In what has become an annual tradition, here are my predictions for what’s to come in the world of healthy homes…..
#1 – Consumers will demand more transparency, while manufacturers will do whatever they can to provide none.
The building industry is certainly chockfull of third-party raters and reviewers, to provide the illusion that the consumer is getting unbiased information that will help lead you to the best decision. However, these gatekeepers are usually not playing fairly. They are what we call “pay to play.” Pay them enough and eventually a manufacturer will get the results they want to put on their literature. Not to mention, who really checks this stuff out, anyways? WE DO! In 2017, we here at GDC tested hundreds of products for chemical content, read thousands of technical data sheets and most importantly, helped thousands of customers worldwide avoid making drastic mistakes because they almost got suckered into buying something just because it was labeled “green.” In 2018, I expect that consumers will continue to get more savvy and the manufacturers won’t know how to handle the questions. It should be interesting!
#2 – The phrase “green building” will become about as laughable as “efficient government” or “unbiased journalism”.
Back in 1993 when I started GDC, the term “green” referred to a wholistic approach to building that included both environmental health AND the health of the human occupants. Over the last 25 years, the human health component was lost and green building these days only refers to energy efficiency and global environmental concerns. And while those topics are certainly important, what good does it do to save the environment while we continue to poison the occupants? Between 2009 and 2014, the building industry was in the midst of its worst recession in the last 80 years. During that time, consumers also started to do a lot more research and started paying attention to how goods were marketed to them. As these consumers are now coming back into the mix, they’re saying that they don’t want green… they want HEALTHY! Bravo! This will continue throughout the year and I expect that some of the largest home builders in the US will recognize this paradigm shift and will search out new suppliers of healthy building materials to keep up with demand.
#3 – Formaldehyde, as an ingredient in just about every building material we use here in the US, finally gets the negative media attention it deserves.
Lead, asbestos, VOC’s; now its finally time for formaldehyde to get all the negative attention. Formaldehyde is used as a raw ingredient in so many items found in the average home. Plywood, insulation, caulks and adhesives, carpeting, paint…. I could go on. “But but but, the MSDS doesn’t list it!!!!”…… A Material Safety Data Sheet only has to list ingredients that make up more than 1% of the volume ONLY if its not part of a proprietary blend. So a paint manufacturer, for instance, can actually use 5-10 ingredients that are classified as “formaldehyde precursors” that will be undetectable in the can, but will create formaldehyde when it starts to cure. This is just one TINY example. The point is, formaldehyde is carcinogenic, toxic and most importantly, ubiquitous in our lives. Formaldehyde is a key trigger for folks with allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivities, and it should definitely be avoided at all cost by anyone who suffers from a depressed immune system. A healthy home contains less than 5 parts per billion (ppb) of formaldehyde in the ambient air and yet there are zero-VOC water based paints that release 100 times this amount for YEARS after being applied. In 2017, we partnered with Non Toxic Environments to utilize their FRAT system to test for formaldehyde in building materials. In 2018, we expect this technology to spread around the US to indoor air quality scientists and building experts, so they can help folks in every corner of the country.
#4 – Fung Shui gets replaced with Bau Biologie
20 years ago, it was common place for a homeowner to hire a Feng shui practitioner to help choose colors to promote well-being and make sure that the “energy” of the home wasn’t dramatically affected by the poor placement of furniture. And while I’m not 100% against this practice, I do take it with a grain of salt. Feng shui is a Chinese study thats loosely based on Ayurvedic principals and Chinese mythology. Doesn’t really resonate to our culture, yet, it became a popular way for homeowners with no design experience to feel like they had more of a hand in the style of their space. Bau Biologie (Building Biology) is the science of healthy, ecologically correct spaces, thats now finding its way into regular practice around the US. Certified BauBiologists can help to detect toxins in your home, such as formaldehyde, VOCs and EMFs (electro magnetic fields), then they can remediate the space for you. Its much less about the aesthetic and far more about the health and wellness of the home AND the occupants.
#5 – The in-home theater and rec room goes away to make room for “The Sanctuary.”
The 10 hour work day doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, so while the idea of going home to watch Star Wars on a 100″ projection screen sounds fun, consumers will be looking into ways to offer relaxation so that our bodies can rejuvenate quicker and run more efficiently. Throughout the day, our bodies are hammered with pollutants from the air we breathe to the foods we consume. We are inundated with chemicals. The average workplace can have thousands of chemicals in the air that can seep into our blood system. So we look forward to going home to detox, right? Well, enter into your own personal sanctuary. Instead of that home theater, how about a room that cuts off the outside world? Specifically designed to mitigate all EMFs, wi-fi, and radiation. A room that consists of space to stretch and relax. A room that houses an infrared sauna to both detox the body AND promote healing from within. 30 minutes a day in this room could add years to your life. Years that will be free of pain and free of disease. We ALL want that.
So there is… GDC’s guide to your healthy home for 2018. Please feel free to share and please provide your feedback! We’d love to hear where you think healthy home trends will go in 2018!