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Wednesday, February 06, 2019 | Elizabeth La Jeunesse (1)


Americans are increasingly worried about the links between health and everyday environmental exposures in their homes, according to “Healthy Home Remodeling: Consumer Trends and Contractor Preparedness,” a newly released Remodeling Futures research brief. The brief, which presents the results of the Center’s latest surveys with The Farnsworth Group on the topic of healthy home remodeling, reports that 30 percent of all US households expressed concern about some aspect of their home endangering their health in 2018, a three-percentage-point increase from 2014. Indoor air quality was the leading source of concern, driven mainly by worries over moisture, mold, and dust. Other major concerns included pests and water quality. Households headed by younger people—especially those aged 25-34—were most likely to express specific concerns about their home posing a health issue or risk, as were households with children and those headed by people with higher levels of education.


Notes: Out of a sample of 501 homeowners, 250 renters concerned about specific healthy housing issues.
Source: Farnsworth Group and Joint Center Healthy Homes Surveys, August 2018.


The surveys also found that while US consumers are growing more concerned about health risks at home, only half of all remodeling firms actively participate in the “healthy homes” market niche. Why do so few remodelers actively integrate “healthy home” principles and products into their operations? The biggest obstacle appears to be higher costs, which was cited as a barrier or pain point by 64 percent of the firms. However, the benefits to participation in “healthy home remodeling” are even more substantial. More than two-thirds of remodelers active in this space cited increased customer satisfaction and loyalty as a major benefit of working in this area. In addition, more than half of participating remodeling firms said that healthy home remodeling expanded their customer base, gave them a competitive edge, and/or was “the right thing to do.” 


Another problem may be that defining this segment is tricky. In our surveys, we interpreted “healthy home remodeling” broadly as including not only projects and techniques aimed and protecting or enhancing basic safety and comfort, but also those aimed at avoiding less apparent hazards in a home’s air, water, or building materials, such as emissions from paints. It appears that many residential remodeling contractors either do not explicitly focus on such issues, or they are not aware that they (or their subcontractors) are already using common healthy home products that consumers increasingly value, such as low-VOC paints and finishes. Nevertheless, it seems clear that consumer awareness of (and concern about) this issue is growing, which means that more firms will have the opportunity and need to integrate healthy housing products and techniques into their business practices in the future.


(1) Elizabeth La Jeunesse was a Senior Research Analyst at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and a contributing researcher to the Remodeling Futures Program.


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