zoka zola architecture + urban design   1737 west ohio street   chicago IL 60622    t 312 491 9431    f 312 491 9432    info@zokazola.com


 

       
Pfanner House in Chicago
2012-13



Objective
The project was to reduce the EMF in the house and studio as much as possible so that the owner can recover from electro-hyper-sensitivity. 

Result
After completion of the work, the owner fully and completely recovered. The EMF reduction of the house was not the only treatment received, but seemed to have played a significant role.


Introduction to EMFs
In our environment there are electromagnetic fields (EMF) of different frequencies.  There are electric fields (EF), magnetic fields (MF) from power lines, and radio fields (RF) from wireless systems. The strongest fields' frequencies are 60 Hz from the mains power lines, and 400 MHz – 5.5 GHz from cell-phone system/ wireless internet/ cordless-phone systems. In addition, there are frequencies in KHz, which are the result of different fans, motors in the space and that are coupled and carried on the electrical wires. These frequencies radiate into the space from outlets, and are experienced as a noise. All these fields are not well regulated and people unknowingly live in environments that are known to be detrimental to their health. We all live in this soup of electrical and magnetic fields and we sincerely hope that they do not effect us, or at least that they do not effect us seriously.

Zoka Zola, Rafflesia Zero Energy Home in tropical climate, green tropical home, courtyard view



site plan with EMF measurements taken 11.08.2013

About electro-sensitivity
Electro-sensitivity, or sometimes called electro-hyper-sentivity is not medically recognized as real sensitivity, but is widely considered a result of a psychological nocebo effect. Therefore, this kind of project of reducing EMF in our environment is not widely considered as valuable. Nevertheless, an electro-sensitive person feels an immesurable and instant relief in spaces with very low EMFs, while a normal environment filled with EMFs and RFs makes them weak, restless, foggy etc.


EMFs in Architecture
As architects we find EMFs of interest, because they are part of a better understanding of space. EMFs are energy in space. The energy of space interests us as a moulding tool to experience space. EMF as described above is mechanical energy in all the spaces we design.


Project description
 
Magnetic Field Reduction
The magnetic field outside the house was low for Chicago urban environment. This was fortunate, because shielding the interior from exterior magnetic fields would not have been  possible with available technologies. Likewise, it was fortunate that there was no stray current in the ground,  which would mean a current on copper water supply pipes. A current on water supply pipes produces far reaching magnetic fields in the environment.


cell phone towers in vicinity of site
via antennasearch.com


antennas in vicinity of site



Radio Field Measurements

The videos to the right and at the bottom of this page show some basic measurements that compare radio field frequencies of the general environment to the radio fields in a shielded environment, as well as the effects of cell phones on either environment.








radio field measurement - outside and inside shielded environment


radio field measurement - inside shielded environment

 
Therefore, we focused on reducing magnetic fields generated inside the building.

First, we checked magnetic fields around conduits in the walls and at the outlets. This is because unbalanced hot and neutral wires cause far reaching magnetic fields, further reaching than well-balanced wiring. We detected a few minor wiring errors and an electrician corrected them. The electrician also tidied up wires in bundles. This is because the further away wires are, the bigger magnetic field they produce.
 
Then we removed dimmer-switches, timer-switches and motion-sensor-switches and replaced them with plain switches that have less EMFs. 

Next, we reduced magnetic fields in specific locations. The biggest field was around the circuit breaker panel inside the studio space. We constructed a large frame, 7’x 7’, with MU-metal sheets stretched over it (and canvas on top of it) and with it covered the circuit breaker panel. This was a breach of fire code, because the panel must be visible and immediately accessible. With shield over the circuit breaker, the magnetic field reduction was palpable. Even people who were not electro-sensitive felt that the studio was somehow “cooler.”











