Housing developers are working to reduce pollutants and create healthier living conditions through greener building designs, according to an article in the American Heart Association News published online in August.
Green housing has shown health benefits including reduced exposure to toxic materials and chemicals, and lower incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, the authors stated.
For more than two decades, architects and building developers have looked to sustainable design as a way to create housing that is healthier for the environment and its users. Green buildings come with energy conservation measures and sustainable products and efforts to reduce the use of materials that may pose long-term risks and pollutants, according to the article. “Health is the new green,” Katie Swenson, vice president for National Design Initiatives, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., said in the article.
Enterprise invested $18.6 billion to create affordable housing over 30 years to develop and preserve nearly 340,000 green, healthy and affordable homes across the United States, and revised its Enterprise Green Communities Criteria to include “Active Design” measures meant to promote healthy living. The company is working with the American Heart Association and others to make its green criteria a required baseline for all U.S. affordable housing developments.
“At the American Heart Association, we understand that healthy, high-quality affordable housing has the potential to help address some of the most urgent health challenges facing low-income families and communities today,” Nancy Brown, AHA chief executive, said in the article.
To meet the criteria, developments must show improved health and well-being of residents through reduced exposure to environmental pollutants, improved connectivity to services, walkable neighborhoods and good lighting.
The 2015 criteria require health assessments that use public health data to identify key health issues facing potential residents and the neighborhood in general, and using the information to create a project that helps address those issues, Swenson said in the article. “The same way that green buildings can measure how much energy is used or saved, the public health field can now measure the rate of asthma or obesity,” she said.
There are more benefits, according to the article. The authors referenced a study by the National Center for Healthy Housing that states efforts to improve walking and bike paths and promote community gardens lead to increased physical activity and provide nutritional and social benefits. “The healthcare industry has always been able to measure obesity and detect asthma, it’s just that now we are better understanding the connection between housing and its impact on public health outcomes,” Swenson stated in the article.
Housing projects have included The Rose, Aeon’s Minneapolis mixed-income project which has stairs as part of an effort to promote physical activity; and Via Verde, a South Bronx development by Phipps Houses and Jonathan Rose Companies that has extensive community gardens, bicycle storage and a tree orchard.
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