Delivering on the Promise of a Healthy Home

Residents are now demanding better information about the environmental health standards inside their homes. Erin Hatcher of AMLI Residential shares how developers can use environmental performance statistics to drive rentals.

Erin Hatcher
Erin Hatcher

For decades, consumers have viewed personal health-and-wellness through the lens of physical fitness routines and dieting. But rapid technological advances and instant access to information have profoundly increased consumer awareness of how environmental factors can impact their overall health. This goes beyond concerns about climate change and other public health challenges. People from all walks of life are now demanding better information about the environmental health standards inside their homes—and making purchasing and rental decisions accordingly.

AMLI’s 2017 Sustainable Living Index, which surveyed more than 2,800 U.S. apartment residents, found that 85 percent believe living in a sustainable green home is beneficial to their health, 94 percent rated smoke-free communities as their most highly valued feature and 64 percent said they are willing to pay more to live in a green community.

Today, real-time data about personal health is readily available via Fitbit-style devices and other wearable gadgets that actively track the daily impacts of our lifestyle choices. As consumer desire to live in healthier homes continues to increase in the coming years, it will be accompanied by new technologies that will enable consumers to measure their homes’ environmental health as well.

Breathe Clean 

For example, the most pronounced environmental health factor inside a homes is air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is two to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air. Inexpensive air quality monitors are readily available on websites such as Amazon.com for $30 to $200, and will become standard features in connected homes within a decade (if not sooner).

The emergence of real-time indoor air quality data means that it will no longer be sufficient for developers to simply talk about health-and-wellness within the context of LEED and other green rating systems. Consumers will expect properties marketed as LEED-certified—or “sustainable” in the broader sense—to perform better than conventional developments when it comes to air-quality metrics.

Future smart home systems will not only monitor indoor air quality and other important performance metrics, but also help deliver better results by making real-time adjustments to our homes that will maximize health benefits and comfort. The greenest smart homes will open windows and vents to allow for better fresh air circulation, alert inhabitants when air and water filters have expired and adjust lighting levels to align with our natural circadian rhythm.

Performance Tracking

Tracking environmental and performance metrics via digital hubs will help identify HVAC and other maintenance issues, which will decrease repair time and costs in addition to providing healthier homes for residents. Water tracking devices and moisture sensors will save buildings from leaks that can lead to long-term moisture issues with the potential to impact resident health.

These new levels of connectedness and transparency will heighten the importance for multifamily developers and management companies to implement environmental health best practices from pre-construction planning through the lifecycles of their developments.

This will include phasing out the use of conventional paints, sealants, flooring and cleaning products that contain harmful off-gassing ingredients; using Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) systems and implementing energy-efficient “tight” construction as the new normal to eliminate leakage and contamination of fresh air; and going 100 percent smoke-free always.

A future in which technology connects our personal health data, medical records and smart home statistics will also open new opportunities for developers to market their properties by using empirical data to show that living in a healthier home tangibly improves health outcomes—from reducing visits to the hospital to positively impacting illnesses ranging from respiratory issues to allergies. Developers will use these health-and-wellness metrics hand-in-hand with environmental performance statistics and amenities lists in the sales process to drive purchases and rentals.

While many of these changes will be disruptive in the short term, multifamily developers who take the necessary steps to deliver on the promise of a healthy home today will be well-positioned to benefit from tomorrow’s rapidly advancing reality.

Erin Hatcher is the vice president of Sustainability at AMLI Residential, a leading developer of environmentally responsible luxury apartment communities in the U.S.