Prior to EMF Shielding


After Reduction

Home use

Electrical devices on:
similar to Home+Office use plus:
8 dimmer switches
40 CFL bulbs that were removed in further readings
Electrical devices on:
1 laptop
1 monitor
2 servers
2 hard drives
8 adapters
1 sound system



Home+Office use



Maximum use

Electrical devices on:
1 laptop
1 monitor
2 servers
2 hard drives
8 adapters
1 sound system
4 computers
1 laserjet printer
Electrical devices on:
1 laptop
1 monitor
2 servers
2 hard drives
8 adapters
1 sound system
4 computers
1 laserjet printer
1 stove top
1 oven
1 dishwasher
1 central AC
1 washer
1 dryer
Notes
1.The values listed are the highest values detected.
2.Measurements taken around midday in September 2013.
3. Electric fields were measured with the Gigaherz Solutions ME 3830B 16Hz - 100Hz meter in V/m.
4. Magnetic fields prior to EMF reduction were measured with the TriField Meter Model 100XE (sensitiv to frequencies from 5Hz to 2000Hz), and after reduction were measured with the Gigahertz Solutions ME 3830B 16Hz - 100Hz meter in mG.
5. Radio Fields were measured with the Tenmars Field Strength Meter TM-195, in mV/m. This meter can measure from 50MHz to 3.5 GHz frequencies.
6. Dirt Electricity was measured with the Stetzerizer Microsurge Meter Model GS-M300-A. The meter is a simplified oscillometer measuring the noise (frequencies other than 60Hz) on the electrical wires. Despite ongoing discussions about the concept of dirty electricity the readings seemed to be consistant.

Next, we rewired appliance like free standing air filters and desk lights using special low EMF wires. Further, all wiring everywhere was organized and tied in bundles. Also, individual appliances' adaptors, which had large magnetic fields, were located behind steel cabinets and further away from the usable space. Finally, all office equipment was plugged in via switchable surge protector strips so that each workstation could be switched off when not in use.

At the beginning of the project the magnetic field in the house and studio was between 1.2 - 2.2 mG (milli Gauss) and by making the changes listed above it was reduced to 0.3 – 0.6 mG.
For very stringent recommendations about maximum EMFs see here. 
Electric fields reduction
The electric fields were greatly reduced by grounding whole surfaces of walls and thereby discharging all electro-static from the air of the interior into the ground. This was done as part of Radio field (RF) shielding described further below.


Dirty electricity reduction
Dirty electricity is the term that describes a whole range of frequencies, coupled on the electrical wires. These frequencies radiate into the space from outlets, and are measured as an inaudible noise.

The Stetzerizer Microsurge Meter measures this noise and gives it a number value from zero to thousands.
Our readings with this meter at the start of the project were from 600 – 1600 units and the values erratically changed. After removing compact fluorescent light bulbs through out the house, and replacing then with incandescent lights, and after removing dimmer and timer switches, the values were halved. After we installed line filters (three different types) in every outlet, values were reduced to 14 – 35 units. The effect of this reduction of dirty electricity was very noticeable to everybody, even people who were not electro-sensitive, including the dog.
Zoka Zola, Rafflesia Zero Energy Home in tropical climate, green tropical home, courtyard view
 
  basement level


   
Zoka Zola, Rafflesia Zero Energy Home in tropical climate, green tropical home, courtyard view
 
  entrance level


   
Radio Fields (RF) Reduction
 
EMF Shielding of the building was done by making the building into a Faraday cage by keeping the radio fields outside the interior of the house.  We used RF reflective materials, rather than RF absorptive materials. Absorptive materials would be preferable, but they currently only available for very specialized markets. To use them for buildings would require extensive and costly testing and modifications.  
 
