Article - Rising expectations on healthy homes and living |

Rising expectations on healthy homes and living

Rising expectations on healthy homes and living

There is a growing demand for sustainable consumer choices. Over one-third of global consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable product alternatives, and in the US that number climbs to two-thirds. The challenge now is for suppliers and developers to provide options that enable consumers to lean into these changing desires as it relates to sustainability at home.


Vanessa Butani, VP of Group Sustainability at Electrolux Group; Guillaume Charny-Brunet, Co-Founder and Head of Ventures at SPACE10; and Juhani Aspara, Regional Manager at Skanska in Finland, are all working to create built environments that enable healthy, sustainable living.


Creating sustainable habits


Over the past two decades, consumer psychology has been shifting towards a greater desire to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. According to the third annual Healthy and Sustainable Living study, over 70 percent of surveyed consumers expressed a desire to reduce their impact on the environment. However, according to the same study, half of those respondents said that they felt businesses weren’t doing enough to enable them to live more sustainably. There is a widespread desire to make healthier, more sustainable choices on the part of individuals. Now, it’s up to organizations to provide the tools that enable consumers to put those desires into action.


In enabling healthier consumer choices, sustainability starts in the home. In the US, residential electricity usage comprises around 20 percent of carbon emissions from energy consumption. Much of that electricity is devoted to home appliance use such as refrigerators and ovens. Vanessa Butani and her team at Electrolux Group are working to manufacture sustainable home appliances that allow consumers to lower their daily energy usage, and thus their carbon footprint.


However, energy consumption and food waste are as much a product of consumer behavior as they are of appliance functionality. Through the Better Living program, Electrolux Group is hoping to encourage sustainable habits around appliance usage. The program aims to educate consumers on simple practices such as using the proper settings on a washing machine for specific loads of laundry. This alone can drastically improve their home’s energy consumption. A related initiative, Break the Pattern, focuses specifically on the impact that sustainable habits can have on the waste and carbon emissions generated by clothing. Prolonging the life of clothing items by just nine months can reduce carbon, waste and water footprint by up to 30 percent. This emphasis on education enables healthy and sustainable living by providing accessible resources that outline simple, attainable sustainability practices.


These dual targets of responsible behavior and sustainable infrastructure merge in the Greenhouse Sthlm initiative – a collaborative project by Electrolux Group and Skanska. Based in Stockholm and inspired by the 15-Minute City, Greenhouse Sthlm promotes shared-used resources, including shared living, gardening and laundry spaces. The design also uses sustainable building materials and construction practices, as well as energy-efficient systems and appliances. The design elements of Greenhouse Sthlm are an example of what is possible when individuals and organizations pursue sustainable living together.


Public health and financial sustainability

Reducing waste and energy consumption is just one component of integrated sustainable living –  a truly healthy lifestyle requires much more. Guillaume Charny-Brunet and SPACE10 recently published a report called The Ideal City 2040, describing a holistic model of urban sustainability incorporating financial, social and physical health.


This ‘ideal city’ uses clever design to promote a better socially engaged community. Shared community projects — like a community garden and dining spaces — encourage residents to spend more time together and less time in isolation. This also takes advantage of a rising interest in intergenerational co-living to pursue affordable, socially cohesive housing.


The Ideal City 2040 is a concept for future development, but the ideas at the root of SPACE10’s project are already underway in existing projects, like the Schoonschip in Amsterdam. This floating village utilizes a circular economy — where spent resources are recycled and reused — to both limit its carbon emissions and encourage a more closely-knit community. Residents can trade energy resources through blockchain technology and there’s a car-sharing system running out of a mobility hub that the whole community has access to. A water treatment system also recovers usable nutrients and biogas from black water waste. The cyclical use of key utilities, and communal access to transportation and energy, strengthen social bonds and enable the community to live a more healthy, sustainable lifestyle.


The Urban Village Project embodies another important element of sustainable living: financial accessibility. This SPACE10 development consists of multi-family housing that is at once both sustainable and affordable. This is an important innovation, because, in many cities, families often struggle to afford the necessary housing improvements to make their homes sustainable. By developing a mass production process for low-carbon construction materials and implementing rent-to-buy pricing models, the Urban Village Project reduces financial barriers to entry for a sustainable home. Overcoming these financial hurdles is instrumental in enabling the average city resident to effectively pursue sustainable living. Together with the communal focus and social cohesion of something like the Schoonschip, SPACE10’s Ideal City embodies a holistic sustainability model that allows people to reduce their carbon footprint while improving public health and lowering financial burdens.


Sustainability in action in Finland

In Finland, consumers have been very clear about their desires and expectations for the future of sustainable homes. As Juhani Aspara explains, Finnish consumers want a certain baseline of sustainability — that incorporates home, work and travel — to be the standard for new developments. Easy access to low-carbon public transportation, for example, or an abundance of green spaces, would make healthy and sustainable habits more accessible for the average Finn. Energy usage is another major concern, and Finnish consumers express a desire to live in more energy-efficient homes with low-usage appliances.


Juhani explains that Skanska has been listening to Finnish communities to develop sustainability projects that meet these specific consumer needs. In response to their feedback, Skanska has begun work on a project in Kruunuvuorenranta, which aims to provide efficient energy storage by using the natural resources available in the seaside town just outside Helsinki. For example, rock caverns in the area fill with warm sea water during the summer which can then be used to heat buildings during the colder months.


The Ambra project in Helsinki likewise helps residents save energy and live more sustainably by incorporating holistic sustainability into the building’s design. Ambra includes 126 apartments located near public transportation. Digital smart solutions built into each apartment's design enable residents to monitor and modify their energy and water consumption.


Implementing projects like these — which have broad local support — works in tandem with established sustainable habits. All that is needed are the right tools to be able to implement them effectively. These Skanska developments are not only examples of responsible, low-carbon construction – they are also initiatives that enable, and encourage, sustainable living for city residents.


Enabling sustainable choices

Smart solutions, new community partnerships and innovations in urban design are making inclusive, sustainable living more accessible in cities and individual homes around the world. They are all part of empowering urban residents to pursue a lifestyle that is sustainable both for the planet and for themselves.


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