Examining Health and Wellness Trends

Q-and-A with Marla Esser Cloos

Sustainability and Green Building
Contact: Sustainability and Green Building

Marla Esser Cloos
Marla Esser Cloos is a healthier home advocate of Green Home Coach and host of the Everyday Green Home podcast.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, have you seen an increase in consumer interest in health and wellness for their homes? If so, what are their primary interests?

Yes, there has been an increased interest in health and wellness among home dwellers — both owners and renters. From speaking with industry colleagues to what I read, there is a united consensus that health and wellness are in the spotlight. We have been observing an increased interest for a few years and these last few years of being in our homes so much more seems to have really brought it front and center.

Primary interests I’m seeing are spaces for work and study, as well as outdoor spaces. Easy-to-maintain surfaces and finishes are also in demand, and this means easy to clean, too. Interest in better air quality in homes is also on the rise. I’m hearing more dialogue about better HVAC filters, air purifiers and in-home ventilation.

What misconceptions do you often find consumers and/or builders have about health and wellness concepts?

Many of us assume that homes – whether we build/remodel them or live in them – are healthier than they often actually are. Indoor air quality can deteriorate in a home or building with just the simple act of cooking or showering. Builders, remodelers and other home professionals can help by teaching the importance of simple behaviors such as turning on the range vent hood when cooking and the bath vent fan when showering. Because new habits can be hard, adding some simple home automation can be a big help.

The other big misconception I see is that having a healthier home environment is pricey. Even simple behavioral changes and upgrades to systems and home choices can influence our health and wellness.

Lastly, many consumers are very focused on their health and wellness from the perspective of what they put in their bodies (e.g., food, supplements, water quality) and what they put on their bodies (e.g., personal care products, cosmetics). Yet many have not connected the dots to the importance of where their bodies live — their homes and the fixtures, finishes and systems that make them work.

What trends or ideas do you see becoming more popular in 2022?

More flexible home plans and remodels with spaces to gather yet also have privacy. More finishes, fixtures and home components with green certifications as a straightforward way to validate the components in a home. Whole-home certifications, such as the ICC-700 National Green Building Standard, achieve this beautifully. Health and wellness certifications such as Wellness Within Your Walls® can bring the additional emphasis on the health and wellness practices.

How can builders start to incorporate these concepts into their businesses?

I see a big advantage for builders to distinguish their business and homes with even a few of these concepts. Telling prospective buyers WHY these health and wellness elements are important needs to be the lead on all the messaging. Leading with the benefit and then attaching the feature that provides the benefit will help home buyers and owners understand the value easier.&

When I go back to basics and consider how we improve indoor environments, it starts with controlling pollutants at the source by choosing products with little to no off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxins. No- or low-VOC options are a straightforward way to reduce the VOCs and toxins in the home.

Ventilation is the key to getting out pollutants and moisture that inadvertently get in the home through what home dwellers bring in, home components and daily living. Fresh air is key here, not just circulation. There are numerous options for ventilation strategies at all price points. Providing our clients and customers with better breathing is something we can all feel good about.