If living a healthy lifestyle is of prime importance to you, as it is to most people, you can augment your life choices with a newly built home. Architects, builders and interior designers understand the elements of a home that benefit the physical and mental health of every resident.
“For years, and today more than ever, we have seen our buyers focus toward healthier lifestyles for themselves and their families, along with an understanding that this starts at home,” says Mark Heidmann, director of sales and marketing for Trendmaker Homes in Austin. “To help provide that environment, our LivingSmart® program, which includes five areas of advancement, means that evolving materials, technologies and features are incorporated into all of our homes for the health and well-being of our homeowners and their families, as well as for the planet.”
Here are 10 such innovations that you can look for in a newly built home:
1. Outdoor spaces to encourage getting more fresh air
Indoor-outdoor living has been an increasing priority for buyers in every climate, so builders are creatively adding this kind of space to every possible property. For example, Chicago-area builder Lexington Homes includes a fenced-in yard and rooftop deck at Lexington Park in the city’s Avondale neighborhood, and at Lexington Reserve at Oak Park, the townhouses have a balcony and a rooftop deck.
“We expect future buyers to really appreciate these outdoor spaces,” says Jeff Benach, principal of Lexington Homes. “Fenced-in yards are convenient for time spent outside with kids and pets, while balconies right off the kitchen are ideal for morning coffee and grilling. The private rooftop decks add another living area to the home and serve as a great spot to work from home during the day and then relax and enjoy drinks and al fresco dinner in the evening and on weekends.”
2. Antimicrobial surfaces to reduce germ exposure
Countertops are one of the most touched surfaces in the home in bathrooms and kitchens, which means that you may be more interested in choosing surfaces that are less likely to harbor germs, says Leigh Spicher, national director of design studios for Ashton Woods, an Atlanta-based builder that builds new homes in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas and North and South Carolina.
“One of the best antimicrobial countertop surfaces available today is a partially natural, partially synthetic ‘quartz’ otherwise known as engineered stone,” Spicher says. “It’s a manufactured solid surface countertop that is 93 percent quartz, one of the hardest minerals on earth, combined with manmade polymers. These countertops are nonporous and hygienic and therefore don’t require sealing.”
3. Lighting to lift moods and enhance sleep
Most new homes today have more and larger windows than older homes, and you can often increase natural light in a new construction home by adding windows as an upgrade. You can use window treatments and apps to control light and shadows in your home to reduce glare while you’re working and reading or add brighter light when you’re cooking or doing other tasks. In addition, lighting systems can be programmed to replicate circadian rhythms for a healthier sleep cycle.
4. Touchless appliances and smart home features to reduce the spread of germs
Hands-free faucets such as Moen’s MotionSense automatically turn on with a sensor to eliminate the need to touch them when washing your hands.
“These hands-free faucets just make sense in the name of not spreading potentially dangerous viruses, germs or bacteria,” Spicher says. “They’re also great for not dirtying up the faucet handle when your hands are covered in food or paint from crafts.”
Smart house features, such as Trendmaker Homes’ HomeSmart® program, can be used to control the temperature, lighting and security in your home with a single touch to a smartphone, reducing the possible spread of germs from multiple family members touching various controls.
5. Indoor air and water quality improvements for a healthier environment
Indoor air quality systems provide a steady stream of fresh air for you and your family, while built-in water filtration systems increase the quality of your drinking water.
“Our HealthSmart® program includes fresh air systems for improved air quality, built-in water filtration systems, in-wall pest control systems and hard surface flooring in wet areas,” Heidmann says.
Homes that are built with extra insulation for energy efficiency also need ventilation and filtration systems to circulate clean fresh air throughout the home.
6. Sanitizing appliances for a cleaner household
When you choose an appliance package for your new home, you can opt for sanitizing appliances that have been certified by the National Sanitation Foundation. NSF-certified appliances include washers, dryers and dishwashers that meet a high standard for their sanitizing cycle to make sure that they eliminate bacteria, allergens and microorganisms that could be harmful to you or your family. Even some vacuum cleaners, air purifiers and steam convection ovens are designed to protect you from bacteria.
7. Mudrooms to keep dirt and germs from contaminating the house
Mudrooms or a “family foyer” off the garage have become popular in new homes for families who prefer to keep their formal entrance clutter-free. This can be particularly important if you have winter boots or sports equipment. They also provide a health function by keeping dirt from being dragged throughout your home.
“It’s long been a practice of many cultures to leave shoes outside and for good reason,” Spicher says. “They are notorious for bringing germs into the home. Those school or gym bags can be pretty filthy, too. If you can include a dedicated mudroom or drop zone in your home for these items to keep them close to the outside, that is ideal.”
8. Flexible spaces for mental health
New home floor plans often provide a “flex space” or a bonus room that you can use for for a variety of functions as your lifestyle changes. These spaces can make it easier to find a spot for alone time, for yoga or for working at home with fewer distractions. They can also provide an intentional space for family activities such as homework or crafts and allow other rooms in the home to be purely for relaxation.
“As you consider working and/or learning from home, home offices and bonus rooms may have to adapt for multiple people,” Spicher says. “These spaces easily flex up for double or more occupancy. Most offices don’t need a lot of file storage anymore, so now you can double up on workspace. You may just need a schedule for all those Zoom meetings.”
9. Organized storage for a less-cluttered home and mind
The connection between your mental health and an organized home has been made by many experts, but Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, became a worldwide phenomenon. Builders recognize that storage is a high priority for buyers, so new homes typically include a pantry, organized storage in linen and clothes closets, garage storage and kitchen organizers such as spice drawers. Keeping your home free of clutter can help soothe a frazzled mind, and organized storage makes it far easier to keep that clutter to a minimum.
10. Green and energy-efficient features for a healthier environment
Homes that are built with green construction techniques and energy-efficient systems have an impact that goes beyond lower energy bills and a reduced environmental footprint. A report by the International Energy Agency states that energy-efficient homes can reduce stress and incidents of infectious disease, reduce the symptoms of respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease, and reduce the risk of cancer, arthritis and depression. All newly built homes are typically more energy-efficient than older homes, and many builders offer additional green features.
“Our EnergySmart® technology uses features such as tankless water heaters, LED lighting, vinyl double-pane low-e windows and energy-efficient air conditioning systems, all working in concert to reduce energy consumption and save our homeowners money,” Heidmann says. “Our EarthSmart® program uses sustainable materials and processes to help conserve natural resources, such as 50 percent recycled and 100 percent formaldehyde-free insulation for a better environment inside and outside our homes.”
A renewed emphasis on healthy homes is likely to bring more innovation to the way homes are designed and built to increase the benefits of fresh air and clean water, provide access to the outdoors and reduce the exposure of residents to germs and allergens.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.