You might not know it yet, but there is a new and fast-growing niche within the real estate industry called “wellness lifestyle real estate“.
This new niche provides you with properties and/or neighborhoods, where you can live your wellness lifestyle and not only have a wellness experience for just an extended weekend in a SPA facility somewhere.
In this article, I already described why more and more people want a property that was designed with health and wellness in mind.
In today’s article, you will learn about the 6 building blocks of the past that nurture this emerging real estate niche of today.
You can look at them as an investor or as someone who would like to someday live in such a property and neighborhood.
Wellness Lifestyle Building Block 1 – Intentional Communities
I am sure you know a bit about the dynamics of today’s social media (web 2.0).
Facebook especially filters for you the topics you are interested in and shows them in your timeline.
Or you are the participant of some Facebook Group, where likeminded people flock together to exchange their takes on different subtopics.
Now, imagine this taking place in a neighborhood in the “offline world” and you have more or less an understanding of what intentional communities are.
What’s more, intentional communities are even older than the Internet. They have existed since the 19th and 20th centuries.
Some examples are:
- Agricultural cooperatives
- Egalitarian Communes
- Wellness Getaways and Resorts
Just like Social Media, only “offline”, they bring together like-minded people to create a lifestyle around shared beliefs and values.
Today, a revival of these communities is represented by co-housing, cooperatives, and co-working living arrangements compensating for rising living costs, social isolation, environmental/resource concerns and other “ailments” of modern life.
Another example is the growth of SPA and Wellness resorts already during the mid-20th century as popular holiday or city-break destinations. They have been addressing the need to get away from everyday stress and unhealthy daily lifestyles since.
A tendency of today’s new wellness real estate niche was the fact that resorts also added residences for people who wanted to access their amenities and programs more often than just on a vacation (e.g. Four Seasons Residences or Canyon Ranch Living).
Of course, these offers were only affordable for consumers in the higher income segments and could be found in the luxury real estate niche.
Intentional communities are less about the physical real estate and more focused on sharing resources, interests, and responsibilities.
Because we are so immersed in the digital age right now, it is only our perception that makes us believe that the online world is modeling the offline world once again.
In reality, the situation is reversed.
The offline world with intentional communities came first and internet platforms like Facebook modeled the offline world thereafter.
Wellness Lifestyle Building Block 2 – Public Policy Planning
If you are in real estate, you will always have to somehow deal with governments, due to this being a highly regulated industry.
Therefore, we also have to include the role of the government in shaping where and how we live.
In the early 1900s began the so-called public policy and planning movements. These have been countering different living environments since.
These movements apply new technologies, programs, tactics, and policies to promote public housing for those living below the average income level.
There are local governments for example, which have launched a mix of public and private initiatives to improve help outcomes and to respond to the chronic disease.
Examples of those initiatives are local sugar/soda taxes, iterations of healthy city initiatives such as Blue Zone communities, the WHOs Healthy City Alliance, Bloomberg’s Partnership for Healthy Cities and England’s NHS Healthy New Towns.
There are also other initiatives that focus on building city resilience and countering economic, climate and terrorism threats.
An example of one of them is the Resilient Cities Network.
Then, there are initiatives such as smart digital cities, smart grid, and conscious cities.
They use technology to improve infrastructure and resource efficiency, deliver better services, and mitigate risks.
All these movements aim for improving civic pride, public health, planning, social capital, and creating better-functioning neighborhoods and cities.
Wellness Lifestyle Building Block 3 – Design Driven
The modern concept of design-driven or planned communities came about in England close to the turn of the 20th century.
Sir Ebenezer Howard was the one who introduced this concept.
He was inspired by the adverse effects of the industrialized cities of the time. There was poverty, overcrowded slums, lack of sanitation, lack of nature and many more.
Today’s sophisticated suburban and exurban master-planned communities grew from this modern urban planning discipline.
Those communities have a broad range of amenities and aim to attract residents and investors who look for specific lifestyle characteristics like:
- Golf Communities
- Gated Communities
- Age-Restricted Communities
- Retirement Communities
In the 1980s and 1990s emerged the design-driven movement of New Urbanism. The focus was to revive the art of placemaking.
