Hubbell says its new homes will pass the radon test

 Hubbell Homes is going where few Greater Des Moines home builders have gone before, and its move could establish a trend, a local construction expert said.

 Hubbell Homes said Tuesday that it will include passive radon mitigation systems in its new houses. Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that is created by the breakdown of uranium in the earth.

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it is a leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second leading cause overall. Click here for a related story from the Business Record.

 Though some Iowa municipalities require radon mitigation in new homes, there are none in Greater Des Moines with the language in their building codes, said Creighton Cox, executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.

 However, legislation is being proposed that would mandate radon mitigation in the state building code.

 Hubbell Realty Co. President and CEO Rick Tollakson said the decision to provide radon mitigation was a response to an increasing number of requests from home buyers who wanted their houses tested before they would close on a sale.

 "We decided we needed to be proactive," he said.

 The company will save up to $600 per unit by having the systems installed during construction, rather than after a house is completed.

 Hubbell said it will use a system called passive radon mitigation, a process in which a membrane is placed between soil and concrete in the basement, sealing any cracks in the floor. Sump pumps are sealed, and an exhaust tube from the sump pump through the roof vents gases away from the house.

 If radon leaks are detected in later testing, Hubbell's contractor has agreed to cover the costs of additional mitigation. Western Iowa Radon Services will install the systems.

 The number of Greater Des Moines home builders that provide radon mitigation is growing, but Hubbell is expected to lead the way in promoting the practice and educating consumers, if for no other reason than it has become the area's largest home builder, constructing the most single-family, townhouse and multifamily units in 2012.

 "I think Hubbell is making a good business decision that will initially set them apart from some other builders, but will likely encourage homeowners to look for that option if they deem it is important to their families and budgets and increase the market demand," Cox said.

 The home builders group believes radon mitigation should remain an option for consumers.

 "Not every home will have radon," Cox said.

 Rick Welke, who directs the Iowa Department of Public Health's radon program, said in a news release that more than half of the homes in Iowa test above the level of radon exposure considered safe by federal standards.

 The systems will be installed in all Hubbell Homes built beginning next month.