LEED certified multifamily. Photo credit: Derek Reeves via GGLO

Building Wellness from the Ground Up

The newest trend in real estate development: Communities that build healthful living right into the blueprints. In January of this year, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) published a report, “Build Well to Live Well: Wellness Lifestyle Real Estate and Communities,” that explores the rapidly growing sector of planned wellness communities, which include residential, hospitality and mixed-use real estate.

These developments aim to promote holistic wellness, providing opportunities for residents to be physically active as well as socially engaged. They can address health challenges including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, as well as reduce social isolation. For example, in the BedZED mixed-use development in the United Kingdom, shared spaces like gardens, playing fields and walking paths promote interaction, and residents know an average of 20 neighbors by name, compared to the area’s average of eight.

And the benefits of these developments aren’t reserved for the well-to-do. In the South Bronx, New York, the Via Verde community incorporates wellness features like green spaces, walkable design and a fitness center at an affordable price point. GWI predicts that developers will increasingly collaborate with local governments to create mixed-income communities that address the chronic health issues faced by low-income demographics.

GWI’s report identified seven future trends that are driving the development of wellness communities:

  1. Blurring the lines between home, work, and leisure
  2. Making healthy homes affordable
  3. Bringing back multigenerational and diverse neighborhoods
  4. Catalyzing medical industry clusters and health services to build wellness communities
  5. Moving from green to regenerative living
  6. Leveraging technologies to create smart-healthy homes and cities
  7. Rediscovering hot springs as a wellness living anchor

The report predicts the wellness real estate and communities market will grow from $134 to $180 billion by 2022, with the U.S. as the largest market by far ($52.5 billion). According to GWI, there are 740 such projects around the world currently in the pipeline.

“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,” said Katherine Johnston, GWI senior research fellow. “They need to partner to meet the desperate need – and fast-rising demand – for healthier homes and communities.”

Photo credit: Derek Reeves via GGLO

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