A High-Tech System to Make Homes More Healthy

Published November 20th 2019

By Shivani Vora for The New York Times

A High-Tech System to Make Homes More Healthy

Delos is what’s known as a “wellness real estate” brand. Founded in New York in 2012, it aims to make homes healthier places to live by installing a system that monitors and controls a property’s air and water quality and lighting.

Delos introduced the technology, called Darwin Home Wellness Intelligence (Darwin), in Australia last fall.

Darwin is operated through a Wi-Fi-enabled tablet that resembles an iPad and displays metrics on conditions across the home. Properties with the system are constructed with air quality sensors and filters that detect and remove impurities like pollution and smoke. They also have water purifiers that get rid of chlorine, heavy metals and other particles from tap water.

Darwin’s lighting component is intended to mimic natural light patterns. Properties have blackout shades that open to natural light in the morning (residents can set a designated time), and in the evening the shades automatically close, and lights in the home gradually dim to simulate nightfall outside.

Delos’s chief executive, Paul Scialla, said Darwin is meant to counteract the effects of spending too much time inside.

“We’re indoors for most of our lives, and while we may not be able to change that, Darwin gives you the ability to change your environment,” he said.

The company joined two Australian real estate developers, Lateral Estate and Simonds, for the venture, and properties equipped with Darwin are now on sale in suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.

“Australia is a trailblazer in wellness real estate and started taking it seriously almost two decades ago, before it was a worldwide trend,” said Beth McGroarty, the research director for the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit organization for the wellness industry. “It’s no surprise that Delos is making its international launch there.”

According to statistics from the institute, wellness real estate is a $134 billion market globally and is projected to increase to almost $200 billion by 2022.

Australia’s slice of the market is valued at $9.5 billion, making it the third largest in the world behind the United States and China.

The number of wellness communities in Australia has increased significantly in the last five years, Ms. McGroarty said, with more than 100 either completed or in development, at a range of prices. Examples include Augustine Heights, a community in Queensland with affordable homes, and Aldinga Arts Ecovillage, a 40-acre complex in South Australia consisting partly of farmland.

Not many are equipped with such high-tech systems as Darwin, but these communities offer wellness in other ways: growing produce for residents, for example, or providing outdoor space and fitness classes.

Delos’s projects in Australia also involve both luxury and lower-cost properties.

At the more affordable end, the company is working with Simonds, a large home builder, on residences in the state of Victoria.

Simonds’s Darwin-equipped homes are already for sale in several suburbs in the Melbourne area including Lyndhurst, a middle-class neighborhood about 25 miles southeast of the city, and Point Cook, about 15 miles to the southwest.

The properties have a contemporary aesthetic, with features like large windows, blond wood floors, white color tones and stainless steel finishes.

Although outdoor space is limited, they are 3,700 square feet inside and have three or four bedrooms. Their average price is $240,000. Prospective buyers can tour one of 14 model homes scattered around the suburbs, marked by signs with the tagline “Wellness Lives Here.”

The chief executive of Simonds’s holding company, Rhett Simonds, said his company had sold about 1,000 Darwin homes since last September (about one-third of its total annual sales in Australia) and that, by the end of the year, it planned to have Darwin installed in every home it builds in the country. “It has been a huge success for us and welcomed by our buyers,” he said.

At the higher end, Delos has also collaborated with the builder Lateral Estate on 40 luxury apartments, priced between $550,000 and $1.4 million, in the Sydney suburb of Blakehurst.

The company’s chief executive, Tony Johnson, said that the properties have between one and three bedrooms and range from 960 to 1,300 square feet. With their high ceilings, tall windows, herringbone floors and granite stone bathrooms, these homes, like the Simonds properties, feel contemporary; the residences on the ground floors have 645-square-foot outdoor courtyards.

The apartments went on the market in May, and Mr. Johnson said that around a dozen have sold so far.

“We were looking for a point of differentiation in a market that was losing value, and we think Darwin gives us that,” he said. “There is a high demand in Australia for healthy living, so why not give home buyers what they want?”

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