Housing Innovation Alliance's Podcast

Clean Air, Water + the Future of Healthier Homes with Michael Don Ham

November 06, 2020 Housing Innovation Alliance Season 3 Episode 4
Housing Innovation Alliance's Podcast
Clean Air, Water + the Future of Healthier Homes with Michael Don Ham
Show Notes Transcript

Calling all homeowners, builders, employers and business owners- this episode is packed with valuable information and addresses how science is showing us just how profound an impact our indoor environments have on our health.

Two self-proclaimed "Healthy Home Nerds," Betsy Scott and Michael Don Ham,  Pure365, provide a deeper insight as to why consuming clean air and water, just as we do with food, is so important for our long term health and well-being...

Learn more about Pure365 and connect with Michael

Many thanks to our partners at the University of Denver for their editing and post-production talents, specifically Lija Miller and Lisette Zamora-Galarza.

The University of Denver Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, teaches the full life cycle of the built environment. From integrated project leadership skills to a cohesive understanding of the built environment ––experience the only school of its kind!

"Upbeat Party" is brought to you by Scott Holmes, songwriter from Free Music Archive

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Speaker 1 (00:06):

You're listening to the Housing Innovation Alliance podcast in partnership with the university of Denver's Franklin L burns school of real estate and construction management. The housing innovation Alliance is a nationwide community of game changers. Driving the future of home delivery through crowd accelerated innovation. We represent thought leaders from Burt to dweller with a focus on the production builders business environment.

Speaker 2 (00:33):

Hi, I'm Betsy Scott with the housing innovation Alliance. We're in the midst of our healthy home series, bringing you insights from builders, designers, technology, experts, and others, and how to deliver healthier homes and communities. I'm excited to be sitting here today with Michael Don ham, Michael co-founded refresh smart home, a company that pioneered the integration of healthy home solutions within the smart home industry. Refresh is the top rated Google mess service provider in the U S and made the consumer electronics pro top 100 in 2019. He recently co-founded peers, three 65, a spinoff from the global wellness brand pure wellness, which was awarded the Cornell university innovation award as a top hospitality amenity that counts the Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt as some of its hotel partners. He's now bringing pure three 60 fives expertise to the residential market. Michael is a member of Forbes technology council, the consumer technology association, smart home division, and the COVID-19 task force of the well building Institute. Welcome Michael, thank you

Speaker 3 (01:40):

For having events. He pleasure to be with you. So

Speaker 2 (01:42):

Let's start off with a softball. Why are you passionate about creating healthier homes?

Speaker 3 (01:49):

Well, I, you know, I decided in college to major in kinesiology. I actually minored in nutrition. So, uh, inherently I've always been interested in health. My mom was a nurse and she's always been cognizant of how foods affect our health. So paid a lot attention, feeding us. The Trisha is clean food and supplements, always in a household around healthy food. And, uh, the reason why I'm so passionate about what I'm doing now is, uh, over time reading the study, the research, and especially now post COVID, we're understanding the science behind how built in the built environments affect our health physically. So, uh, things like air quality, water quality, and these are invisible things. So people don't necessarily think about it, but we're breathing in 23,000 breaths a day. So if that air is not clean, it's coming into our bodies and it's going to have a long-term effect on our health. So, uh, after seeing all these things, I just, I just felt we need to do something to educate people and then to put things in place where we're optimizing the built environment for health.

Speaker 2 (02:56):

Great. So you're currently on the board of the first company that you co-founded, which is refresh smart home as a third party integrator your experience. There did a lot to inform your latest venture, pure three 65. So can you tell us a little bit more about your role at refresh and how it influenced your perspective on healthy homes?

Speaker 3 (03:17):

Sure, sure. So I refresh, I mean, I did everything from going into addicts and, uh, doing more quality tests, installing thermostats, putting in technology and everything from the ground up. And so it gave me a very good perspective on how homes work. First of all, inspected all elements of the home, trying to figure out what's wrong with the home. So, uh, gave me great insight that, that experience itself, and then being able to integrate everything. There are people in the population that are very in tune with technology and others, no matter how much you teach them, they're just not gonna get it. So you gotta have something that works in behind the scenes. And so my time at refresh was all about curating the best products and getting them to work together, to provide the best result and with pure three 65 and just the standing and has in the wellness industry, it's a great platform to scale and bring access to more people, the wider population to all of these great, uh, latest technologies that will help them live healthy in the spaces that they live in.

