Courtesy VELUX America

People on average spend 90% of each day indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and it seems homeowners are increasingly aware of the toll taken by that disconnect from the natural world.

In a recent YouGov survey commissioned by the VELUX Group, 63% of respondents in the U.S. said on average they spend one hour or less a week in nature, but 88% agreed they would like to spend more time. With so much time spent inside, consumers continue to express increased concern about how their home affects their health. According to Healthy Home Remodeling: Consumer Trends and Contractor Preparedness by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, 30% of all U.S. households voiced worries about the potential for some part of their home to have a negative effect on or pose a risk to their health, and indoor air quality ranked No. 1 among these concerns.

A positive association between exposure to nature and mental health is well-documented in academic studies, an independent scoping study by RAND Europe found. Designing and building homes with connections to nature can provide your customers immeasurable psychological, physical, and aesthetic benefits.

“You don’t have to include a visit to the Grand Canyon or physically touch dirt. Simply viewing nature helps,” says Arie Greenleaf, associate professor of counseling at Seattle University. “As far as we can see, all engagement with nature, even visual not tactile, has an impact on our well-being.”

The YouGov survey, which concluded in April, showed that 71% of respondents in the U.S. think access to nature, daylight, and fresh air has a positive impact on their stress levels, while 69% think it positively affects their mental well-being. In addition, 68% of U.S. respondents said this interaction with nature affects their vitamin D levels and physical health for the better.

With this newfound awareness, homeowners want to curate nature connections in their homes. Here are three ways for builders to create more seamless indoor–outdoor connections in their homes.

1. Add more natural light.
There has been a 9% increase in the number of homeowners planning to add more daylight to their homes, according to VELUX 2018 consumer tracking. Natural light can transform spaces, making them feel more open and brighter. And adding natural light from above with skylights brings in a more ambient type of light that spills further into the middle of rooms. Sky and treetop views create a connection with the outdoors, allowing homeowners to experience not only the day’s changing light but also the passing of the seasons. Integrating glimpses of nature into your architecture and design is worthwhile, whether through windows, skylights, or sliding glass doors.

Increasing the amount of daylight in your homes not only creates pleasant spaces for living, but it also promotes myriad health benefits. According to a review published by the National Research Council Canada, natural light is linked to better sleep cycles by balancing circadian rhythms. In addition, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found that an increased amount of natural light contributed to higher energy levels.

2. Bring in fresh air.
Homes today are typically built and sealed tightly to maximize their energy efficiency, but the cost is stale, polluted, recycled indoor air. Toxin and bacteria levels rise in the air from daily activities, such as cleaning, cooking, and bathing. Opening windows and skylights on a regular basis creates air flow that refreshes the home’s interior.

As smart home technology continues to gain in popularity, consider including the ability for automated home airing. This is an automated process that monitors conditions reported from an internet-connected weather station and opens skylights or blinds via sensors as needed when indoor carbon dioxide, humidity, or temperature levels are unhealthy.

Kitchens and bathrooms are rooms frequently in need of fresh air as moisture tends to build up from cooking and bathing. Ventilating these spaces will contribute to the freshness and overall health of your home, and some research suggests that feeling air flow on the skin could also boost well-being.

3. Incorporate natural and earthy textures and colors.
Another way to connect indoor and outdoor spaces is by including interior design elements that emulate nature. Use earthy textures like wood and stone to provide hints of the natural world. Unfinished wood shelving or accessories and stone surfaces for countertops and side tables can add to the overall natural feel of the space. Incorporating plants indoors brings a dose of nature while also helping air quality, and the theme can be continued throughout the home by using botanically inspired patterns on area rugs, wallpaper, pillows, and drapery.

Creating spaces with seamless and functional indoor–outdoor connections not only makes for healthier homes but also homes that are comfortable, enjoyable, and perfect for living.