“For the better part of 100,000 years, the human condition has adapted to certain surrounding environmental conditions,” says Paul Scialla, founder and CEO of wellness real estate and technology company Delos. “For the first time ever, we have the opportunity to have surrounding environmental conditions adapt to the human condition.”
This is the remarkable proposition for DARWIN, the Delos Automated Residential Wellness Intelligence Network. But it’s also an explicit reference to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.
“We now live in a manufactured environment with artificial light and less-than-pure air,” Scialla says. “DARWIN looks to bring the home environment back to a calibrated state of the natural elements that we’ve spent most of our human evolution with.” These include pure air, pure water, and lighting that syncs with occupants’ circadian rhythms.
It’s easiest to think of DARWIN as a system of systems with individual components produced by different companies, vetted for their compatibility and ultimately optimized through DARWIN’s proprietary algorithms and sensor technologies. The aim is to create living spaces that help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and enhance overall well-being. Home automation systems by Crestron, Lutron, Savant, and Control4 are currently part of the DARWIN ecosystem, and Scialla expects the product and manufacturer catalog will grow as more DARWIN-compliant components come on line.
Backed by over seven years of research, DARWIN is appropriate for all segments of the housing market, from mass market to luxury, Scialla says. It publicly launched Sept. 1 in Australia as a standard feature in several thousand new units from one of the country’s largest production home builders. While the company has already been involved in a few dozen custom homes in California, its formal entrance to the U.S. market will be early 2019 in Las Vegas as part of the KB Home ProjeKt—a demonstration home from KB Home, BUILDER, and KTGY Architecture + Planning—that will be open to attendees of the Consumer Electronics Show in January and the International Builders’ Show in February.
Manny Gonzalez, the lead architect on the show home and managing principal of the Los Angeles office of KTGY, says the system will be a critical part of the health-focused home. He especially likes its real-time data collection, which will monitor air and water quality and provide automatic remediation as needed (see graphic for some of the environmental concerns DARWIN seeks to improve). “Now that energy efficiency and sustainability have become a part of our building codes, ‘total wellness’ has become the new ‘green,’” he says.
DARWIN sensors read and detect the levels of toxins and pollutants inside a home. When they’re above harmful thresholds, the system “speaks” to the HVAC, which increases filtration and remediates the air. All of this is seen by the homeowner via displays on smartphones, tablets, or personal computers. “There’s really no question as to the health benefits of having measurable cleaner air inside your home,” Scialla says. Similarly, a three-stage filtration system filters the water from every tap and showerhead.
DARWIN’s lighting settings promote health by stimulating hormones for energy and sleep, and by simulating the sun patterns. This can help the body balance the circadian rhythm, allowing for deeper sleep at night and more energy during the day. “We get too little light during the day, and too much light at night,” Scialla says. “None of us are sleeping as deeply as we should.”
DARWIN’s lighting controls are even tunable for individual situations such as jet lag. “You can engineer the type of light the body is exposed to and settings can enable a faster adjustment to different time zones,” he says.
Scialla notes that everything about DARWIN is rooted in research: “It took a tremendous amount of science—talking to doctors, and engineers, and architects—merging the health sciences with the building sciences to do this right.”
While many recent automation efforts have started in the commercial sector—and Scialla doesn’t explicitly rule out the launch of a commercial variation—DARWIN has been conceived principally for residential adoption, and its initial costs are lower than some might think.
At a price of 1% or 2% of a home’s total construction cost, it’s “contributing meaningful increases to the bottom line for builders and developers,” he says. These costs could be recouped by buyers wiling to pay extra for a health-focused home. While it’s too early to have specific DARWIN numbers, Scialla notes “there are clear premiums being paid for our ‘wellness real estate’ projects.” Studies have shown a price premium of 6% to 26% on wellness-infused projects in both commercial and residential realms.
The DARWIN platform promises much—starting with its very name. “We feel the nomenclature is quite powerful—and representative of this massive paradigm shift that we can enable,” Scialla says. Time, as Charles Darwin would know, will tell.
These HIVE 50 Innovators will be honored at the HIVE conference, to be held November 28-29 in Austin, Texas, during a reception and dinner. Register now to attend. Take a look at all this year's 50 innovations here. And, don’t forget to vote for your favorite HIVE 50 innovation with the Peoples’ Choice Award, which will be announced at the HIVE 50 Honors dinner.