Speaker 2 (04:24):

Great. So what building systems, and you mentioned a little bit of this a few minutes ago, do you view as a, as critical to delivering more healthy living environments?

Speaker 3 (04:35):

Yeah, that's a great question. And I think a lot of people are starting to understand more and more now with post COVID, but when it comes to air quality, it's really, we try to focus on three main components. The first is you need to have great fresh air ventilation. Our homes are built tighter than ever now. You know, everything from sofas to bedding, to like paints flooring, they all off gas chemicals. And if you're not getting the fresh air from the outside, you're going to start breathing them in. So it's really about how do we keep the bad stuff out of our bodies, as best as we can. That's really the main point out of everything. And so ventilation allows a lot of the dilution of these bad chemicals also brings down the CO2 levels that impact our cognitive functioning. And then the other thing with COVID you need advanced filtration.

Speaker 3 (05:23):

Now just the basic cake box filter that most people put in their systems. It's not good enough anymore because the dangerous, smaller ultra fine particles are slipping through. They're going back into the environment and we're breathing it in this includes microorganisms like COVID. So these days, when you have an advanced filtration system that stops all of those things in their tracks, it cleans your environment. So that's really important. And the third thing is which still needs more attention, but humidity control when we keep humidity between 40 and 60, it reduces the of viral growth in the environment, as well as mold growth. So when you go above that, you're susceptible to mold. When you go below 40, 30, 20 viruses grow more rapidly. So those are the three main elements. And when you have hardware in place in your home or office or work, you're creating, you're optimizing the environment for your health.

Speaker 2 (06:22):

And, uh, so really is that sweet spot. There's a danger zone on either sides really important in humidity. And I know that's a, that's something that, that people aren't, don't always pay enough attention to

Speaker 3 (06:34):

Very, uh, low exposure up until now, but we hope to educate more and more people that that one thing could be affecting their health. And it's relatively a simple fix.

Speaker 2 (06:44):

So when you were with refresh and, and what you're doing now, um, in pure three 65, what best practices do you try to instill in working with builders?

Speaker 3 (06:55):

Well, with refresh, we mainly work with consumers and homeowners, not so much boulders, and right now we're starting with builders. So we're kind of getting the lay of the land and builders are so many components to actually adding an offering wellness technology. There has to be a good coworking culture with the trades and all these things, but more and more builders that we speak to, they see it as a huge value add offering. It's really about educating them on how to present that to their prospective home buyer. And that actually the, the implementation of this wellness technology. So we're still early, early in the game, but the interest is high and we're just kind of in the education phase now. And once builders understand how these solutions and systems can add value and create healthy homes that effectively for the homeowner, that's what they want.

Speaker 3 (07:48):

So how do they convey that message? And then once that message is conveyed, how do you maintain the validity of that message? So, best thing is through data through sensors. So what we want to do is we want to create a certification where the builders can say our homes, uh, keep the particular levels, half the amount of the allergy guidelines or something to that effect where there's a baseline without any baseline. You can say whatever you want, you can't live to live up to that and show the value. So I think with builders, as we move forward, it's really about creating that baseline and then delivering on that baseline. That's the key.

Speaker 2 (08:26):

Yeah, absolutely. I'm not sure how familiar you are with some other people in the industry who are looking at this as well, but you might want to talk to the folks at Lawrence, Berkeley national lab, if you haven't. I know there w actually been talking to Brett singer and Ian Walker about, you know, what they're looking to do kind of measuring indoor air quality, validating, indoor air quality too. So that might be, uh, a good collaborative opportunity for you since that's an integral part of what you're looking at.

Speaker 3 (08:57):

We'd love for you to make an introduction there.

Speaker 2 (08:59):

Absolutely. I would love to do that. So, you know, with refresh, just to give people kind of, you know, when you and I first talked, you gave me the bigger, the bigger picture of kind of what you see your role as at refresher, we're an integrator and advisor. And forgive me, I'm going to say an expert, healthy home mechanic. How does it work together if it's broken, how do we fix it with pure three 65? You're taking things a bit to the next level. And you mentioned the concept of an ecosystem to me when we first spoke. So can you tell us a little bit more about that, the vision of where you're planning to go?

