Creating a Multi-Sensory Experience for Your Building Residents

Even the smallest maintenance issues can negatively affect resident perceptions of the quality of their environment and the management's attention to detail.

By Roel Ventura, Ambient Designer, Ambius

Roel-VentuaManagers for multifamily housing buildings have a seemingly never ending list of maintenance tasks to complete in order to keep their facilities in first class condition and residents happy. Even the smallest maintenance issues—from a light bulb that needs to be replaced to a common hallway that needs vacuuming—can negatively affect occupant perceptions of the quality of their environment and the management’s attention to detail.

When considering how to improve the experience of residents, how they perceive the environment with all of their senses should not be overlooked. In addition to sights and sounds, residents will evaluate their environment using their sense of smell. Studies have shown that of the five senses, smell is the most powerful trigger of emotions and memories. The impressions of building residents can be greatly influenced in a positive or a negative way depending on the smells they encounter. Although most residential buildings are now tobacco free in common areas, malodorous issues can still arise from food odors, pets, garbage and attached parking garages, to name a few. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency reports that indoor air quality can often be five times worse than outdoor air.

Let your property stand out—in a good way

In light of these realities, it is important for every housing manager to make air quality improvement an ongoing priority. Implementing effective odor remediation measures is an important part of a plan to ensure a quality occupant experience. In addition to different kinds of chemicals and cleaners, there are applications that can help mask odors, such as aerosol “spritzers” typically emitted from automatic atomizers. While their purpose is to cover up an existing odor, they are often heavily perfumed and can actually make an odor problem more evident. Cleaning products that contain enzymes are another common solution for reducing odors. The enzymes help destroy odor-causing bacteria. However, the process can take days before the odor dissipates.

A better option avoids saturating a space with heavy concentrations of scent and environmentally unfriendly volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to mask odors. Technology has advanced to provide an approach to odor remediation that involves indentifying the specific malodors, formulating a neutralizer, and distributing the neutralizer into the affected space using a computer-controlled appliance that converts the air treatment agent into non-residue nano-particles that do not contain VOCs.

Nano-particles behave like a dry vapor. They are uniform in size, leave no deposits and require less liquid than aerosols. They are 1/125,000 times the weight of an aerosol droplet, which enables that scent to remain in the air for up to 16 hours. Nano-particle appliances can be used safely in HVAC systems and are fully programmable. When the air is pushed through the ductwork of the HVAC system, the particles join the airflow and move through the ducts to be dispersed, leaving no residue in the HVAC system or on surfaces.

The technology has been tested rigorously and has passed OSHA and other industry standards making it a safe, more effective alternative to atomizers in any facility, including multi-occupant housing.

In addition to odor remediation, specialty scents can be created and used to reinforce brand identity. Creating a pleasing scent that carries throughout a residential building is an excellent way to differentiate your property business from the competition.

Plants bring value, too—more than just beauty

Another important way to improve the environment in multi-occupant housing buildings is with plants. Interior plants potentially evoke four of the five senses—smell, sight, touch and sound (for example, when leaves rustle). Plant installations in entrances, lobby areas and hallway corridors not only beautify a building, they also offer functional benefits. Research has found that plants absorb sound, helping to reduce noise levels that can potentially disturb residents. Moreover, plants alter humidity levels to match the recommended human comfort level range for indoor spaces (30-60 percent relative humidity). The introduction of plants will also improve the overall healthfulness of an indoor environment by removing up to 84 percent of existing air toxins within 24 hours.

Our need for nature was identified by American biologist Edward O. Wilson, who developed a hypothesis called Biophilia, which he defined as “the innate affiliation people seek with other organisms and especially the natural world.” Wilson’s ideas have been adopted by architects and designers for some time and many have used the principles of biophilia to make their buildings more connected with nature. Combinations of plants, art, lighting and sound effects as well as a more naturalistic style of design make it possible to create significant improvements to well-being and resident engagement with minimal outlay. Plant installations can easily be transformed to reflect each season of the year, bringing the outside in for a fresh, natural and calming influence in a multifamily community.

Another creative option is to incorporate living green walls in your building design. Living green walls are at the cutting edge of green design and are safe to install on almost any structure indoors and out. They differ from climbing plants such as ivy in that they are intricately planned collections of plants grown vertically using hydroponics on panel structures. Green walls are also referred to as vertical gardens, living walls or ecowalls. They can be free standing or attached to walls and constructed with plants that are indigenous to the region, displaying beauty throughout every season.

Having a pleasant smelling and natural looking residential building will help attract and keep tenants or unit owners, improving their experience and highlighting your careful attention to every detail. Scenting and plants will deliver a solid return on investment, making them an easy choice for savvy property managers.

Roel Ventura is an ambient designer with Ambius. To learn more about Ventura, visit Ambius offers a full spectrum of services to enhance the interior space for the commercial, retail, hospitality and healthcare industries with services including ambient scenting, interior landscaping, holiday décor, decorative wall art and fresh fruit and flower deliveries to businesses in 18 countries. For information, visit Ambius at

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