Homes on residential street

Healthy Homes Research Thrust

The health issues caused by home designs and features or its misuse or poor performance is serious. One of the major health risks in homes particularly in the recent past has been the lead content in some materials such as coatings (e.g., paints) that could bring about lead poisoning particularly in children. Other major health issues in homes are those related to allergies and asthma. In general, excessive humidity at homes in the form of air moisture content, measured as relative humidity, brings about the conditions for mold growth and allergens such as dust mite and pests that cause allergies or asthma, particularly in children.

The two primary causes of poor indoor air quality leading to illnesses are traced to more air-tight homes to conserve energy but without proper ventilation system, and the use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, finishes, and cleaning chemicals. Air-tight homes do not get much fresh air and the trapped air will have increased pollutants concentration. Higher humidity in homes due to leaks and uncontrolled sources can also lead to increased concentration of allergens and more excessive mold growth. Unwanted moisture in homes can be controlled in various ways including fixing leakage/seepage, using exhaust fans and dehumidifiers, raising the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture could condense, clean carpets thoroughly and regularly as carpets can absorb moisture and provide a place for pollutants to grow. Mold can grow if mold spores land on a wet surface and stay there long enough with the right temperature. Molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxic substances.  Another area of interest related to health and living aspects is aging-in-place and accessibility. There is significant interest on the part of the elderly to live in their own homes as long as they can and avoid moving to nursing homes. Aside from the elderly, many homes need to provide accessibility for people with mobility disability. In response to this need, new housing developments for the elderly provide features of particular interest to people with mobility disability. Such features include ramps for wheelchair entering the house, wider door frames and hallways, wider bathrooms and room doors, elevators, devices to help moving from one floor to another (chair lifts), to name a few.



The Pennsylvania Housing Research Center serves the home building industry and the residents of Pennsylvania by improving the quality and affordability of housing.

We conduct applied research, foster the development and commercialization of innovative technologies, and transfer appropriate technologies to the housing community.

Pennsylvania Housing Research Center

219 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2341

Fax: 814-863-7304