Speaker 3 (09:36):

Yeah, sure. So with refresh, it was very great when, whenever we were able to help a family, uh, create a healthier environment, but you know, we're really about touching as many people as possible because there's a dire need. People are getting sick. The cancer rates are one and two. Now allergy asthma levels are constantly growing. So in order to have an impact, you gotta have partners. And, uh, you have, have to have a lot of collaboration with people who have the same mindset to make an impact on people. And what we're trying to do with peer three 65, it's an established brand in the hospitality industry. We've just partnered with the pure tech Alliance and they serve 6,000 home integrators in, uh, in all 50 States. So we're here. We only have so much time on this earth to make an impact. And so really our mission right now is to partner with people who understand wellness, who want to get it out into the market, to people who are looking for it to deliver on the promises that we make. So pure three 65 is much is on a much greater platform to affect many, many more lives. And that's why we're, we're really excited about it.

Speaker 2 (10:46):

Fantastic. What are you focusing on initially from a performance perspective?

Speaker 3 (10:51):

So we always take a look at the science. And so, uh, I kind of talked about the air field, advanced filtration, the, uh, ventilation and the, and the humidity control. So there are all baseline numbers there, lots of research studies on like example the 40 to 60 humidity. So what we want to do with our platform is just like at home, you probably set the thermostat at a certain temperature, right? I am able to set my humidity at 45 or 50 based on where you live, what what's the most ideal, and I can set it and forget it, right? CO2 levels we know outside is in the 415 PPM range and that's the outdoor CO2 levels. And we know what CO2 levels are dangerous for us. Starting at nine hundreds, we lose 15% of our decision-making capacity. When it goes to like 1200, we lose 50%, right?

Speaker 3 (11:42):

So we want to keep it as close to the four or 500 range. I mean, some places are going to be difficult, but with the hardware available now, it's totally possible. Keep it in the 500, 600 range where we're optimizing the indoor environment for health. So we know the numbers through science and our solutions are to hit those numbers. And then you have the sensors to show when those numbers go up and then our system we're in the integration field. So our job is really to automate, whenever those levels go up, kick on the systems and bring them back down. It's just like a thermostat for temperature.

Speaker 2 (12:20):

Okay. So as a homeowner, how do you activate the settings that are best for your, for where you're located? Is it like a Google maps, GPS kind of deal or, or what, what's the approach on that?

Speaker 3 (12:35):

Our approach on there is really the outdoor air. So obviously if you live in a smack metropolis, the outdoor is going to be worse. We always want to be comparing the indoor air versus the outdoor air, because that's a good barometer, right? So if you have great outdoor air, you don't need to buy expensive ventilation systems. You can just open your windows. But the problem with that is like the cold and hot seasons. You don't want to open your windows because you're bringing in humidity or the cold. So that's why there are things in place like ERBs and HRVs to circumvent that. But just to get back to your question, the key is if you know the outdoor air, you have a barometer of what your indoor air is like. So you always want your indoor air to be better than your outdoor air. That's really our benchmark

Speaker 2 (13:22):

Sounds good. So the success of a healthy home solution, you've talked about this a little bit, depends on how easy it is for the person to manage. So you, you gave me a little preview of that when we last chatted and it was a color-coded system that I thought was pretty ingenious. So can you share with us what the user experience is like and how are you using technology to make the management process similar? So a bit of what you talked about in terms of self-fulfilling system, where you kind of set it and forget it, give us a little insight there.

Speaker 3 (13:56):

So we have very true effective solutions. And right now we're in the process of refining our platform. But the way that it's going to look like for an end user is, you know, based on the science, we have those numbers, right? So if you're in the 40, 60, it'll show green, if it goes into a higher range, it'll be moderate. It'll go yellow. It's just very like your traffic lights, right? Green and red. We just want to make it as simple as possible. And we have auto triggers on our app because we're integrating everything from the sensors to the smart thermostat, to the hardware solutions that are controlled by the smart thermostat. You know, like in the settings, you can have it where if anything goes into yellow, you want it to auto trigger your systems to deal with that issue. Uh, other people who want to save energy, they may go, okay, I want to auto trigger when it hits red, because they don't want to constantly be running their systems.

Speaker 3 (14:53):

I don't know about that because I always recommend you want to be in the green at all times, but we want to make it simple like that. And then, uh, kind of like healthy home nerds like you and I will be looking at this all day, like, where am I at? That's part of the education process. These are things that are in our mind, but if you're like green and you're so happy with your indoor air quality, we want to make a link where you can share it on your social media that has little stats on why air quality is so important. That's a way to send the messaging out just as much as providing solutions that people, we want to use the platform to educate on a widespread basis as well.

