German Village Gazette

Commission: Build radon units indoors from now on

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The German Village Commission has a message for homeowners: Plan to build radon-mitigation systems indoors from now on.

Members of the architectural review board, who met Feb. 5, said they will look into drafting new rules regarding the installation of the devices, which vent low-level radioactive gas from basements.

Jay Panzer, chairman of the commission, said the panel is seeing an increasing number of requests from residents to install the devices, which often involve plastic piping running up the outside of the houses.

"Unexposed is required unless it's impossible," Panzer said. "The starting point is they should not be exposed."

That design poses an aesthetic issue in the historic district, said members of the commission, which is charged with approving alterations to the exterior of buildings.

Some homeowners have argued the mechanisms, when placed on the sides and rear of houses, aren't visible from the right-of-way, Panzer said.

So, the next step is crafting language that defines appropriate placement of the devices, Panzer said.

He said the requests are increasing because the radon issue consistently gets more media attention.

Because the rules would be codified, Columbus City Council would have to approve the measure, he said.

Randy Black, historic preservation officer for Columbus, said the installation of radon-mitigation systems isn't a widespread concern in the city's 16 historic districts.

Although he wouldn't comment specifically on the German Village Commission's position, Black said the insistence on interior installation poses some design issues, specifically in older houses, that could come with considerable expense.

Such a design would not go through the commission, but rather a separate permitting process, he said.

"There would be real cases, and not unusual ones, where adaptive reuse makes an interior run problematic," Black said.

"In lots of buildings you'd have ways you could do it. It's pretty unique."

Dan West, president of Radon Systems in Westerville, said houses in German Village have other structural issues to take into consideration.

For example, many of the floors are dirt or gravel. In order for a conventional radon system to work, it has goes under cement and creates a vacuum, pulling out the toxic gas.

In newer houses, an internally contained unit is less difficult because it is easier to hide the pipe, West said.

But in German Village, it's harder to create a direct route from the basement through the roof. And because exposed brick is more common in village houses, and there are fewer ways to shield the pipe from view, it could require costly treatments, he said.

"The older the house, the more complicated the system is and the more expensive it becomes," West said.

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