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Post-Pandemic Design Changes: Healthy Home Edition

June 3, 2020 | By Michael Kramer

In my last article, I discussed potential changes in kitchen design due to the influence of COVID-19. As I continue to read articles and social media posts about how this pandemic will impact us in the future, it seems that healthy home design is on the fast-track to mainstream. Once reserved for eco-conscious green builders in select markets, consumers are becoming acutely aware of how their homes can positively (or negatively) affect their health. Design may be impacted in a few key areas.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Long before COVID-19, indoor air quality was becoming a hot topic in residential construction. Like LEED for commercial projects, groups like Wellness Within Your Walls, fitwel and The International WELL Building Institute offer certification programs to help builders and consumers identify and use building practices and materials that benefit indoor air quality. Construction materials, finishes and fixtures are analyzed individually and assessed as a whole.

HVAC systems are key during this assessment. High-end filtration removes 99.7% of pollutants, including viral particulates like COVID-19, and consumers understand the value this offers. The use of HEPA filters with anti-viral/anti-microbial properties greatly improves air quality, and as we gather more data about their effectiveness, builders stand to benefit by including them.

A good HVAC system relies on high-quality, tightly insulated windows and doors. Today’s airtight envelopes place a heavy burden on air handlers to circulate and filter indoor air, purging pollutants while pulling in fresh air from the outside. This process has the real ability to reduce airborne illnesses, including allergies and respiratory sensitivities. Eliminating stagnant air and stuffy rooms also positively affects mental and physical health.

The Anti-Microbial Movement

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I’m not surprised by the sudden increased attention on anti-microbial fixtures and textiles. We have become ultra-aware of hand-washing, sanitizing and shared contact, so anything claiming to reduce contact risk is worth a look. Even though they don’t specifically stop the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic has caused buyers to think about the potential benefits of germ-free surfaces.

Cork flooring is naturally anti-microbial and waterproof which helps prevent mold and mildew. For countertops, avoid porous material like marble because bacteria can work its way into pores and scratches. Opt for quartz, which has the same look but resists stains and scratches. Metal fixtures are already on trend, but those that contain copper are naturally anti-bacterial, perfect for door handles, bathroom and kitchen features, railings and other high-contact surfaces. Many bacteria remain on surfaces for 72 hours or more, but most can only survive for four hours on copper. Use touchless copper fixtures for the maximum benefit.

Bidet, S’il Vous Plaît?

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Even after living through the toilet paper hoarding phase of this pandemic, I’m doubtful that American consumers will start demanding a bidet in every bathroom. However, some floor plan changes might help bathrooms work better in the future. We’ve learned that front-line workers need better access to bathrooms so they can decontaminate by changing clothes and showering before interacting with their family. This laundry room (right) could accommodate a full shower in lieu of the pet wash and offers direct access from the exterior.

Mud rooms and combo mud/laundry rooms are often located inside the garage entrance, which is great. But I think more buyers will want to see that space expanded to include a full bathroom with a shower. Omitting a powder room elsewhere on the first floor would free up enough space, and even when disease transmission isn’t a concern, a full bath inside the garage entrance would allow homeowners to easily clean up after yard work or a day at the beach without tracking through the house.


Additional Info:

Air Quality: Builder Magazine

Anti-microbial Decor: Forbes

Anti-microbial metals: ProSales Magazine 


This article was originally published on LinkedIn. View that version here.