The difficulty of shielding with reflective materials is similar to shading an interior with mirrors. We could inadvertedly create hot spots, and even make the entire field stronger. This is because any radiation that penetrates into the interior bounces around the interior until it hits that the ground where it gets absorbed. So for example a hole on the RF shield in our bedroom wall would allow radiation to enter the building, and instead of going through the building as it would before shielding, bounce off the walls without loosing its strength. It would continue to bounce off the shielded walls all the way to the studio level two stories below, therefore filling in the entire space. In the worst case scenario, the studio space could have ended up much worse than before any shielding. This was even more a real possibility, because the RFs at the higher elevations were almost double in intensity to the RF fields on the ground level. Therefore, the success of the project depended on how well we minimized holes in the shield.
  
The two RF reflective materials we used were carbon paint and silver thread sheer curtains. Both of these materials had attenuation values of over 99.9% for cell tower frequencies.

 All exterior and interior walls, and the top floor ceiling were painted with conductive carbon paint. 
To minimalize any holes in the shield, the curtain details were designed to have minimal cracks between the interior wall with the RF reflective paint and the RF reflective curtain fabric. Since the source of RF is from all sides, this meant that there were holes at the top, bottom and sides of the curtain that had to be minimized. The curtain rods were placed right against the wall. And the sides of the curtains were kept in place with small magnets to ensure a good seal against the shielded wall. 

Zoka Zola, Rafflesia Zero Energy Home in tropical climate, green tropical home, courtyard view
  mezzanine level


   

Zoka Zola, Rafflesia Zero Energy Home in tropical climate, green tropical home, courtyard view
  first floor

Other potentially large RF penetrations were areas where exterior walls met floor slabs and interior walls. The entire ceiling cavity between top floor and middle floor was cut open and painted with conductive carbon paint in order to prevent radiation bouncing between living and working areas and sleeping areas. Other ceilings cavities, on the lower levels, were cut open only at their edges to the exterior wall, so that the exterior wall portions behind them could also be painted. All interior walls were painted on all sides, and in specific instances were cut open to paint the first stud facing exterior wall. In the kitchen the cabinets and appliances were dismantled to paint the wall behind them. In bathrooms tiles were removed and durock backing sheets  were painted on their back surface. Next, mirrors and fixtures were removed and exterior wall surfaces painted behind them. 


Grounding conductive paint
All conductive paint on all walls and ceilings, throughout the buildings, was then connected at walls and ceilings corners with conductive tape. The continuos conductive tape was then connected to steel plates, located next to 12 outlets at different locations. There a short piece of grounding wire connected the steel plate with the grounding wire in the outlet. This grounding wire was then wrapped a around broad-frequencies ferro filter, to drain out various frequencies distributing to and from the walls and the ground.
 
Paint VOC and painting over conducive paint
We used 2 coats o carbon conductive paint. The conductive carbon paint had 0 g/l VOC, as did the white primer and the white paint we used. It took 4 coats of primer and 1-2 coat of white paint to fully cover the black carbon conductive paint.




carbon paint layer underneath white paint coat


The result
The result was some 97% reduction in radiation fields, for example a 1200mVm reading was reduced to 29mV m, and 400mV m to 14 mV m. These measurements are very good and are similar to what one can find in the middle a forest preserve near Chicago, or on a small island without a cell tower, in the Adriatic Sea.
 
The effect was a sense of relief that we feel in remote places in nature.The energy of the house feels smooth, rested and calm


Zoka Zola, Rafflesia Zero Energy Home in tropical climate, green tropical home, courtyard view
second floor




during construction

 







bedroom level
before shielding


bedroom level
after shielding


library
before shielding


library
after shielding








living room
before shielding


living room
after shielding


studio
before shielding


studio
after shielding


sample measurements before and after shielding









after construction


cross section


long section

links:

International RF protection guidelines
as listed on EMF services website

Electric field strength converter

Magnetic Flux Density Converter




radio field measurement - computer screen inside shielded environment
This meter measures 50Mhz - 3.5Ghz frequencies. There might be radiation in the lower frequencies that is not measured.


radio field measurement - cell phone putside shielded environment



radio field measurement - cell phone inside shielded environment


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©Zoka Zola 2013
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Credits:
Zoka Zola
Cost: $150,000