Wellness Real Estate and Communities Collaboration Takeaways

The Global Wellness Collaborations bring industry leaders together in meaningful dialogue to share ideas and best practices for navigating the COVID-19 crisis around a specific industry segment.

Topic: Wellness Real Estate and Communities
Date of Discussion:  April 2, 2020
Countries/Regions Represented: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, St. Lucia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UAE, UK and US

  • Our governor in Florida has claimed construction as an essential service, so we continue to develop and build.
  • Lake Nona is our pride and joy, and many of you are aware of it. We probably have close to 20,000 residents. We are focused on our health and wellness community; it’s an interesting place. We have multiple hospitals and a number of hotels there as well that we’re working on.
  • The one thing we’re seeing is the anxiety that is growing. We are making a big effort to do a lot of classes virtually. We offer virtual yoga, virtual cooking classes, and engaging the community. We’ve also done sidewalk chalk art for kids, not to get together, but to see each other from six feet away.
  • We are focused on working with the hospital partners we have as well as many other partners, some in the more scientific side of the business.
  • In metro Atlanta, we have about 750 residents. Seventy percent are our primary residents, and thirty percent are secondary. All of our secondary residents are here now from Atlanta or New York. They have all made their way here for this duration.
  • It’s at times like this that you realize how important the built environment is. Because people here have porches on all of the houses, and they’re all pulled fairly close to the sidewalk within anywhere from six to ten feet. So, people can sit on their porches. And people walk by, and there’s still a sense of connectivity while they’re walking their dog or walking with kids.
  • We have four restaurants that remain open for “to go” only. So that allows some sense of stability here. We have over 18 miles of incredible nature trails. One child has painted pictures and put them throughout the woods. As an activity, kids can then go out and take pictures of them. This is the time that people are really out using those trails and using the meditation spaces. It helps to keep them both mentally and physically healthy. Since we have our own farm, we have started pre-ordering, and they can drive up to the market and just pick up their order.
  • Well, you know, when you consider the merging of the health sciences in the building sciences and the foundational blueprint of the wellness real estate movement, what we’re finding is that the built environment is, unfortunately, one of the larger carriers of a viral load like this when you consider surfaces and common touch areas like door handles and particularly indoor air quality.
  • Our international well building institute has assembled a specific task force on COVID-19 and a broader viral load.
  • We have biologists, health scientists and building scientists all coming together over the next 30 days or so, to start to construct categorical and relevant elements in the well building standard as it pertains to the viral load, particularly focused on four categories: prevention, preparedness, resiliency and recovery. Our goal is always from the onset to democratize all this information and put it in the public domain at no cost.
  • We’ve got quite a number of diverse activities ranging from a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course to tennis to classes, etc. We basically focus on sportsmen and sports ladies. We’ve got a multitude of gymnasiums, a retirement village, which, at this stage, we’ve almost quarantined just for safety’s sake. We’ve had one confirmed Coronavirus case, and that person is self-isolating in their home.
  • I think this is an interesting thing happening with this virus. I am anticipating that there’s going to be a huge focus or much bigger focus on wellness real estate in our view in the future.
  • We did keep our outdoor activities open, obviously taking social distancing into account. We received a lot of good feedback from people about wellness communities. Maybe in the future, we will provide the opportunity for people in situations like this to have a little bit more freedom because of the lower density. Obviously, that limits the spread of any virus or any germ as long as you keep within the regulations of physical distancing.
  • Our community has actually seen an uptick in sales activity in the last three weeks.
  • I’m a venture capitalist from Silicon Valley, and we have tried to think about wellness in the post-industrial world where everything can be within a 10-minute walk. So, where you live, where your kids go to school, and so forth. We want to help people get away from the hour, two hours a day commute to where they work.
  • Our wellness pitch is the quality of the bacteria in the soil where we grow our own food, pH levels and the water, the oxygen, and the air. It really has resonated now in the last three weeks. We’ve had many people visit, and we had 7,000 people out to visit us last year.
  • I am locked in my house in Delhi. I think what has happened for me is that during this time we have put a lot of deals together, which have been pending for a long time. Everybody is home now. So, I was able to close my deal on a 1,400 bed hospital. And that was done yesterday. And now, I’m in the process of working on a wellness city next week, and we have got a hotel project and assisted living project and some other construction there.
  • Since people are showing interest in wellness and health, we are in a construction mode.
  • So, we have another project for creating a wellness city. We have about 300 acres of land just outside Delhi for that project. I am looking for a lot of collaborations and tie-ups and hope to be in New York once people are flying again, and things open up in June or July. We are looking for a lot of people who are involved in wellness to bring their knowledge to India, knowledge that has been generated in the US.
