Report: Communities should build well to live well

Report: Communities should build well to live well

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Real estate and communities that intentionally put people's health at the center of design, creation and redevelopment are the next frontier in residential real estate, according to a new report.

"Build Well To Live Well" by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is considered the first research to size and analyze the global and regional wellness lifestyle real estate and communities market, a release said.

The report comes as the global market is growing by more than 6 percent a year through 2022. At the same time, consumer demand for healthy single- and multifamily homes is outstripping supply – in the U.S., for example, there are 1.3 million potential buyers each year but with a pipeline of 355 projects.

While the market is tipping from niche to mainstream, this report fills a major knowledge gap: few investors, developers, consumers or policymakers understand what wellness lifestyle real estate and communities are, the report says.

"Collectively, we must shake up our thinking. Healthy homes are as important as immunizations; parks, paths, and plants are as beneficial as prescriptions; friends and neighbors are far more important than Fitbits," said Katherine Johnston, GWI senior research fellow. "All the industries that create our home environments – real estate investors, urban planners/designers, architects, transportation planners, the construction industry – play a massive role in human health. And they need to partner to meet the desperate need – and fast-rising demand – for healthier homes and communities." 

The U.S. has seen projects proliferate in "Sun Belt" states (Arizona, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, etc.) where "wellness living" has become a key differentiator in red-hot real estate markets. The U.S. also invented the "agrihood" concept (communities revolving around farms) and is a major innovator in urban, senior living, and affordable wellness concepts.

Future trends 

GWI predicts that emerging wellness living concepts below will drive future development. 

Blurring the lines between home, workandleisure

Strategic co-location and integration of homes, co-working facilities, and ample wellness programming (in both cities and suburbs), all in response to the rapid rise of remote and freelance work, the sharing economy and mounting issues of loneliness and work-life balance. Examples include WeWork's movement into co-living (WeLive) and wellness (Rise by We). 

Making healthy homes affordable

Contrary to the belief that wellness real estate is only for the rich, developers will increasingly collaborate with governments to bring more wellness-infused residences to lower-income populations who are at the highest risk for many health conditions. Via Verde in South Bronx, N.Y., is an affordable "well" community integrating everything from low-VOC materials to improve indoor air quality, design encouraging walking, green roofs with community gardens, a fitness center, and ample community spaces, including an amphitheater.

Bringing back multigenerational and diverse neighborhoods 

More wellness real estate projects will cater to people seeking communities with a much greater diversity of ages, life stages and social classes - recognizing that segregation is unhealthy and that real-world (and not age-segregated) social connections are essential for our wellbeing and society. (For instance, many Baby Boomers reject the idea of living only with other older people as boring.) Examples: more wellness communities like The Interlace (Singapore) are integrating senior homes and assisted living with mixed-age/family-friendly neighborhoods…so all can "age in place." More wellness developments will combine senior and college student housing, like Humanitas, the Netherlands.

Catalyzing medical industry clusters and health services to build wellness communities

More world-class wellness communities will be created by combining a geographic concentration of cutting-edge medical industry companies and research organizations (the economic concept of "industry clusters"), a concentration of high-quality hospitals and health services for consumers and holistically-designed wellness-focused homes and neighborhoods. Lake Nona (Florida) is anchored on more than a dozen world-class research hospitals, medical centers, human performance and sports training facilities, and tech companies clustered around its wellness-focused homes. Serenbe's (Georgia) new Mado hamlet is on the cutting edge by integrating an array of alternative, preventive, and healthy lifestyle services in its thriving residential neighborhood. 

Moving from green to regenerative living

Moving beyond green building certifications to create innovative, regenerative residential communities of green, biophilic, sustainable and healthy design – that will produce their own healthy food and renewable energy, clean the air, recycle their water, and be net positive for people and the planet. Various projects in development in China and Europe take green, biophilic and healthy design to the next level, like the Liuzhou Forest City and Moganshan 1,000 Trees projects in China, and Italy's Bosco Verticale towers, which cover entire buildings and cities with plants and trees to improve air quality, biodiversity and renewable energy. 

Leveraging technology to create smart-healthy homes and cities

More projects will harness futuristic technologies – including advanced telemedicine, smart homes, sensors, artificial intelligence, etc. – to bring state-of-the-art on-demand wellness into homes, neighborhoods and cities. More model city projects will showcase futuristic energy and green technologies (like China's Tianjin Eco-city, Energy City Qatar, Abu Dhabi's Masdar City). But the next wave will put health/wellness technology front-and-center, like The Connected City project in Tampa, Fla., where high-tech wellness spans self-driving cars, telemedicine, smart home technologies, virtual learning, the first Crystal Lagoon in the U.S., a hospital with a medi-spa and a health/performance institute. 

"Our existing built environment has a massive and increasingly negative impact on our physical and mental health. We will never address skyrocketing chronic disease and health costs without dramatically transforming where and how we live," said Ophelia Yeung, GWI senior researcher. "We've got to shift investment into the places that give us the most outsized health returns … our homes and communities."

Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Multifamily / Multiunit Residential, Office Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Trends and Statistics, Urban Planning and Design

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