Multifamily Wellness Trends That Are Here to Stay

Here’s why forward-thinking developers are focusing on healthy buildings and an active resident lifestyle.

Wellness features in multifamily projects have quickly shifted from optional to essential. The aging population, pandemic-induced stress, loneliness and the rise in remote work models, as well as consumers increasingly demanding more sustainable living options, are among the many factors that have fueled this trend, according to the latest research from nonprofit Global Wellness Institute.

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“Residential properties that incorporate wellness elements such as fitness amenities, bicycle infrastructure and social spaces experience expedited leasing and sales, higher pricing premiums, below-market turnover and longer waiting lists,” Joanna Frank, president & CEO of Center for Active Design, told Multi-Housing News.

With gyms no longer enough, developers have steadily raised the bar in the past decade. For example, construction and development services firm CNY Group is adding more spaces for yoga, meditation, barre and massage. The company’s Senior Project Manager Joanna Hung told MHN that for mixed-use projects they are prioritizing spaces that attract retailers that focus on organic markets and farm-to-table concepts.

Other developers have chosen to focus on specific projects in order to be able to build healthy, sustainable places to live, work and socialize. Seattle-based SolTerra—a developer and contractor with a focus on solar energy—is constantly striving to bring people closer together in their most natural setting: nature.

“We focus on healthier, more sustainable building materials, highly efficient energy systems and Passive House techniques. Next, we implement biophilic design principles to bring the outdoors in and improve our residents’ connection to nature,” COO Marc Coluccio said.

Cascada, a 104-unit project in Portland, Ore., is among SolTerra’s most interesting assets. Currently under construction, the LEED Platinum development has taken wellness in the urban environment to new highs. Cascada utilizes carbon-capturing mass timber, purified air and water, ultra-sustainable systems and Passive House techniques for the building envelope.

“Our goal is a 60 percent carbon reduction for all residents,” Coluccio said.  

Additionally, the community’s 20,000-square-foot wellness facility is set to include a full hydro-thermal circuit, a Moroccan-style swimming pool in a solar gazebo, salt, steam and dry sauna therapies, infrared hot yoga and multiple organic and vegan food options. 

Health, the baseline for multifamily projects

Today, properties that put health and wellness first also perform better with resident satisfaction, having a higher likelihood of residents recommending the property, according to Frank.

“Ignoring health today is considered what it always was—a risk,” she said. And with risk mitigation being a powerful driving factor of the real estate industry, developers, investors and designers understand the need to use human health as a baseline for their projects going forward. A recent Center for Active Design investor survey revealed that 87 percent of the respondents noticed an increased demand for healthy buildings.

“Physical health challenges such as diabetes and heart disease, mental health struggles such as depression and anxiety, and social health, such as trust, community interaction and interconnectivity of policy, are all impacted by the buildings we spend our lives in,” Frank said.

multifamily wellness trends

Solis, a 45-unit Passive House community in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Image courtesy of SolTerra

And erecting healthy buildings is a way for a developer to apply ESG practices in its day-to-day activities. There is a direct correlation between health and the environment, Frank said, hailing designers’ increased focus on strategies that help decrease residents’ exposure to air pollution by incorporating natural elements—such as tree canopies, plantings and access to outdoor space—in their multifamily designs.

Hung is also seeing increased attention to wellness across the affordable housing sector. In New York City, all Housing Preservation and Development funded projects are required to adhere to the Healthy Homes program, which aims to improve wellness for residents by stipulating minimum regulations for natural light, indoor air quality, green cleaning and smoke-free housing.

Another initiative—the New York City Active Design for Affordable Housing—outlines best practices developers can implement in their buildings to promote healthy childhood development and counteract obesity. According to Hung, some of the recommendations include encouraging the active use of indoor stairwells instead of elevators through increased visibility, glazing and vibrant color treatment.


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