  • In South Florida, construction is an essential business. Our wellness community resort residences have a million square feet. The whole collaboration is really focused, with the key purpose on realized wellness.
  • It is interesting. There are still people coming to our virtual sales office; we’re still under construction. People are saying, you can’t put a price tag on health. I want to live in a place like this.
  • You know, anyone that’s in that consulting space, we’re trying to help them leverage their knowledge, help them collaborate and bring their skill set to the world, whether they’re in just the wellness space as a wellness expert or more in this development space in terms of creating a wellness community.
  • We are additionally involved with other projects that are obviously really projecting forward to opening in our new world.
  • On our front, it is interesting for us to see how much busier we are. Currently, we are predominantly involved with projects in the US and Canada, but we do have some in Asia as well.
  • We’re hearing that the consulting world is kind of exploding a bit now because people need advice and counsel on what happens after this pandemic—how to weather the storm.
  • In the Build Well to Live Well report, we aggregated standards and certifications and different kinds of principles like one planet principles and others in that space, and then the idea was to help to inform and shepherd the build well environment. That report is probably the biggest piece of research we have ever undertaken for the Global Wellness Institute, defining an entirely new category. It’s about 150 pages, and in it, we reference about 750 projects around the world.
  • I would just say for communities and entities that are being built, the research that we’ve done for the Global Wellness Institute, the bottom line is that essential wellness will become critical.
  • With regards to cleanliness and hygiene, I think we are going to see a major change in terms of what is required of universities, schools, communities that you’re all working with, and others. I think that in the consumer’s mindset globally—we will have movement and change.
  • An environment that allows us to be active in our daily lives is becoming more important. So, in the communities where we can have daily movement built in, well, that is now seen as a major benefit. For example, we can actually walk about, and there are places where we can keep a distance from people and still do some exercise and maybe see people you know, maybe talk to them from a distance, but not in an overcrowded area.
  • One of the interesting observations I have noticed is that there’s been a movement toward high density, urban lifestyles, as people often associated that with the healthiest lifestyle. Take the subway, live very close together so that you have human connections. For many years, the emphasis has been on migration to cities.
  • I think going forward that could very well change. We are likely to incorporate the idea of rural lifestyles back into our built environment. How to build an indoor environment with quality air and such but also about our workplaces and our homes. How can we actually create some space, how can we design where people can actually have some private space if they are in isolation. I think we haven’t thought about it in probably decades.
  • Not sure if you have heard about our projects in Romania. All of our homes are sold to young families with kids, all over buyers. And the most compelling thing they tell us that drives people to purchase is that we have these monitors on buses and in other spaces that measure the particulate matters of 2.5 microns or smaller. Because when those go in your lungs, they never leave. They never leave your kid’s lungs.
  • We measure pH levels in the water; that is one that is most interesting and resonates with young families, and maybe even more so now that we’re dealing with a respiratory virus that also attacks the lungs. We no longer have to go work at big factories; you don’t have to drive to big office buildings. I actually think we will de-cluster America and move into these areas. We can bathe in real water, and we can breathe real air because it really matters to our health.
  • So, one of the things that we’re starting to think about and our residents encourage us to consider is what are the protocols today and what are the protocols tomorrow? How will our offices be different? You know, we’ve had this big move to open office spaces in the past years. What’s next?
  • The other thing that we’re looking at during this time is, don’t waste this opportunity. And what I mean by that is, we have had a lot of focus on diet, activity, mind awareness, and sense of community. And now the focus becomes the environment where we live and work.
  • Delhi was the most polluted city. But now because of the pandemic and lockdown, suddenly the skies clear and the air is clear. And everybody is breathing fresh air.
  • We have been working on the wellness lifestyle for the last 10 years and investing $600 million in an oceanfront community, a one of a kind in Palm Beach, Florida.
  • We have to understand the local aspects, demographics, where people are coming from, who will be your potential customer, and you have to really create the wellness real estate based upon that. There can be general guidelines. In our case, we created a business model that has to be sustainable. You can’t just do a wellness, single-family home and expect that wellness single-family homes will be sustainable. And we believe our model has worked out so well that every banker now wants to invest.
  • I write about what’s going on in luxury travel—wellness is a very strong component. My question is, I am enthralled by all these new developments with lots of space around them. Do the specialists on this call have any words of wisdom for those who are currently in many cities of the world, converting old buildings (whether it’s a public library, or a stately home, a prison or the US Embassy for instance in London), about converting these into hotels and residences?
