Eating, breathing, and sleeping are essential to both short- and long-term health. Yet, our homes—our most fundamental haven for these activities—often aren't designed to support these most basic of health needs.
Perhaps part of the problem stems from the lack of public education on the topic. Some mainstream news and lifestyle stories about health and wellness haven't caught up with the fact that a healthy lifestyle is much more than just good diet and regular exercise.
Fortunately, the potential to broaden society’s perspective on health is being unlocked in technology’s march forward, particularly as devices are becoming more interconnected and able to make alterations without us so much as lifting a finger. And if there’s anyplace the most basic human health needs can be satisfied with technology, it’s inside the home.
Sleep and the Importance of Light
Imagine waking up and going to bed just like nature intended. A soft natural light gradually increasing in the morning, and steadily decreasing to a warm glow in the evening.
Light is a natural cue for our body’s sleep cycles. Our hyper-connected lifestyles and single-setting interior lights disrupt this circadian rhythm and can sabotage our health in the process.
Sleep deprivation has been identified as a contributor to several serious health concerns, including heart disease, stroke, obesity, depression and others. The home of the future would adjust lighting levels and hues for an optimal sleep cycle, customized just for the resident.
Like light, air quality and comfort help produce a healthy environment at home. Increasingly, new homes and apartments are promoting good air quality by tracking temperature, humidity, and air quality and automatically adjusting these factors for occupants as needed. Such a system maximizes energy efficiency, too, by utilizing tempered outside air and reducing the need to heat or cool the home.
Fresh air and open windows can better connect residents with the outdoors, which has proven benefits for mental and physical health. Just as ventilation is adjusted for optimal health, air-cleaning and -filtering systems can be connected to the smart apartment or home to tidy up air and floor contaminants that are generated from regular daily activities.
Chore and Task Helpers
Our homes can do still more to encourage better living habits. Even convenience devices such as robot vacuums can be put to work for better health by reducing dust. The smartest homes could collect and analyze occupants' real-time health data to suggest optimal hydration levels, for example, and recipes that target residents' nutritional needs for that day. The refrigerator could then begin making shopping lists that revolve around the foods in those recipes.
Very soon, wearable health-tracking devices will be learning our daily habits and schedules, tracking our nutritional needs, and monitoring external factors such as air quality. These data will be shared with a smart home able to change the indoor environment accordingly and encourage choices that lead to better health.
The design of our future homes should encourage mobility rather than sedentary lifestyles as well. For example, a multistory apartment building can provide highly visible stairs to encourage occupants to walk rather than take an elevator.
Connecting personal health data and external factors with smart-home systems has the potential to transform the threat of many chronic health issues. A home that flows and adapts to our daily needs is crucial in ensuring that we eat, breathe, and sleep for optimal health.
That's one reason AMLI is part of the team behind the 2018 Multifamily Executive Concept Community, Building Positive + Living Well, which will be presented at the MFE Conference in September in Vegas. You can track the development of the project and the research and best practices it uncovers at www.multifamilyexecutive.com/mfe-concept-community.