Around the nation, builders and developers are beginning to experiment on projects that include wellness features – better air filtration, circadian rhythm lighting, furnishings and building materials that don’t off-gas dangerous chemicals, among other things.
Just two miles west of Denver on the south shore of Sloan’s Lake, Lakehouse is a 196-unit condominium community built on a site that once held a hospital.
Those following building trends have seen “aging in place,” “sustainability” and “green” enter real estate lexicon, first as marketing ideas and gradually as elements that are now (almost) automatically being incorporated into building design. “Wellness,” if money is the judge, is the next big thing. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness real estate is a $134 billion global market projected to grow to $198 billion in 2022.
Levitt spoke with me recently about this new project and the importance of creating community and healthy spaces.
How did you become interested in building healthy homes?
For nine years I chaired the sustainability committee at the Urban Land institute’s Colorado chapter. There, I started the building healthy places committee. We brought together healthcare practitioners, designers, and real estate developers to create best practices.
I have since created our own in house non -profit called Realwell whose mission is to make real estate healthier. We reached out to doctors, fitness and yoga instructors, architects, engineers, financiers, real estate developers to come up with best practices for infrastructure. Then, the question was how to connect the dots in terms of local community resources to support that infrastructure and help residents use the equipment, set goals, achieve goals, report it.
What’s the WELL Building Standard ?
BL: I had the chance to build 18 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ) certified buildings in the past. I believe in the sustainability movement and think that building beyond code and performance real estate are really important. LEED is tough to explain to people and it’s tough to explain sustainability because it’s in the walls. But “health and wellness” can be more exposed … and the WELL Building Standard gives it credibility. It’s a holistic approach to wellness that addresses design and behavior within the built environment to optimize residents’ health.
The standard provides a path and a guideline for air filtration, more natural light, better connect to nature in terms of bio mimicry, better standards for sound in terms of comfort and even visual comfort. [The standard] measures the air, tests the water. It’s not me who’s saying, “You’ll be healthy.” That’s not what I know. I build buildings. I follow the program that Deepak Chopra and Michael Roizen [both of whom sit on the advisory board of Delos, which developed the WELL Building Standard] came up with and we’ll do those things and we’ll provide that healthy space, which is our goal.
What are those healthy spaces at Lakehouse?
BL: Inside, we made a conscious effort to purchase healthy materials and products from top to bottom — carpet pads to no-VOC paint and adhesives to no-formaldehyde urea cabinets. Even the furniture which uses “green” materials or is BIFMA-compliant. And the ventilation for WELL building requirements are pretty stringent. It’s not only about intake air that passes through an enhanced filtration system. We do the same for recirculated air.
In terms of amenities, we created a wellness space that’s way more than gym mats and fitness equipment. We took out some nice condo units and put it on the second level; it stretches across the entire floor. The fitness offering we have is more than I’ve done in any community I’ve worked on so far in terms of technology and the variety of offerings. We worked with local fitness experts to choose equipment and lay it out properly. They’ll come to the building to help people use them.
Then, outside, we have an urban farm professionally managed by a third-party organic farmer. And, across the street is Sloan’s Lake.
The other part of this is the importance of community. The name of our company, Nava, is Hebrew for beautiful. People don’t always focus on making communities more beautiful. Part of goal is to add to the wider community. How can we share our stories and get smarter? How can we move this forward? How do we connect? Placemaking and community are important factors for healthy living. Lakehouse is a great social experiment. We’re all just learning as we go.