In last week's blog post, we reported that architects are seeing changes in home design due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey, there is a greater interest in indoor air quality (IAQ) among custom builders and renovators. That finding piqued our interest in whether semi-custom and production builders are also increasing their focus on indoor air quality and what that could mean for building costs. In this week's blog post, we talk to Matthew Cooper, Senior Vice President, PEG, LLC, about how the broader homebuilding community is responding to the focus on indoor air quality and why increased emphasis on IAQ doesn't necessarily mean increased costs.
Not Just Custom Builders
Cooper notes, while in the past, it was typically the higher-end semi-custom or custom builder or buyers who were most engaged in thinking about things like IAQ, that's not true today.
"I concur 100 percent that we're seeing interest in the indoor air quality of homes skyrocket. Today, we have regional and national production builders that understand the market demands and have had their 'ah-ha' moment where they see the nexus between third-party design, controlled cost opportunities, and delivery of differentiated products," Cooper said.
PEG, a leading provider of design services for commercial, residential, and multi-family construction, works closely with its clients to develop efficient, cost-effective solutions that address builder objectives. In a building design world that has been challenged with solutions to mitigate COVID-19 and other health risks presented by indoor environments, that means ensuring that builders understand logical, science-based approaches to design that mitigates risks without gimmicks, greenwashing, or pseudo-science. It also means quality engineering the home as a system.
Be Intentional with Design
Cooper says a priority for his company is ensuring that builders know the importance of the relationship between IAQ, ventilation, filtration, and design.
"Proper control of the indoor environment means controlling what goes into it, managing what got into it, and maximizing the comfort and satisfaction of the people who live in it. We need to intentionally design effective HVAC systems that properly heat and cool the home and manage the relative humidity inside. We also need to provide ventilation of contaminants within the home and filter as efficiently as possible both what is being brought into the home as well as what is being introduced into the environment within the home.”
Managing these priorities while controlling costs is typically a concern for most builders. "The beauty of this process is that quality engineering of the home as a system can also typically create a direct path to controlling construction costs for the builder and the operational costs of the homeowner.
From a cost-containment perspective, right-sizing HVAC equipment, using raised heel trusses, and using more economical insulation with air sealing are actions that can result in high-performance and healthy homes without premium costs. Also, leveraging expertise specifically focused on optimizing building performance and building science technology is invaluable in responding to the changes taking shape in home design. But there's another critical audience to address and educate, home buyers.
Tell Buyers What They Need to Know
Cooper said that regrettably, home builders are not as proactive as educating home buyers about IAQ as they should be. "I think this is the aspect that needs the greatest amount of attention, he said. "For the longest time, builders were reticent or resistant to educate buyers on the benefits of increased energy efficiency. Today they are in the same posture when it comes to the home as a system where comfort, efficiency, well-being, and ownership cost are part of a symbiotic relationship.