Offering residents wellness-oriented designs creates sales with lasting gratification
By Bill Ramsey
In the book, The Philosophy of Sustainable Design, Jason F. McLennan said designers should “eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful, sensitive design.” But, what does this mean to those that live in the home? Today’s homebuyers appreciate sustainability and want to save money on their utility bills, but if features required to do so are included on an options list, buyers may be more likely to apply that money to other items. They will often select upgrades such as countertops, flooring, or an appliance package under the mindset that they can add solar panels to the home at a later date. When solar and energy efficiencies are included as standard features, the base home price obviously goes up, but buyers are likely to see the benefits as a measurable value over the competition.
As of January 1, 2020, California requires that every newly constructed home be equipped with enough solar panels to satisfy its electricity needs. However, based on a 30-year mortgage, the Energy Commission estimates the cost of the standard solar will add about $40 per month for the average home, but save consumers $80 per month on heating, cooling, and lighting bills. CEC’s standards also encourage demand-responsive technologies including battery storage and heat pump water heaters and improvement of the building’s thermal envelope through high-performance attics, walls, and windows to improve comfort and energy savings. It will fall on the shoulders of builders and their sales team to explain that the cost is really a net positive.
Advances in technology and research on health and wellness within the home have uncovered the importance of indoor air quality. Since most people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, a home’s indoor environment can influence almost every aspect of a person’s or family’s life including their health, their moods, how well they sleep, how productive they can be, and much more. The Environmental Protection Agency notes that children and babies are up to five times more susceptible to the effects of contaminated air because they breathe in more oxygen relative to their body weight than adults. A tight, well-insulated house saves energy and allows the residents to get by with a smaller capacity heating and air-conditioning system. However, there can be an unintended consequence in reducing the number of air exchanges within the home, so quality ventilation is even more critical.
Homes have been required to include carbon monoxide (CO) detectors for years. While the dangers of CO are well known, there are many other things in the air that affect the health of those that live there. Companies like Delos are creating products and systems to enhance the home environment and homeowner living experience. Delos also founded the “WELL Building Standard,” the world’s first architectural benchmark focused exclusively on human health and wellness to improve sustainability.
At the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 in Las Vegas, Japanese developer Sekisui House showcased the world’s first-ever in-home early detection network for acute diseases. Building on the “Platform House Concept” which was presented at CES 2019, Sekisui House has unveiled innovative home technologies for an in-home early detection network (HED-Net), for health monitoring and rapid response. Furthermore, Sekisui House has commenced a pilot project involving residents using HED-Net, which will take place in an environment that closely mirrors the residents’ home environment. HED-Net detects and analyzes residents’ vital data at home without contact. If abnormalities that suggest the onset of an acute illness are detected, an emergency call center is alerted. The operator immediately performs a safety check by speaking to the resident through the home’s speaker, and if the result is indeed an abnormality, the operator calls an ambulance.
Innovators in the homebuilding industry are doing their best to follow the advice of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs when he said, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” If left up to them, the customers may make choices that don’t give them the best homeownership experience possible. It will be exciting to see how innovation and technology will enhance the lives of those that live within the home (and maybe even save lives) in the years to come.