  • We have a rural type of wellness community development and an urban one, which is something more with higher density and different types of activities.
  • I think the most important aspect, as one of the speakers from West Palm Beach mentioned earlier, is feasibility and long-term sustainability. And that you specify that there are a lot of variables that you need to take into account from the size of the site, the development rights that are in place, etc. And that will also determine exactly how many external communal activities and facilities you can create.
  • So everywhere, each country is facing more or less some terrible realities. I really believe that in a way, we need to be connected with the government and create a connection between the public sector and the private sector so that prevention is truly understood.
  • We need to start to in terms of prevention. As a bigger community, we have to do this. We have to force the insurance companies to provide wellness facilities, which may help them save money.
  • We are currently working on user experience and working a lot on the digital aspects of the experience itself. Currently, we receive a lot of requests regarding providing digital services as a way to engage the community.
  • Just like the consultants, we (halotherapy/salt therapy) have been overrun with inquiries. We’ve had a huge uptick in conversations. We are trying to partner with wellness communities in a variety of ways. We’ve talked about prevention as the single biggest thing out there now and find that respiratory hygiene is huge. Also, improving respiratory immunity is what halotherapy does. Therefore, we are working with wellness communities and have some exciting partnerships to announce in the next week. We are working with big wellness communities to put our equipment in the public spaces.
  • We are also working on a new home project regarding halotherapy that we’re launching next week for inside people’s homes if they don’t want to come out to public spaces.
  • Right now, we’re setting up an independent sales rep program for them, where they can bring wellness to communities. They don’t have to spend any money to get into the program. We’ll train them for free. So again, we really want to work more closely with wellness communities and bring respiratory hygiene to them as an important part of prevention.
  • From the beginning, we have been a wellness community before people even knew the term. When you talk about government and private development, we are a result of years and years of litigation going back 20 to 30 years—between the county and then the city of Santa Fe. We now have our covenants and our governing documents that made us a wellness community.
  • We also started with a pristine environment, and then in the agreement between the city and the developer, what was put in was elements of a wellness community to start with. For example, focusing on natural landscape, stipulating a minimum of one acre lots, and we haven’t allowed the use of pesticides and herbicides—really from the get-go.
  • There’s an interesting correlation immerging—a correlation between air pollution in cities and diabetes. I think what we’re probably seeing right now is human society hitting a Ctrl-Alt-Delete. I always considered the hamster wheel, society, that needed a reset in the way we have been living. If we can take anything good out of this Coronavirus pandemic, it’s going to be a total paradigm shift in the way we work and in the way we live life. A mass exodus from cities to more spacious living.
  • We are starting to develop more home spas in condos. A lot of wealthy people don’t go to gyms and are shy, inhibited. They are starting to look at hydrotherapy and other advantages inside their homes. I think there’s a massive growth around the world for this.
  • Regarding the use of older facilities and how to incorporate those into a wellness situation, what we’re finding is that the first step is to go back to real estate investors who are now feeling it’s very worthwhile to put money into those kinds of communities.
  • What we’re seeing is that developers want to bring wellness into projects, especially multifamily projects and providing amenities that people can then all share within the buildings themselves.
  • We see people wanting to introduce more biophilia into projects, making use of the roof situations to add in forestry and the therapy of trees. And we’re working with others on how to bring more biophilia into projects, making use of all those roof areas, introducing beekeeping into some areas, etc.
  • In Mexico, our developer’s wellness lab is a real estate company focused mainly on wellness and real estate products and developments as well as communities. We believe that in the near future, and especially after what’s going on right now, there’s going to be more interest in living in the wellness lifestyle.
  • We will have different segments. Our longevity segment is for adults 55 and over. The multifamily developments are commercial, and then we have hotels.
  • We’ve been hosting wellness leaders to help people get through this, and it’s just been the outpouring of support, genuine kindness and generosity that has been remarkable. Many people want to really support and help one another.
  • Yes, we are moving forward very strongly with construction right now. I understand even all over the southeast coast of Florida that construction has been very, very strong. The industry that we’ve been involved in for so long is going to be forever changed.
  • The whole idea of wellness real estate is not all that well known. It’s fairly new, but there’s more interest all the time.
  • I mean, there is going to be such a trajectory in this area that I think it’s going to change the face of the industry that we’re in.
  • I get that wellness real estate sells for a premium price. That is what is the most demanded feature of a wellness real estate property.
  • We are hearing everybody talk about sleep. That doesn’t mean they don’t want air, great air exchange and all that. But sleep is really, really big.
