Battelle Names IAQ Top Consumer Concern

June 20, 2001
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COLUMBUS, OH — According to Battelle, a lab here that develops new technologies and products, the health of our homes and workplaces will be at the forefront of home technology in the coming years. Hvac contractors will want to keep up with the latest products and technologies for their commercial and residential clients.

Contractors also will need to remind health-conscious consumers about the role that their homes’ hvac systems play in the big picture.

The institute predicts an explosion of new home products like self-sanitizing materials and air or water purifiers. The carbon monoxide monitors and home security alarms in use today are considered the first generation in the wave of home health and security trends on the horizon.

“The market is here for these types of products in the health-conscious Baby Boomer generation,” said Battelle’s Steve Millett.

“People are concerned about maintaining their health and want to make sure they take every step in their own homes to do so.

“Technologists are working on these home products now and you’ll see them become a reality by 2010.”

A group of Battelle scientists and researchers named their “Top 10 Trends in Healthy Homes for 2010.” They are, in order of importance:

1. Indoor air quality — Increasingly, energy-efficient homes have created interiors that are a virtual soup of odors and fumes from indoor pollutants. Respiratory problems including asthma and allergies are on the rise and can be attributed, in part, to mold and mildew spores; outgassing from synthetic fibers used in building materials and carpets; pet hair and dander; outdoor pollens that become trapped indoors; and inadequately vented cooking and food odors, according to Battelle.

Product innovations by 2010 will include advanced air venting, air filtration, and biosensors that help fight humidity, mold, and other indoor pollutants.

2. Home-based medical monitoring, diagnosis, and care — According to Battelle, health-conscious consumers will welcome the ability to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and more in the privacy of their own homes. And, when problems do arise, care will be achievable with the use of the Internet and wireless communications with attending physicians, nurses, and clinics.

According to the researchers, “Rising medical costs and the health care industry’s increasing reliance on home-based care and outpatient procedures will go far toward making this a reality.”

3. Monitoring for home safety and personal protection — Remote home security monitoring will allow home sensors and cameras to transmit pictures and information via the Internet and other wireless devices. In addition to home security, mechanical systems will be monitored more often.

4. Reliable and high-quality power — Before the recent electric power shortages in California, most people took their electricity for granted. Many homes are underpowered for the electric conveniences in use today, according to the institute.

Part of the answer to this problem could rest in home power generators, especially highly efficient microturbines and engines that run on natural gas. Fuel cells also are a solution that will grow in popularity over the next decade, the Battelle team predicted. Equipment that generates both heat and electricity (known as microcombined heating and power) is already used in Europe and is likely to make the ocean crossing by 2010.

5. Whole-house water quality — Pure water has become important to most people; witness the $22 billion bottled water industry and the interest in faucet filters. Municipal water systems are generally safe, but accidents do occur, and they can be deadly.

In the future, the researchers predict that homes will have whole-house water safety systems, new appliances not yet developed to supply the best water for all home uses.

6. Food quality and safe handling, storing, and cooking — The researchers predict that after years of high-convenience foods and multiple product choices, households will shift back to a narrower focus of traditional, tasty, high-quality foods that can be prepared quickly. In aspects of food safety, they predict the development of tools for detecting bacteria in food and water. Foods of the future also may be engineered to have disease-preventing qualities.

7. Don’t want to grow old — The Baby Boomer generation of 78 million, currently at its peak earning and spending years, packs a lot of consumer clout. Combine this with the Baby Boomers’ tendency to be self-conscious about their appearance and health and you’ve got a ready market for related products and services.

8. Battling mites and molds — Related to IAQ, these buggers are hard to get rid of and increasingly are being blamed for various major allergies. Mites thrive in warm, dark, and damp fabrics typically found in bedrooms. Researchers are exploring the ways to kill mites using light and to fight mold by reducing humidity.

9. Drudgery-free housecleaning — There is a great desire among two-career families to reduce the time and drudgery of housecleaning. New products and services can make the difference in the hygiene of a home. Some of those might include a single cleanser for all surfaces and one appliance that can clean all fabrics. Laundry time may be greatly reduced with machines that could wash and dry in the same appliance.

10. Germ-resistant materials, coatings, and fabrics — The same type of coating that keeps stains off the carpet could be put to work keeping bacteria and viruses off countertops. Clean surfaces are easy to reinfect, so homeowners are looking for cleansers that provide lasting protection. Disinfectant treatment and materials might also be built into the surfaces.

With 70 locations throughout the world, Battelle serves 1,500 commercial and government clients and has revenues of nearly $1 billion a year. For more information, visit www.battelle.org (website).

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