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The Future of Home Building and Residential Construction


What goes in a healthy home? If you’re uncertain, you’re in good company; builders answer that same question in a variety of ways.

This winter, UTOPIA surveyed 149 readers to learn their thoughts on healthy homes, which are generally houses with better indoor air quality and other related features. Their answers suggest that builders are certainly engaged in constructing and selling new homes that offer these benefits, but also that there’s little consensus about what should be included, what should be included as standard, and what should be offered as an option/upgrade.

In terms of future innovations for healthy homes, numerous builders mentioned technologies such as air filtration (which removes dust and allergens) and air purification (which kills germs through UV light and other methods).

But even in a pandemic, many builders say their biggest pain point in the area of designing, marketing, and selling healthy homes is convincing buyers of the value of these features. “Anything that is beyond (what is) required by code is hard to get an owner to go for,” said one builder.

Other buyers like the idea of buying a healthy home, but are indecisive. “Clients who are unsure, change their mind, and are not aware of the time or price (involved)” are the biggest headache for one of our respondents.

Such challenges suggest that builders may need to invest in healthy homes education the same way they have been doing for years with energy efficiency. When it comes to healthy homes, one builder said, “customers do not understand the level of quality that the product is.”

Here are some key findings from UTOPIA’s original research.

Who’s Marketing Healthy Homes?

The majority (63%) of builders responding to our survey do offer “healthy home” features in their new houses, but their approach differs. A small share (9%) includes them as standard while others rely on a mix of standard and options/upgrades for serving buyers.

Cleaner Air: 10 Most Common Standard Healthy Home Features

For builders who do include healthy home features as standard, carbon monoxide monitors and alarms top the list. These alarms are required in many states and cities. Second in line? EPA’s Indoor airPLUS guidelines. This voluntary program helps builders improve indoor air quality in their new homes through building science practices that reduce pollution, mold, and other contaminants.

Going Touchless: 10 Most Common Healthy Home Options and Upgrades

Other builders in our survey said they provide some or all healthy home features as options and upgrades, rather than standard. Hands-free toilets and fixtures are the most commonly offered healthy home upgrades, according to our builder respondents, followed by self-cleaning toilets.

Uncommon Offerings: 10 Healthy Home Features Least Offered by Builders

While a majority of builders do offer new construction with healthy home benefits, not every feature is commonplace. Nearly half (45%) of builders who responded to our survey don’t build any all-electric homes and 40 percent don’t provide any air quality monitoring systems. If you’re a builder who does include these features, you might want to compare yourself to the competition to see if you might have a marketing edge among buyers who care about fresh, clean air in their homes. If you’ve been reluctant to add these to your homes, you may want to do some research; the costs of improving your homes’ performance may not be as high as you think.