HUD Healthy Homes

January 21, 2016

Expanding the Definition of Green: Impacts of Green and Active Living Design on Health in Low Income Housing

The objective of the federal Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Healthy Homes Technical Studies (HHTS) Grant Program is to support research on controlling housing-related health and safety hazards.  From 2010 through 2013 the Rutgers Center for Green Building coordinated a team of researchers at Rutgers and Polytechnic Institute of NYU to collaborate with a South Bronx community development corporation and a group of affordable housing residents to improve health-promoting behaviors and outcomes in their green building.  Interventions that were context-relevant and reviewed by the community-based partners were incorporated at the building as well as individual household levels based on knowledge of the area demographics and information that was collected during interviews and observations.  The greatest building and household exposures related to chronic health concerns were pest infiltration, high concentrations of particulate matter (PM) in many of the apartments form either indoor or outdoor sources, and indications of inadequate ventilation and a “leaky” building envelope.  Also identified were several underutilized resources for healthy activities in the buildings.

Highlights

  • Use by residents of a roof-top garden was increased when programming was included in building activities.
  • An IPM model was revised and provided to building management.  Follow-up pest complaints were lower than baseline complaints.
  • Participating residents reported increased water consumption using reusable water bottles that were distributed.
  • Lower PM findings were observed in apartments that used readily available microfiber mops and dust cloths.
  • Policy recommendations included revisiting building code ventilation requirements for improving indoor air quality

The Rutgers Center for Green Building has been awarded a subsequent HHTS grant to continue work on detecting housing-related hazards using innovative technology.

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