4 Tips to Develop a Healthy Community

Lendlease's Megan Saunders on how to incorporate health and active design into your property.

Megan Saunders

It was a trend prior to the pandemic that has only accelerated over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing: People are prioritizing health and wellness when deciding where they want to live.

They want their homes to be designed with better air and water quality and to be in a community with plenty of outdoor space, walkable designs, and other amenities like fitness centers or walking trails.

For owners and property managers, this preferred style of living has provided a useful tool when marketing a community. It gives you the ability to tell your residents that you care about their physical and mental well-being, and you show it in the way you design their homes as well as the community that surrounds them.

The residential communities of the future integrate the best strategies that science has to offer to optimize health within a building or community, which also helps to ensure your company is leading the industry on the next frontier of sustainability.

Getting there requires a bit of work if you’re not already forging a path toward long-term healthy communities. One way to get there is by benchmarking against certification systems, like Fitwel. These systems ensure your living community meets certain requirements before you can tout yourself as the next industry pioneer in health and wellness.

Here are four ways to consider health and active design when building out your community.

Create walkable living spaces

What good is a large housing community if it’s not walkable? The pedestrian network of a multifamily community includes sidewalks and safe street structures that are accessible to everyone. Healthier and more connected residents and neighborhoods increase both the social and environmental resilience of a living community.

Many modern living communities have built scenic walking trails that guide residents around the property and take them to recreational spaces like playgrounds and parks and fitness areas.

Open space management should also be a strong focus. Providing inclusive, accessible, public open spaces like parks with programming to support community engagement, social inclusiveness, and increased physical activity will make your community stand out.

Physical inactivity is a leading risk factor in mortality, and studies show Americans aren’t active enough to protect their health. We can help combat that with simple design tactics.

Use community elements to bring people together

Almost everyone loves a pool or splash pad and a place to use a grill and hang out with friends and fellow residents. A community movie theater room also has its benefits. But those aren’t the only beneficial or highest-impact community spaces that attract new residents and raise your health and wellness scores.

Image courtesy of Lendlease

Consider using common spaces to bring more people together. Things like community centers and childcare facilities that provide arts and culture engagement opportunities and a place to make sure your children are safe have long-term impact on creating social capital.

Some residents might not have access to fresh vegetables and would welcome a community garden to help spur healthier eating habits and an interest in preparing food from home.

The activities that such common spaces encourage are an excellent way to improve personal connections in the community and help build long-lasting relationships.

Ensure emergency preparedness

A key component of health and wellness in a community is making sure you’re ready for emergencies and have plans in place to reduce impacts from a disaster. That means having emergency management plans for each community and making sure your residents know where to find this information in a time of crisis.

Your network of roads should not be difficult for emergency responders to navigate, and your address numbers should be visible. Considerations should also be made for identifying a place where residents can shelter in the event of an emergency.

Pursue sustainability for the future

Additional design improvements related to natural infrastructure for stormwater can also save money and directly link to necessary climate mitigation and adaptation features.

Plant more trees. They do more than just look good and enhance biodiversity. They provide needed shade, heat island mitigation, and make your community look prettier.

Ensuring that the neighborhood is connected to local transit systems and providing opportunities for bicycling can provide greater connectivity and also reduce congestion.

The time is now

Multifamily communities aren’t just simply places to sleep at night. They have the potential to be life-enhancing residences that help improve health and wellness by increasing physical activity, improving social connection, promoting occupant safety, and building social equity.

After all, your community should instill feelings of well-being and purpose.

As the Director of Sustainability for Lendlease Communities, Megan Saunders leads the implementation of environmental and social sustainability strategies for the company’s military housing and Privatized Army Lodging portfolios. Saunders develops the strategic direction and execution of project and portfolio-level outcomes in alignment with Lendlease Communities’ sustainability framework. 

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