The approach was to aim for more connected, compact, and livable communities, where the residents had an increased walkability, mixed-use, and diversity (e.g. price points, buildings, functions etc.)
Furthermore, the design should provide more for “traditional neighborhood design”, human-centered and environmental approaches and beautiful public spaces.
But this was just the beginning as other design-driven movements have emerged since then.
Architects, Planners, and Designers wanted to counter the shortcomings of today’s living environments ever since.
The approach changed from “having” to “problem-solving” of a certain group of people. It has become goal oriented.
What do I mean by that?
Design now addresses targeted issues or certain populations like:
- Encouraging physical activity (active design).
- The need to reconnect with nature (biophilic design).
- The need for spiritual connections and harmony (Feng Shui, sacred geometry, Vaastu Shastra).
- Addressing physical/built environment challenges for handicapped people (barrier-free/universal/inclusive design).
- The need to address age-related challenges (trans/multi-generational design)
You might be able to imagine how all these design movements can be very useful building blocks or tools for wellness real estate projects with a more holistic concept of healthier building.
And at the same time, they can meet individual wellness and health needs and give the investor a good return on investment.
Wellness Lifestyle Building Block 4 – The Grassroots Food Movement
The grassroots food movement started in the early 1970s and is closely related to environmentalism.
It aims for increasing the awareness of what and how we eat, where the food comes from and how it is produced.
You could already read in my past article about how the wrong built environment can affect your health.
So, there is a larger connection between farming practices, land use and environmental and health impacts.
This trend and the increasing demand for it is now influencing more and more the following:
Wellness Lifestyle Building Block 5 – The Green Building Movement
This fifth building block might be one you have heard of already.
It started in the 1990s and encompasses green/sustainable building principles like:
- Environmental Justice
- Energy Start
- Regenerative/Living Buildings
Its goal is to build in a responsible, sustainable, and resource-efficient way to cut the harm to the environment, to become more and more independent from fossil fuels, reduce emissions and waste, and manage natural resources in a better way.
This movement has gone from niche to mainstream over the last 30 years.
Nowadays, there are a lot of rating systems, tools and standards in place that can guide the developer on a scientific basis on how to reduce environmental impacts.
Over the years, a slight shift has happened.
Wellness Lifestyle Building Block 6 – Technological Innovation
What also started in the 1990s and came to the real estate industry step by step has been the technological innovation like mobile devices, sensors, social media, smart homes, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and material science.
All these elements can improve the living environments and create virtual communities.
They also brought higher levels of comfort, convenience, health, and connectivity to our homes.
This development began already in the mid-20th century with household machinery and appliances.
It improved public health with modern sanitation, central heating, air conditioning, and electricity.
And then, of course, with appliances like the electric vacuum, refrigerator, and washing machine.
You no longer had to wash your clothes by hand or sweep the floor like crazy through the house.
Cars and highways made individual mobility and convenience possible and the way houses and cities were built adapted to this new comfort making suburbanization possible.
Now, there are earth-friendly materials, systems, and furnishings (e.g. lighting that changes our mood and fosters sleep and paint that cleans the air) and modern materials that help enhance our health.
The information age led to 24/7 connectivity via mobile devices and social media. This blurs the lines between virtual and physical connection.
First, there was only the offline world, then came the online world existing more or less separately alongside the offline world.
Now, the online world meets more and more the offline world and vice-versa.
The next likely step and future developments which will influence real estate projects especially in the field of wellness real estate will be more and more smart homes, the internet of things, robotics, self-driving cars, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and all the things that haven’t been invented yet or will be invented with the assistance of artificial intelligence.
You can consider all of the above 6 building blocks as a large toolkit for Wellness Lifestyle Real Estate.
They all come together in creating and developing different real estate projects and neighborhoods.
Some of them focus more on one building block than others.
But what they all have in common is that they focus on putting human wellbeing and health at the center of the housing and neighborhood design using metrics and characteristics like holistic, physical & virtual, connection & community, evidence-based, return-on-wellness, and trademarks like well/fitwell etc.
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