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Building the business case for healthy residential buildings

With the recent release of the UKGBC report entitled Health and Wellbeing in Homes, we saw a much needed examination of the different aspects that make up healthy homes and communities.

In developed countries, we spend upwards of 60% of our day at home and one-third of our lifetime sleeping, so it makes sense that, as part of the report, a survey of over 3,000 homeowners in the UK showed that 90% would like a home that does not compromise health and wellbeing. That same survey showed that 30% of people were willing to pay more for a home that had a positive effect on their health and wellbeing. The report looked at a whole host of factors in the home and built the business case for healthy homes by using strong research examples, like:

As part of the WorldGBC’s Better Places for People campaign, we will expand on that research by examining the global body of research on healthy homes. So far, we have encountered some excellent examples, like:

The research is there, is growing, and is helping us build the case that our homes affect our health. And we’re now starting to see this research change the way homes are built too.

A recent article in the Boston Globe showed that people were willing to pay up to $225 more per month to have a healthier and smarter home. Owners in newly-built apartments in Cambridge, Massachusetts, were given the option to purchase a “wellness” package  with technologies that include lighting that considers your circadian rhythm, a vitamin C-infused showered, and custom blackout shades, among others. Lighting in your home that responds to your movements at night can get you a better sleep.

The technologies were integrated by DelosTM to introduce wellness features into multifamily housing. Delos has also collaborated with Mayo Clinic to form the Well Living LabTM, a research lab used to simulate different building environments and test the effect on health of various technologies and building components. This research will leverage and expand upon the WELL Building StandardTM (WELL). WELL is a building certification program focused exclusively on human health and wellness and is administered by the International WELL Building InstituteTM (IWBITM), a sponsor of the Better Places for People campaign.

Better buildings and technologies that help produce better health outcomes for people are already here, in offices, in retail, and with growing frequency, residential buildings. While considerations of health and wellbeing in buildings often come at a premium, the business case for Better Places for People is only getting stronger.

Colin Powell is Project Manager for Better Places for People, and Elspeth Holland is Research Assistant at the World Green Building Council.