- This factor mainly focuses on the physical and built structure of homes, but keep in mind that homes mean much more than these two elements. For example, emotional wellbeing in relation to homes includes feelings of security and safety. Please refer to the Housing factor for more information and considerations about the types of housing as well as economic and social factors related to housing.
- Healthy homes provide protection against health hazards inside and nearby homes (e.g., environmental factors, household chemicals and pollutants, radon, carbon monoxide, and mould).
- Quality ventilation systems and energy-efficient features are important considerations for healthy homes as they provide benefits for good air quality, reduced energy use, and heating and cooling needs. For example, climate adaptive homes are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Aesthetic design elements (e.g., openness, lighting, colour) can contribute to positive experiences that appeal to the senses of sight, touch, smell, but also non-visual elements such as mood, focus, and sleep. Positive experiences in homes can have positive psychological impacts that affect health and wellbeing.
- Homes that are in close proximity to amenities and services, including natural spaces, help individuals meet their basic needs and support wellbeing.
- Healthy homes should be fit for accommodating all abilities and disabilities as outlined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)’s Accessible and Adaptable housing.
Within neighbourhoods, our homes provide protection from the elements and can positively – or negatively – impact our health and wellbeing. The physical, environmental, and psychological aspects of our homes are important determinants of health and should be considered in unison with our broader community environments.
Example Criteria for Healthy Home Design
Does the home meet the Minimum Housing and Health Standards?
The Alberta Minimum Housing and Health Standards are in place to protect and promote residents’ health and wellbeing. They are key standards that are essential to good health and maintaining safe and healthy homes, regardless of the dwelling type.137 Remember, healthy homes also include dwellings within a larger unit, for example apartment complexes, basement suites, residences for senior citizens, and group homes.
Does the home have proper lighting and ventilation?
As Canadians spend 90% of their time indoors, it is important to have proper ventilation for good air quality.138 Additionally, appropriate lighting in homes is beneficial to health as it can reduce eye fatigue and headaches.139
What are some aesthetically appealing design elements in a home?
Aesthetic design elements such as lighting, temperature, sound, and design quality can all affect mood, stress levels, focus and concentration, and sleep patterns therefore, impacting health and wellbeing.140 Many of these elements can be incorporated at minimal cost during design stages, providing simple ways to enhance wellbeing in affordable housing design.141
What is the distance from the home to other amenities and services?
Having access to basic services and amenities is a determinant of social inclusion.92 Access to amenities and services influences our capacity to meet our basic needs and to fully participate in social and economic development.92 Distance to amenities and services is an important factor that contributes to local economic performances of businesses.92 Closer proximity to amenities from home can help with social connection and intergenerational opportunities, including proximity to green spaces such as neighbourhood parks. It can also lead to less car dependence and increased use of active transportation.
Access to proper utilities as outlined in the Minimum Housing and Health Standards also has environmental implications. As the Canadian government works towards expanding access to basic utilities such as clean water and electricity, innovative strategies are required to reduce emissions and pollution in a practical and affordable manner.142
Services in Alberta, like the Office of The Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) help educate, mediate, and advocate for Albertans, including residential, small business, and farming consumers.143 UCA helps Albertans in understanding renewable (green energy) options. UCA also helps mediate payment arrangements for consumers who need their gas or electricity reconnected, and can link individuals with agencies who provide financial assistance to cover utility and housing rental costs.
Economic Recovery Considerations
Ensuring homes have proper ventilation systems in place reduces excessive energy costs.138 Having proper lighting within the home can lead to cost-savings and economic prosperity in the long-term.139
Pandemic Recovery Considerations
Many Canadians now spend much more of their time in their homes due to COVID-19 changes working and learning remotely. As restrictions ease in future months, hybrid work and learning models may become more commonplace, further emphasizing the importance of home environments that promote wellbeing.
Did you know?
Within Alberta, there is a group specifically dedicated to environmental public health. Alberta Health Services’ Environmental Public Health Team, works to keep the public safe from environmental hazards. Refer to their website for resources and contact information to learn more about potential health risks in public places.
Key Healthy Home Considerations for:
Consider how the physical environment of a home will affect your health and wellbeing. What maintenance or repairs are needed to ensure good health, what environmental conditions will help you thrive (e.g., air quality, lighting, security)? Check out the Children’s Environmental Health Clinic (ChEHC), a program that offers educational and clinical services related to environmental exposures and child health.
Consider how different homes will meet the wellbeing needs and expectations of your clients. Are they prepared to take on costs of any foreseeable upgrades to improve the home environment? Have they considered the benefits of different housing options (e.g., ability and interest in yard and/or garden maintenance)?
Consider how urban and rural community plans help to promote mixed land uses, encourage non-vehicle travel, and support enhanced services and amenities. Look to policy recommendations that promote healthy homes and communities, such as those encouraged by the Canadian Institute of Planners. Promote planning practices that minimize exposure to environmental pollutants and contaminants for residents and improve the quality of the air, water, and soil in communities.7
Consider simple, low-cost, aesthetic design choices (e.g., maximizing natural light, open layout, integration of colour) in residential buildings. These features can support the wellbeing of residents in a variety of different housing contexts. Look to resources with wellbeing enhancing design recommendations, such as this Alberta-developed Design Guide for Affordable Housing.141
Consider provincial subsidy or incentive programs to support Albertans to make energy efficient upgrades to their homes. For example, Canada offers the Greener Homes Grant that supports Canadians in making their homes more energy efficient to support sustainability and environmental objectives.145