Innovation in the housing industry has been driven by a range of consumer and industry trends over time. Open plan design, energy efficient products and smart home technologies have become common solutions to provide greater convenience, reduce our environmental impact and advance movability within the home. Yet, little focus has been given to the wellness of our homes and what can be done to optimise the spaces we live in for improved health and wellbeing outcomes.
Let’s consider the following facts
#1: Recent research shows that genetics account for as little as 10-15 percent of our overall health outcomes, while 70 percent of our health is determined by social characteristics (e.g. income, social status) and the environment (our surroundings).
#2: Only 4 percent of annual global health expenditure is on public health, risk reduction and prevention. In Australia, the population spends about $2 billion on health prevention each year, or $89 per person. This is 1.34 percent of all health spending, which is considerably less than countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
#3: Chronic disease is responsible for 83 percent of all premature fatalities in Australia and 66 percent of health loss, making it our nation’s greatest health challenge.
#4: Australians spend on average about 90 percent of their time indoors.
What does this mean for the future of Australian homes?
Our indoor environments – the places where we live, sleep, work, relax and eat can be a major determinant to our health. Home-owners and the housing industry more broadly need to consider – and take measures to address – the impact our living spaces can have on our health.
This realisation is driving new research and the development of cutting-edge home wellness technologies. Let’s consider a few of the categorical issues faced in the home and the innovations coming to market to address these challenges:
Indoor Air Quality in the Home
Concentrations of toxins, allergens and other pollutants can be up to 5 times higher indoors than they are outside. Surprisingly, Australia and many other countries do not currently or consistently regulate indoor air quality. It is estimated that in Australia, the cost burden of poor indoor air quality on the country’s economy may be as high as $12 billion per year.
Check out the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Energy’s findings on indoor air quality in Australia.
Innovations in Indoor Air Quality Control
Unlike dirty water or spoiled food, which is easily visible, it is extremely difficult to identify poor indoor air quality. While air filters have been in existence for some time, cost-effective ways to measure indoor air quality in the home have only recently become available. Today, low-cost and compact sensor technologies give homeowners the power to see real-time air quality within their home – providing unprecedented insight into what issues are present and when they are happening, so mitigation measures can be taken immediately. Through air filtration systems and responsive HVAC applications, cost-effective technology solutions now give homeowners the ability to quickly and easily address air quality concerns.
Lighting in the Home
Mounting evidence indicates that the quality, type and timing of light exposure can have a profound effect on human health, wellbeing and performance. Our bodies are adapted to the light of day and the dark of night, as our biological clocks and circadian rhythms are set to align with the sun. Today, the integration of artificial and static lighting designs in our homes can disrupt our natural circadian rhythms, having a detrimental impact on our sleep-wake cycles.
Check out the 2017 Noble Prize in Medicine recipients’ work on Circadian Rhythms.
Innovations in Lighting
New intelligent lighting technologies allow you to wirelessly control the lights in your home. While originally designed for convenience, wireless lighting technology now enables electric lighting to simulate outdoor natural light.
The growing need for adjustable lighting has spurred companies like Apple to introduce Night Shift, which removes the amount of blue light our bodies are exposed to at night. Over the next few years, solutions will become even more advanced in order to mitigate the effects of static lighting on our health.
Water Quality in the Home
Given that water makes up more than 50 percent of an adult’s body weight, access to clean water is essential for health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, even with today’s advanced water treatment technologies, it is still a major challenge to ensure that everybody has access to clean water. Conventional water treatment does not always remove contaminants effectively and pollutants can be introduced through the water distribution infrastructure.
Innovations in Water Quality Control
Today, you can choose from a range of water filtration technologies in order to ensure that you and your family are drinking clean, great tasting water from every tap in your home. The key is looking for products that have NSF Certifications that guarantee the performance for the reduction of certain contaminants.
Check out the NSF website to learn more about what each certification means.
A Holistic Approach Over Individual Components
Ground-breaking research has given us greater insight into the lighting, water and air quality challenges within our homes. While it’s important to understand how to optimise each feature of your home, always keep in mind that a healthy home is created when all of the solutions work together as a holistic ecosystem.
An investment in your home can be an investment in your health. Through cutting-edge technologies and a growing awareness, it won’t be long until everyone – the Australian housing industry and home-buying public – considers health and wellbeing a critical component of home design.
About the Author
At Delos, Max focuses on new market development and strategic partnerships in the growing health and wellness market. Specifically, he looks at disruptive ways to infuse wellness technologies, products, and services into the global housing market, providing a catalyst for improved health and well-being for people around the world. In addition, he supports inter-company initiatives that cross all business lines to foster further grow in new market segments. Max joins Delos with a strong background in economics and environmental policy, focusing on non-market goods valuation techniques that provide insight on non-consumptive values, which cannot be estimated or discerned by observed consumption. Max holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Environmental Studies from Colby College.