Speaker 2 (15:30):

It's so, um, part of getting these things to work as behavior change, and it's so hard to change our behaviors, we've seen a lot being done in terms of gamifying things and turning that into, into a way to get people to more actively so, and progressively use their systems. So that's a good thing that you're looking at that I think people will appreciate that I'm healthier than you are

Speaker 3 (15:55):

A game of fighting essentially means we're all competitive in nature. We want to be the best. So that's part of it too. We want to use that to actually inspire people, to think about their health as a per case to their home or office. And then that element of gamification really just brings it to the next level. Makes it easier.

Speaker 2 (16:14):

Absolutely. Absolutely. You mentioned indoor air quality. You're also looking at water quality right now, aren't you

Speaker 3 (16:20):

Sure those are the top two things that consumers are looking for. There are other categories, certainly we're going to continue to build off of through chime, but air and water and lighting are the top three that people are looking for right now.

Speaker 2 (16:34):

Okay. Um, I'm sure you get this a lot. I asked you this the first time we chatted, we just recently had the folks from Dallas, join us for an expert panel. They mentioned air, water, and light as well. Those are certainly core. You talk to those folks, you collaborate with them, in fact. So how are you thinking differently or what are you doing that you think is unique to you? For those who know de Los already

Speaker 3 (16:57):

De Los and there they are bringing a lot of attention to the space and the importance of the built environment. So we are always going to support them that they created the international well building Institute, the well certification, all best in class. And, uh, like I said, we're, we're always supportive of that. If anyone can be reached and educated, we're, we're all behind it. Uh, in terms of what, how are we different? I don't think we're that different. We're all basing our decisions, uh, for solutions on what the science is saying. I mean, Day-Lewis is a hugely successful. They're over a billion dollar valuation now, right? And they have their own lab. I mean, we have our own lab too. And we test a lot of things. And our, our philosophy is really about getting the end result to be as best as possible. Uh, that's our North star, because we can talk all want about health and wellness. If we're not able to provide hardware and solutions that actually can bring that optimization to the home, then we're just marketers. You know, we see ourselves as solution providers. We know the science behind, you know, health and the impact of the built environment. And our, our mission is to bring the best, best solution and verifiable solutions to the market. So it's about transparency. See, and not hide hiding behind marketing, but it's actually about showing and delivering on our promise. And that's really what our philosophy is about.

Speaker 2 (18:27):

Great. How do you see the pure three 65 platform evolving as you get deeper and deeper into this?

Speaker 3 (18:34):

So right now, as I mentioned, we're really focused on creating an easy user experience, easily identifiable with providing insights and education that are easy to digest, but with any other sector of technology, whether it's autonomous driving or even like 5g, and with computing power getting stronger and stronger, we want to walk the fine line of privacy, but we also feel that data can help really drive health in buildings. And so the amount of data that we're collecting through the sensors, we can take that and make a huge impact with governmental agency. We can show them, this is what's going on in your city. You can see the trends based on this data. We have, we suggest you make these in these changes. So we're not just about, uh, impacting an individual home. We're talking about the greater population in the U S and I think with AI and machine learning, able to disseminate the data that we're capturing, obviously with privacy in mind, then we can make even a greater impact on society. I think

Speaker 2 (19:40):

Absolutely agree. And you kind of answered my next question and took me really well into the one, following that for the healthy home series, we have a bigger vision in mind on the Alliance front. We believe that health will, we will become the new energy efficiency in the housing industry over the next five years for a number of reasons, but we think it's going to create additional ripple effects on how we design, build, validate market value and deliver housing. That it's kind of ripe for that. So I'm trying to get everyone's thoughts on this subject, whether they agree with us or not. What do you think

Speaker 3 (20:15):

As we know with energy efficiency 20 years ago, 30 years ago, you know, 40 half of our energy is from our home, our heating and cooling, right? And when we waste energy, especially fossil fuel based energy, it just requires us to use more and it impacts the environment. So that's why things like electrification are so important and the government has recognized that. So they have the federal tax rebate for solar panels and geothermal and heat pumps. So my perspective on that is, Hey, let's put together certifications for health in the building, in buildings and homes, and let's get the federal government to invest in that and give credits because in the end, you're going to get less sick people, less burden on the medical or infrastructure that we've seen post COVID, what it can do, right. It can be imitate the economy. So I would love to work with you and other players in the industry to work with governments and to create a tax credits and systems where people are incentivized, even though they don't have the disposable income, it's a way for them to outfit their homes with wellness technology. I think that's a huge thing that we should all be thinking about because technology is not just for the luxury homeowner in the wealthy. We want to bring it all the way down to all of society, all income levels, and the best way to do that is through these government programs.

