Published 4 years ago.
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In this four-part series, Shaw explores trends in where and how we live, and the movement toward more sustainable housing, offices and other buildings that embraces occupant wellbeing. Read part one.
It is said that “home is where the heart is,” but over time, the role of a home
A home isn’t simply shelter from the elements; for many of us, it is also a
reflection of who we are and what we care about, and sometimes a source of
wealth generation and a sign of prosperity.
Our homes can be both a respite from the outside world and a central gathering
place for friends and family. The location, layout and design of our homes can
play a central role in mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.
For many people, taking steps to create a healthier home — whether by
researching the ingredients in products, focusing on the ease of cleaning,
mitigating moisture and noise issues; or just improving the lighting and buying
beautiful, well-designed material — can be empowering and feel more tangible
than trying to address global sustainability issues such as climate change.
Reflecting the growth in this trend, the international wellness real estate
market is now a
— expected to reach $180 billion (or roughly half the size of the global green
building industry) by 2022, according to researchers at the Global Wellness
These trends are prominent not just in luxury homes, but in middle-income
communities and affordable housing, as well. So, what’s driving this increased
The US population is in the midst of momentous shift. By 2030, one in five US
residents will be of retirement age, according to the Census
and with that aging population comes a new wave of needs in a home. Design for
ongoing management of health-related concerns — including long-term care for
chronic illness and physical limitations, accessibility and aging in place — are
significant for Baby Boomers approaching retirement age.
Simultaneously, the approximately 73 million US Millennials will overtake
Boomers as the largest
US population group. Millennials want different things in a home than their
parents as they raise their families, and early indicators are that Gen Z
has an even greater appetite for
They are more interested in creating a healthy
environment than a “smart” one, and tend to prioritize job mobility over staying
with one employer for the duration of a career. And working remotely is on the
rise, especially among Millennials — a recent report by
noted that 43 percent of US workers do some kind of telecommuting.
Today, people spend, on average, 90 percent of their time
— with the majority of that spent at home. So, it’s no wonder that indoor spaces
can have a tremendous impact on our
— whether through noise, the moods evoked through design aesthetics and choices
in materials, or just our overall comfort levels.
In addition to a general heightened awareness of the connection between the
spaces we occupy and our wellbeing, there are often life moments and choices
that trigger a closer examination of
how we interact with the elements in our home — including having a first child,
owning a pet, or diagnosis or the onset of health concerns. At
Shaw, we see this at
play in our own operations, through calls to our consumer service lines asking
about ingredients in flooring, as homeowners make purchase decisions — in
addition to those about water resistance, ease of cleaning and product
Well-known retailers including
REI and Amazon have introduced
public chemical policies; and household names including
and Method are among those promoting their Cradle to Cradle Certified
products to consumers.
There’s broader consumer
of healthy living and wellness topics, from niche blogs to more broad-based
media outlets. You can just as easily find a story about flame retardants in
furniture as one offering career advice or travel tips.
Sustainable building programs and design standards for housing are evolving to
embrace and consider factors such as material
and noise, alongside other building performance metrics. New standards have
emerged, such as the WELL Building
Standard — with a stated mission to
improve human health and wellbeing in buildings and communities throughout the
world. And organizations such as
HomeFree are focused on
supporting affordable housing developers in their efforts to use less toxic
building materials. The US Green Building Council’s LEED
certification includes a focus on material
health, and there is a proliferation of new certifications and reporting tools
available to assess or disclose chemical ingredients.
At Shaw, we fundamentally believe that everyone should have access to safe,
sustainable products, regardless of price point. We’re proud that almost 90
percent of the products we manufacture are Cradle to Cradle
We use the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program material health
to evaluate the hazards of chemicals present in products and the safety of those
chemicals to end users. We also seek third-party certifications for our products
to inform consumers of their sustainability and indoor air quality performance.
In addition to continuing to focus on the intentional design of products
optimized for healthy home attributes, it’s imperative that we simplify the
complex for the consumer — finding a way to speak to them in language that
resonates when sustainability and healthy home can mean so many different things
to different people, answering often complicated chemical questions in simple
terms, providing third-party assessment of information to bolster trust.
We’re all navigating this second wave of sustainability together and we welcome
the opportunity to collaborate with others to bring the best solutions forward.
Published Jul 18, 2019 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Troy Virgo is director of sustainability for global flooring manufacturer and supplier Shaw Industries Inc., headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, USA. Troy helps drive sustainability efforts across Shaw, with an emphasis on material chemistry and the creation of safe and healthy products. Troy also leads Shaw’s external engagements and partnerships on key sustainability topics in the residential retail, single family, and multifamily business channels.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.