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Reevaluating Whether a Home Supports Personal Wellness

February 11, 2021

The pandemic has prompted many people to reevaluate their home’s health. From features that create connections with nature to addressing the toxicity of housing materials inside, builders are making wellness a bigger priority in their new homes, speakers said during a Tuesday session at the virtual International Builders’ Show. Developers also are reevaluating how neighborhoods can use green spaces and trees to promote wellness.

Bill Hayward, CEO of Hayward Score & Hayward Lumber, said at the session that the following five principles comprise a healthy home:

  1. Continuous fresh air
  2. Proper sealing and insulation
  3. Less toxic materials and products (e.g., not using volatile organic compounds—VOCs—like in paint)
  4. Cleanable surfaces (and routine home maintenance to ensure dust does not accumulate)
  5. Healthy home habits (e.g., vacuuming frequently, removing shoes inside the home, opening windows more, etc.)

Hayward’s company created the Hayward Score, where homeowners can answer 50 questions about their house to determine how it may be affecting their health. After scoring your home, the website provides possible fixes to make your home healthier. For example, the site might recommend less chemical exposure in the home by removing any particle board or VOC paints as well as less wall-to-wall carpeting. Hayward Score recommendations may also include shifting to less toxic cleaning supplies, using HEPA filters, and opening the windows more to let fresh air inside.

“The technology to build a healthier home has already been around for 10 years. It already exists,” Hayward said. But adoption of green practices is slow. As consumers spend more time at home during the pandemic, they’re reevaluating how their home’s products and air quality could be affecting their health. “We need to evaluate how we use our spaces and how to make it healthier,” Tim Sullivan, a senior managing principal at Zonda, a real estate research firm, said during Tuesday’s session. “We’re likely going to spend more time in our houses going forward, even after COVID-19.”

A survey conducted by homebuilder Taylor Morrison and Meyers Research in 2020 found that 40% of millennials and 35% of Gen X home shoppers desire health and wellness features in a new home.

Developing Communities for More Wellness

More builders are looking to add greater wellness design in their new-home developments. “Views of nature have been linked with helping to reduce stress,” said Craig Karn, president of Consilium Design. “Exposure visually and physically to the environment can make people feel happier and healthier, Karn added.

Builders are looking to maximize natural features within their developments, embedding parks into neighborhoods, greater walkability with trails that connect to nearby small businesses, and ways to share more amenities. For example, instead of packing a few houses along a lake, the builder may add trails so the entire community can enjoy the lakefront.

The National Association of Home Builders conducted a survey in the summer of 2020 that found the top community features house hunters are looking for are:

  • Walking/jogging trails (67% considered this essential or desirable)
  • A suburban setting (65%)
  • Park area (65%)
  • Near retail space (64%)
  • A walkable community (59%)

Trees also are a big part of fostering a wellness design within a development. Realty ONE Group has launched its ONE Tree, ONE World program, pledging to plant a tree for every one of its closed transactions this year. The brokerage has set a goal of planting 111,111 trees. “ONE Tree, ONE World gives us an opportunity to make a direct and significant impact on our communities around the world in more than 111,111 ways,” Kuba Jewgieniew, CEO and founder of Realty ONE Group, said about the program.