Speaker 2 (21:43):

Absolutely. And you know, we've got, we've been talking to builders who are developing communities around health with various aspects of it, both on the technology side and on the social and community side where they're saying, Hey, if, if we're doing this in the same way, as, uh, as a business might get a better rate on health insurance for their employees, shouldn't you as the homeowner, when you've done something proactively to change your built environment, that's responsible. And I think it might be the well building Institute who says for 80 to 90% of your health, health outcomes are based on your environment, your home first, then your community, that your homes in, and then the broader environment that you encounter. I mean, that's dramatic to think about if that's true and we need to reinvest in our healthcare infrastructure, what opportunities might there be? We look at this more directly.

Speaker 3 (22:41):

So this is a, you know, I'm a realist, so it's not going to happen overnight. But if all the stakeholders in this industry band together, including well certified, uh, you know, the well building Institute and, and we constantly push the envelope, I think it, it can be turned into a reality in a lot shorter time than we can, we can imagine than we imagine now, but it's going to impact positively not only our health, but the economy or the amount of job growth, that's going to be connected to that. So, yeah, we should continue with this conversation. Uh, we will, we will follow and we will be a big, big proponent of it, for sure.

Speaker 2 (23:19):

You know, you mentioned a couple of times that you're still in the startup phase. I think one of the values that we offer is as the alliances, we're an innovation focused community. So we have thought leaders from all across the housing value chain, we say from dirt to dweller, we're all homeowners or home dwellers, but builders, developers, architects, investors, manufacturers, market analysts, and really the whole gambit. So, you know, we'll introduce you to LBNL, that's a given and, you know, there are other things that we could do, but how could we be part of your journey as you continue to focus on healthy homes?

Speaker 3 (23:53):

Well, I think it's so important to communicate and, uh, create a collaborative effort with institutions like yours, because we're so focused on what we're trying to provide to the market. We're like in the forest, right? And sometimes we need to step out of the forest to be able to see the bigger picture, think outside the box and then continue to push and bring value to the industry. And so that's why we, we take time like this, to collaborate and speak with people like you. And I think it's only beneficial to like, uh, collaborate with as many people as possible. Sometimes it's not so easy, cause we're all pressed for time, but it always, I think we make a commitment to a lot, some of our time to constantly talk with people in the industry. So it's an honor and a pleasure to be speaking with you about all of these things.

Speaker 2 (24:42):

Well, and I'm excited that you found me and, you know, I would be remiss if I didn't, especially if CR hero from a Meritage is listening to this. If I didn't ask, if I didn't ask you, so you, so you, uh, actually reached out to me cause you were working on a project with him.

Speaker 3 (24:58):

Yeah. Hi, I had the pleasure of meeting CR about a year, almost two years ago now. And, uh, you know, we were talking to him about some of the solutions we had. We were in his home and, uh, we're talking about his vision home in, in Seattle. So people like CR who are industry leaders and he's a building scientist, they can really have a huge impact and we need as many of these impact people in the industry to push things forward. It's great to be collaborating with someone like CR

Speaker 2 (25:27):

Fantastic. I'm very excited to watch what you do and to be part of, you know, connecting you with, with folks in our community, anything, any way that you want people to reach out and contact you, we'll put that together and make sure that we share it with our community as well. But in the meantime, thank you so much for your time today and telling us about what you're up to and for proactively reaching out to me, I'm always looking for people who are doing innovative things in our space, and we are as a community. And, and that's really kind of where our builders and developers lean toward as well. So I'm excited to introduce you to everyone and, and thanks again for your time.

Speaker 3 (26:05):

Thank you, Betsy. And I'm looking forward to more fruitful conversations

Speaker 1 (26:13):

On behalf of the Housing Innovation Alliance and the University of Denver, this is Dr. Eric Hall. Thank you for being part of our journey. This is where innovation calls home.