outdoor cell phone signal strength is about -90 dBm, a value that I seem to be able to tolerate. (See BuildingAttenuation.pdf for a lengthy discussion of this measurement). The test house/shop reduces the ambient cell phone signal by about 25 dB, so its internal signal strength is about -115 dBm, or close to the signal limit where cell phones will function acceptably. Inside this building I have installed a commercial 8' by 8' by 10' double wall copper screen room. The shielding capability when new would have been on the order of 60 dB. I have no way of measuring the attenuation now. My meters all just read zero when the screen room door is closed! There is a twin bed inside the screen room. I built a 12' by 14' room in a corner of the test house with interior walls of knotty aspen. This room would be a bedroom in an actual house.
I regularly get calls and emails inquiring about the availability of a house or apartment for rent, which I do not have. However, I am willing to try renting out part of my space for periods of a few days to a few weeks to a person who wants/needs to discover how he or she feels in a low emf environment and if any foods or supplements are part of the problem. Details are in EHS_Discovery.pdf.
I have been using the shop for my office/lab since January, 2019, which has lowered my exposure to cell phone and WiFi signals. I think my health is distinctly better than it was before that time.
My next project, (at least until the coronavirus hit), was to build an off grid refugee hut on the 40 acre lot. It would be a place for me to live when or if my EHS gets significantly worse. In the meantime, it would be a test bed for a number of concepts I want to try. Off grid housing is common anymore, but it almost always involves solar panels producing DC, a DC to DC converter to get from the solar panel voltage to the battery voltage, a battery bank to store energy as DC, then an inverter to get back to 60 Hz, 120 VAC. The house is just as bad for those with EHS as any on grid house. My hut will be a `true' or `pure' off grid dwelling, no DC to DC converter and no inverter. It will also be a `zero-carbon' house (no propane or wood). Cooking and lighting will all be done directly with DC, probably in the range of 120 to 140 VDC.
The living part of the structure will be 20' by 40', one bedroom, one bathroom. There will be a 10' by 24' utility room built on the side of the living area. There will be a porch 10' wide, with a nice view of Pike's Peak, 32 miles away. The total footprint of the roof and concrete slab will be 30' by 50'.
Heating will be hydronic, PEX tubing buried in the slab with hot water circulating in it. I am going to try heating the water directly from photovoltaic panels, a concept that would have been unthinkable a few years ago because of the high cost of PV panels, but now plausible since PV panels can be purchased for well under a dollar per watt of rating. Costs still dictate high levels of insulation, approaching that of a superinsulated house. The Morton technology used for my shop does not lend itself to superinsulation levels, so I will buy lumber and metal panels, assemble a crew, and erect the structure myself.
Design details can be found in DCHouse4.pdf. Anyone who has read this far is welcome to make suggestions about the design. I particularly would like to hear from people with first hand experience of construction successes and failures.
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 on both LED strips and LED bulbs (done in 2018) is in ledcomparison.pdf, and an update on just LED bulbs (done February, 2022) is in LEDBulbs2022.pdf. I hear regularly from people reporting bad effects from LED bulbs, then extrapolating to say that ALL LED bulbs are bad. I say we need to do the testing before we can honestly say ALL bulbs are bad. I bought 27 different bulbs from Home Depot, ACE Hardware, Walmart, and Kroger during the past four years and found several that a) produced zero dirty electricity, b) had constant light output over the 60 Hz cycle, and c) had constant light output and constant power input over an input voltage range of 110 to 150 VDC. Incandescents have variable light output over the 60 Hz cycle, which bothers some with EHS, and the light output and power input increase rapidly from say 115 to 125 VAC. That is, unless you happen to be intolerant to the LED light spectrum, these LED bulbs should be better than incandescents for those with EHS.
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. 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 Voice Over Internet phone service inside the house.
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!).
`Healthy' 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 phone is Voice Over Internet technology. I do not have the capability to send or receive text messages. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
The street changes from blacktop to gravel about 100 yards before the cul-de-sac. On the opposite side of the cul-de-sac is a gravel driveway, somewhat similar in appearance to the street, which provides access to the 40 acre lot and the 8 acre lot mentioned earlier. There is no signage, such as 'Keep Out', or 'No Trespassing'. I had a visitor in early 2021 who was using their smart phone GPS to find 745 Shaft. The smart phone directed them past the house, directed taking the left fork in the road, which leads to the top of the mesa, about 400 feet about the elevation of the house. The nice two-wheel-drive driveway ends at a possible cabin site, and changes to a bad four-wheel-drive driveway. The 'smart' phone kept urging the visitor onward. The visitor finally decided enough was enough, backed down the driveway to the cabin site, and drove to this address to ask directions. Note that I am certain that the driveway past the cabin site is not a part of any government data base. I am building it myself (permit not required). The only way the smart phone could have known about it would be from satellite photos. I have since installed a locked gate on the driveway to keep this from happening again.
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.