This story was originally published in Multifamily Executive.

As many apartment residents happily are aware, pet ownership is increasing throughout the United States. At our properties at AMLI, in fact, 30% of the units are home to a pet.

In this year's MFE Concept Community, Building Positive + Living Well, which we designed with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the team explored all elements of health and well-being that improve the resident’s experience. So, with the number of pets increasing in the U.S., we decided to dig into how welcoming pets into the home can influence health.

Loving, Active Companions
One of the benefits of pet ownership is that it can lead to a more active lifestyle. According to TIME Health, daily runs or walks with a dog can help decrease blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. Choosing building locations that promote walkability is a key strategy to get the most out of the active lifestyle pets can bring.

In addition to keeping residents active, pets provide well-known psychological benefits. Americans' beloved four-legged companions are increasingly taking on the role of service animal based on their ability to provide emotional support and improve their owners' mental health.

A study published in Microbiome also found that children born into homes with pets are less likely to develop allergies. These benefits are particularly noticeable if a baby is exposed to pets in his or her first three months of life or in the womb.

For those who have already developed allergies, however, pets can become unwelcome members of the community. As allergies and pet ownership both increase, the impact of pets on indoor air quality has become a concern. Exacerbating the problem is the ability of pet allergens to travel. A 2016 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, found that when pet ownership is high in a community, high concentrations of pet allergens are present in public places in addition to individual homes.

Going High Tech
Fortunately, new technology may hold the answer to encouraging pet ownership while providing healthy, allergen-free air in apartments. As smart-home advances become more integrated with other smart tech, the opportunity will emerge for a real-time response to minimizing indoor air pollution and allergens. For example, with the right smart-home devices, an air-quality sensor could be set to monitor for pet dander or other allergens and, in real time, increase the ventilation in the home or deploy a robot vacuum to remove irritants before they became a problem. Such innovations could not only help improve air quality inside the unit but also help prevent allergens from spreading to public areas.

As AMLI and SOM designed the Concept Community, we considered how we could improve air quality so as to ensure the health of potential residents while welcoming their pets to apartment buildings of the future. For more on this year's project, visit www.multifamilyexecutive.com/concept-community.

This story was originally published in Multifamily Executive.