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The symbiotic relationship between a home and its occupants

5 June 2019

Healthy homes: The symbiotic relationship between a home and its occupants

As landlords and property managers begin to implement the Government’s new Healthy Homes standards, which will become law on July 1, a healthy homes and workplace expert says he’s hoping the Government will take things further in the future to recognise the unique eco-system of every house and how a home’s occupants impact that eco-system.

Private landlords have until July 1, 2021 to ensure rental properties comply with the new regulations, which provide minimum standards for heating, insulation, ventilation, moisture and drainage in residential rental properties.

Brandon Van Blerk, the CEO of Tether, a healthy homes, workplaces and school environmental tech monitoring company, says he’s hoping in future the Government might take things a step further.

The Government, he says, has issued a shopping list to landlords as a panacea to unhealthy homes. “Solving unhealthy homes is far more complex than insulation and heat-pumps.”

Every home is unique, and its environment is determined by a complex ecosystem of attributes such as aspect, what materials it’s built from, the number of windows and amount of sunlight it attracts.

“Every home is a unique and dynamic environment made up of the building with all its features and the occupants that call that building home. It’s the home’s ability to respond to occupant behavior that’s important.”

He says there is a symbiotic relationship between a building and its occupants and how the occupant likes to live. Maybe they like lots of air circulating, or they prefer every window and door closed, like to sleep in a cool room or like the heating on full blast. And it then comes down to how the building responds to those choices.

While the standards are a good start, he feels future moves could be more subjective in nature and more dynamic for each individual house.

“A standard should not be about products; we should be looking at real-time ventilation levels, temperature ranges, relative humidity, carbon dioxide levels, and whether the home is positively or negatively pressured.”

Van Blerk says a healthy home comes down to what the environment in that particular house looks like in real time and how it affects the way people feel. Building a home to a standard does not mean it will be healthy.

“You need to account for how the building responds to occupant behavior – the relationship between a home and its occupants is symbiotic in nature, you cannot separate them.

“A band of healthiness across various environmental measurements should be established and it should be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the home can maintain a healthy environment in which ever way they see fit.”

Tether’s real time monitoring of temperature, relative humidity and carbon dioxide along with ambient light and noise levels in a home, means occupants gain full visibility of their environment and can tailor that environment to their precise needs while landlords can ensure that their home can maintain a healthy environment.

He suggests landlords and property managers who want to keep their tenants happy, healthy and warm, should gain insight into how their homes perform in real-time and make any changes based around that.

“Property managers can then prove the home is healthy by transparently monitoring environmental quality throughout the day with the EnviroQ monitoring device while empowering occupants to make smarter decisions.”

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