Featured Article

Poor Home Maintenance = Increased Health Risks

A survey of privatized housing units at 200 military facilities has an important lesson for all. Poor maintenance habits will make you sick! July’s newsletter article summarizes our new report on the relationships between environmental illnesses, mold, maintenance, HVAC (comfort conditioning), plumbing, building structure, and many other issues. Read our full report (linked at the end of the summary) to learn more details from a unique, large scale survey conducted by the Military Family Advisory Network, and our analyses of MFAN survey results!

Poor Home Maintenance = Increased Health Risks

July 20, 2019

MFAN (Military Family Advisory Network) survey data from 16,000 respondents living in privatized military housing are used to examine trends and linkages between environmental illness and home maintenance. The MFAN data was collected from 200 US facilities spread across North America and Hawaii in response to the MFAN organization’s investigation of dissatisfaction in privatized military housing. Privatized military housing management firms self-report high satisfaction rates (80%) to the US military that conflicts with dissatisfaction reports received by MFAN from housing residents. We use the MFAN survey data as a reflection on rental housing in general, and assert that observed trends and relations are valid beyond privatized military housing.

Environmental illnesses are strongly linked to visible mold. Mold occurrence correlates with HVAC (comfort conditioning) systems, plumbing, and building structure problems. HVAC, plumbing and building structure issues are directly linked with survey respondents’ dissatisfaction with maintenance. And, housing residents’ dissatisfaction with maintenance is a strong factor in residents’ overall housing satisfaction. In other words, improved maintenance practices that reduce HVAC, plumbing and building structure problems will significantly improve resident health and housing satisfaction.

Housing dissatisfaction increases as home occupant income decreases. Lower income housing residents receive poorer maintenance with a resulting environmental illness increase. In addition to higher levels of home occupant dissatisfaction and increased prevalence of environmental illness, lower income housing residents are taxed with higher out-of-pocket expenses related to self-remediated health problems, maintenance fixes, and elevated utility bills. A destabilizing set of circumstances forms in which the hidden expenses of lower cost housing cut disproportionately into a household’s precious discretionary income.

Smart ventilation and comfort conditioning systems represent disruptive technologies that can improve housing maintenance efficiency and lower maintenance costs. Estimates of the value of smart housing technologies and potential environmental illness and energy savings are discussed.

Trends and relationships among survey topics and housing satisfaction are summarized below.

1) 1 out of every 4 homes reporting visible mold also report someone suffering from an environmental illness.
2) Approximately 40% of privatized military homes report mold and 10% report environmental illness.
3) Homes in warm, dry climates have less mold than homes in warm, humid climates, however, homes in all climatic conditions are susceptible to high levels of mold and environmental illness.
4) Mold occurrence is related to HVAC (comfort conditioning) issues and plumbing problems with nearly 0.8% increase in mold for every 1% increase in either HVAC or plumbing difficulties.
5) An increase of 0.6 to 0.7% in maintenance dissatisfaction occurs for every 1% increase in either HVAC or plumbing issues.
6) Overall housing satisfaction is directly related to income with a satisfaction grade of 2.4 for $2000 per month income earners and nearly 3.0 for incomes of $12,000 per month (based on a 5 point scale with 3.0 representing neutral, 1=very negative, 5=very positive).
a. The overall satisfaction grade for 200 military facilities is 2.43.
7) Housing residents’ “very negative” responses are twice as high (20% versus 10%) for low income households than high income households, while “very positive” responses to housing conditions are half as great (2.5% versus 5%) for lower income households.
8) For the military in particular, and rental management firms in general, improved maintenance practices that reduce HVAC (comfort conditioning), plumbing and structural problems will significantly improve resident housing satisfaction, decrease environmental illness, and decrease home occupant out-of-pocket expenses.
a. Maintenance dissatisfaction has strongest cross correlation coefficient (-0.56) with overall housing satisfaction indicating the best way to improve housing satisfaction is improved maintenance.
b. Other survey topics strongly related to housing satisfaction are: paying out-of-pocket expense (-0.37), management lying (-0.35), plumbing problems (-0.34), management issues (-0.3), weather damage to housing (-0.25), and climate control issues (-0.20).
c. Maintenance is the key to improving correlation topics in b. Whether housing management is “lying”, or disgruntled residents are interpreting excuses and lack of maintenance response as lying, residents will be more satisfied with more effective maintenance.
9) Environmental illness most strongly correlates to mold (0.69), HVAC (climate control, 0.42), out-of-pocket expenses (0.36), insect pests (0.35), building structure (0.34), and plumbing (0.27). “Praise” of housing comments decrease with increased environmental illness (-0.34).
10) The occurrence of mold is strongly related to building structure problems (0.50), plumbing (0.38), HVAC issues (0.34), and insect pests (0.35). Interestingly, mold occurrence is weakly correlated to maintenance, indicating a higher order or indirect linkage of maintenance dissatisfaction to mold through HVAC, plumbing and building structure problems. Note that building structure problems, as well, may be the result of damage from leaking HVAC and plumbing systems.

Rental housing residents suffer from poor maintenance practices as building owners seek to maximize profit by minimizing cost. Housing residents and the populace as a whole are affected by poor maintenance elevating health and energy costs. Today’s “smart” technologies, such as CERV2 smart ventilation and comfort conditioning systems are disruptive technologies that can decrease maintenance costs while improving indoor environmental quality.

The results of this report identify pathways for the US military leadership to improve privatized housing problems. Improved maintenance coupled with smart ventilation and comfort conditioning technologies will provide the most bang for the buck in improved housing satisfaction and reduced operating costs. Military leadership would also gain direct access to privatized military housing performance through smart monitoring and control of ventilation and comfort conditioning.

Home owners also benefit by the lessons learned from the MFAN survey and this report’s analyses. No matter how “green” you have designed and constructed a home, a poorly maintained home will make its occupants sick and increase energy usage.

High performance Vermod Homes have it all:
Smart ventilation, high performance minisplit heat pump, and heat pump water heating for the best air quality, excellent comfort, and high energy efficiency. The CERV2 provides online diagnostics and OTA (over-the-air upgrading) for responsive maintenance

Read our full report on environmental illness and maintenance:

Feb, 2019

Report - Poor Home Maintenance = Increased Health Risks

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