KB Home and Well Living Lab Introduce 'Healthy Living' Concept

So how do you define healthy living?

KB Home interior
Living Room, Healthy Living Concept Home.

KB Home

The Well Living Lab (WLL) is a collaboration between Delos, the company that set up the Well Standard, and the Mayo Clinic. They are working with KB Home, one of the biggest homebuilders in the United States, to build "a concept home designed to educate customers on the potential health benefits of a new KB home with health-related products and technologies." According to WLL,

"The Well Living Lab Healthy Home program demonstrates the impact the home environment has on physical health, mental stress, and productivity. It also provides an opportunity to advance research-based discoveries that can improve the personal comfort, resiliency, and overall health and well-being of a home’s occupants."

Treehugger has covered the Well Standard and other Delos real estate concepts, and also KB Home's green healthy home projects, and we have spent a lot of time looking at the question of healthy homes, so we took a virtual tour of this new model home in a Phoenix subdivision.

Mindbreaks Room
Mindbreaks Room.


A major feature of the house is apparently a MindBreaks Room: Which offers a "personalized wellness space that uses immersive audio and visual content intended to increase energy, reduce stress, enhance mood, improve focus and boost performance."

"In the MindBreaks™ microenvironment, we showcase products and technologies that offer a flexible home wellness space that harnesses immersive audio and visual content inspired by nature that has been scientifically proven to improve overall health and wellness. We apply insights from the Well Living Lab's stress and biophilia research to further enhance the home wellness experience."
Window in Mindbreak room
Living Wall and Window in Mindbreak Room.

KB Home

I have to say that this is the kind of thing that has always worried me about Delos and Well Living, that it sounds goopy, more like Gwyneth Paltrow than real science. Because if the point of the Mindbreak room is to connect you with nature using biophilia and circadian lighting, why would you put an expensive and artificial green wall next to a dinky window looking into a brick wall? Why not even try to make a real natural connection, say into the backyard where you can really see the sky and get real light and maybe even a real tree?

High performance for wellness

KB Home

KB Home claims that it is high performance "based on the principle that a home is an integrated system: when the system draws in outside air, it works to reduce indoor air pollutants." On their website they say it meets the EPA Indoor airPlus standard, and "every home includes a high-performance ventilation system that regularly introduces fresh outdoor air." They also promise a well-sealed home and zero-VOC materials and finishes.

Gas range in kitchen

KB Home

But then they show a gas range, with a combo microwave/exhaust hood above.

Well standard on gas

Well Standard

This seems odd, not just because there are piles of peer-reviewed research showing how bad cooking with gas is for your health, but this whole program is built on the foundation of the research for the Well Standard, which flat out bans combustion-based stoves. While researching the size of the exhaust hood (400 CFM) and the BTU output of the range to see if the hood was big enough ( I couldn't find it) I did notice that all gas ranges sold in California come with an obligatory Proposition 65 notice stating that "Appliances that use natural gas, such as ranges, dryers, and hot water heaters, may emit benzene, carbon monoxide or formaldehyde when in use. Benzene is present in natural gas, and carbon monoxide and formaldehyde are created when natural gas is burned." I am sorry to belabor the point, but it does seem kind of important if you are selling a healthy house. But hey, at least the stove and the microwave are WiFi enabled with smart features and a mobile app,

air sensor

KB Home

And at least there is a Kaiterra Sensege Mini air quality monitor that measures PM2.5, CO2 and VOCs hiding behind the ficus. It will warn the occupants when these get too high, which will probably be every time they cook.

Wellness Intelligence

KB Home

The house also comes with a "wellness intelligence system" developed with the Mayo Clinic's Human Physiology Lab, which connects a bunch of Withings monitors, watches, and scales "that work cooperatively to measure your health status and key biometrics easily and unobtrusively right in your home. Using a wellness intelligence ecosystem, we can adjust the home environment to enhance certain aspects of your health, such as sleep, based on research." This is all part of a "Health Remote Checkup microenvironment" which reminds me of an old Marx Brothers movie where Groucho says "Hold the Mayo!" This is perhaps too much sharing of bedroom information.

Floor plan

KB Home

There are things to like in this plan. There is a full bath right near the front door, which is nice to have to wash up as soon as you come in; the hallways are generous enough for aging in place, there are lots of opportunities for cross-ventilation. The floor is a porcelain tile that looks like wood; an aesthetic crime but very easy to keep clean. Door hardware is all anti-bacterial.

Home Office

KB Home

They show a nice "Home Office Reimagined" with "products and technologies that depict elements of a supportive home office, such as ergonomically correct furnishings and flexible office products," none of which seem particularly special, with a VOC-emitting printer that should be in the garage and not by the desk. The home office desk is also only 7 feet, 7 inches from the back of the clothes dryer in the adjacent laundry room, when the Well Standard suggests that nobody should sit within 10 feet of a device drawing 20 amps because of the EMF (electromagnetic force); the Whirlpool dryer draws 45 amps.

As an architect teaching Sustainable Design at Ryerson University, I spend a lot of time on the basics of healthy building and often point to the Well Standard, which is not without its problems and eccentricities but is based on substantive science and research. It stresses the basic issues of air quality, water quality, lighting, stuff that is built into the fabric of the building. KB Home has gone beyond what many builders do by adopting the EPA Indoor airPlus Standard.

Well Stuff

Well Living Lab

In the end, when you look at the contribution of the Well Living Lab, it's stuff. "These four unique microenvironments are informed by Well Living Lab research or that of its collaborators. Each space demonstrates products and technologies* available on the market today or coming to market soon." The asterisk is a disclaimer saying *Use of products and technologies in the microenvironments does not suggest that the WLL has conducted research on or otherwise endorses the products or technologies.

Really, if the Well Living Lab, a collaboration between the Mayo Clinic and Delos, the people behind the Well Standard, don't even endorse the products they are pitching, then I really don't know what they are doing there.

Take the Virtual Tour or watch the video: