woman can't sleep

We might think of our homes as sanctuaries from the outside world but many houses actually have poor indoor air and water quality and are throwing our natural sleeping habits out of whack. Fortunately, a few technology tweaks can make all the difference, according to an offshoot of the WELL standard that’s infiltrated deeply into the Australian office market.

According to Delos Australia’s managing director Anthony Scarff, his company, an offshoot of the International Well Building Institute that created the WELL Certification program, leverages the research and principles set by its parent organisation to bring wellness to the residential market.

The company’s US-based founders first started consulting to the premium end of the residential market before recognising the importance of making wellness feasible for the bulk of the residential market.

“The visionaries in the business want wellness in homes to become like airbags in cars,” Scarff told The Fifth Estate.

The company landed on Australian shores earlier this year and has since secured a partnership with a volume builder.

The company is not a product manufacturer – it sources technology to curate “home ecosystems” that support wellness.

All technology must be effective, affordable and easily retrofittable. Prices start at $3000 for the most basic package, which will include systems that filtrate air, purify water and automate lighting systems to promote a natural circadian rhythm, such as dimming the lights in bedrooms in the evening.

Scarff says the company is not in the business of fearmongering but believes Australia has a long way to go with home wellness.

Interest in wellness is picking up but because Australia has traditionally enjoyed “beautiful fresh air”. Scarff says the nation is a little further behind countries such as China that have battled air quality issues for some time.

“Our goal is to make homes healthier, so that when you go home the indoor environment is a place where the body is not just surviving but recovering.”

In the future, Scarff would like to see wellness criteria included in building codes.

The impact of modern living on wellness

There are several WELL principles but to make the Delos offering as accessible as possible, it focuses on the core pillars of better air quality, better water quality, and living under a light regime that mimics nature.

Scarff says that back in caveman days, the sun rising was our cue to wake up. When the sun is high, our bodies know it’s time for activity, and as the sun sets it becomes a warmer shade and our bodies know to start preparing for rest.

Now that we live indoors, we’ve disrupted this natural circadian rhythm, and spend more time under fluorescent light late at night, making it difficult to fall asleep. The blue lights of phones and other devices only exacerbates the problem.

Scarff says not many people recognise how big an impact lighting has on mood. For example, fluorescent lighting is used in fast food restaurants to make people eat large volumes of food quickly. Warmer lighting is used in upscale restaurants to mimic a campfire and help people relax.

“It’s not until you get outside and have a walk that you feel energised because the natural light has a huge impact on mood.”

Similarly, before people lived in cities and towns we drank straight out of streams and creeks. Now water is treated with chlorine, which kills nasties but is also tough on the digestive system. Sediments from ageing lead and galvanised steel pipes can also end up in the water supply, as does silt after bushfires.

Indoor air quality can be two to five times worse than outdoors. There are pollens and other allergens that make it indoors, along with toxins and pathogens that are emitted from material and furnishings. 

Scarff says the shift towards completely airtight homes has made them more energy efficient but sometimes at the expense of health because air isn’t being constantly refreshed.

Research has shown that improving these three elements have multiple health and wellbeing benefits, such as improved mood, sleep quality and productivity.

What’s next or the company

Scarff says there’s been a lot of interest from developers and architects interested in the company’s wellness offerings as a point of difference.

The next 18 months will be about expanding the company’s distribution footprint.

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