  • Lighting in the room is also big. Waking up to the right lights, dimming upward or up-lighting. Also, before you go to sleep dimming down. In addition, having the room temperature be set for the best sleep, aligning to what medical experts are advising.
  • So besides sleep, I think a lot of people are concerned about short-term memory loss. They’re looking at stress.
  • And they’re also actually putting together a program for tweens.
  • One of the things that we’re seeing with one of the clients we’re working with is actually doing a purpose-built wellness community. Redeveloping about 230 acres, the entire land is full of natural scenery, bringing back the soil to where it was before it was taken over.
  • And at the same time, they’re really looking at it from the perspective of only developing a percentage of the acres.
  • Thailand has always been a hotspot for investment. Chinese investors are always looking for second homes, and given that the pandemic originated in China, they want to look for a destination that would have wellness and health in mind for them outside of China. So, there’s still a tremendous appetite for investment and especially for the wellness community.
  • Just anecdotally, we’re actually hearing from some of our clients in Hong Kong that they are buying these villas sight unseen.
  • Wellness is an investment for the future—to be able to park your money and also contribute in a worthy way. Will people anticipate a rise in the sales of wellness homes as a result of what’s happening today?
  • I believe the thinking is switching because real estate was always keeping the rest of the hospitality projects afloat. Now we’re hearing that regular real estate developments might have a hospitality portion with a spa or fitness center.
  • I’m also setting up a few spa boutiques for some celebrities and politicians.
  • In India, there have been drastic changes with kitchen designs becoming popular.
  • Thankfully enough, my company is owned by a large Canadian company, which also owns one of the largest property management companies in the US.
  • I was contacted by their director of communication and marketing and asked if I would lead a webinar on wellness for all of the board of directors. That was very surprising to me that they want me to talk about healthy buildings.
  • I was on a project call today for two hours regarding a building on Fifth Avenue. They are devoting such a significant piece to wellness.
  • They want to add a cold plunge and have a salt room. These are some things that they never addressed before when it came to commercial and residential real estate.
  • My friend just posted that they are starting a new business where they would go to people’s homes and create an organic vegetable garden for them, teach people to manage one, and go back on a monthly basis to maintain their organic garden.
  • There’s an enormous number of people who are building and raising poultry in their own backyards.
  • I’m really interested in getting pristine, clean, vibrant water into homes. Some people are sharing water that’s as pure as mountain stream water. I feel that this is going to be something that will be demanded.
  • And the other side is all of those homes out there that are really electromagnetic radiation time bombs. I think there is an appetite to rehabilitate those homes so they are safe from those sorts of non-visible pollutants.
  • I feel like we’re hearing about new wellness real estate projects and communities every week, all over the place, which is exciting.
  • People who are fortunate enough to be living in communities that were designed for physical activity for wellness with all of these healthy features are probably better off in the current environment. They have places where they can go outside and walk safely and in a healthy way and socially distance outside their home.
  • In our GWI 2018 Build Well to Live Well report, there was a wellness lifestyle real estate pipeline, over 740 projects across 34 countries. Now there are so many more.
  • We did an analysis of average sales prices for the wellness community homes to a comparable set of properties in the vicinity of the wellness, community development with similar features. We did include some other premium numbers in our report that were calculated by others such as the Urban Land Institute, which has also done some analysis on this and has gathered premium data from developers in other projects. Our numbers showed a wide range, but that between a 15-205 premium wasn’t unusual.
  • Another interesting development that we’ve really seen take off, at least in the United States in the last couple of years, is the focus on building for wellness and affordable housing.
  • I guess in terms of property, we just launched a property based on the beach a few weeks ago, and now no one can go there, but the Bangkok clinic is still open, still able to see people.
  • One of the things we’ve learned on our calls is that we are all sensing that this is the moment for us to really step up in terms of advocacy. We need to advocate for wellness becoming more a part of people’s lives. I think part of it is up to us to really step up.
  • In a wellness facility and other places, you can go and learn how to do. It is different than just grabbing a book and reading about it or going to your local spa at home.
  • In terms of priorities, many people want good air quality. The other thing that people want is to know that the surface is sanitized. This is what we found in the hotel rooms that we have created that are wellness-oriented.
  • Cleaning protocols will become more important than ever when it comes to any form of hospitality or real estate service you provide.
  • We also built a vitality suite in Zurich with very clean air, which was extremely popular. (Even though the air in Switzerland is already considered quite clean.) We need to help small industries understand what they need to do in terms of cleanliness, hygiene and guest contact.

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