Healthful living may soon be built into new communities

By Lew  Sichelman|LA TIMES
December 8, 2013

A New York developer may be the first home builder to integrate wellness into  its products. But if a major real estate education and research group has its  way, healthful living will soon be incorporated in many of the places we live  and work.

The Urban Land Institute is embarking on a two-year effort to educate its  members and the development community at large on how they can build healthful  communities and workplaces where people can thrive.

“We are looking at city building through the lens of health and wellness as a  way to measure sustainability and long-term prosperity,” said Lynn Thurber,  chairman of the Washington nonprofit. “With this effort, wellness is the intent,  the designed outcome, not just an additional benefit.”

Delos Living is already pioneering the merger of housing and health, marrying  science and architecture to place well-being at the heart of design and  construction. Its New York apartments feature, among other things, a water  purification system, floors laid upon a layer of cork and rubber to reduce  stress, juice bars and soy-based insulation.

Co-founder Morad Fareed thinks that more builders should be integrating  wellness into their products to help prevent disease, improve occupants’ energy  levels and lengthen their life spans. “Why stop at building just houses?” Fareed  asked.

In the face of withering sales during the economic downturn, many resort  communities have placed wellness above golf and other amenities over the last  few years as a way to entice more buyers. But otherwise few residential builders  and developers — or commercial office building developers, for that matter — have seen the need.

But consider these statistics from the Urban Land Institute:

•By 2030, more than 1 out of every 11 Americans will be at least 100 pounds  overweight.

•The cost to treat illness consumes 19% of America’s gross domestic  product.

•13 million school days are missed annually because of asthma-related  illness.

At the same time, the institute says the ability to deliver on health  directly translates into market value, and therefore, “makes good building  sense.” Here’s proof:

•Nearly two-thirds of Gen Y-ers think proximity to a park is an important  buying consideration. And 3 out of 4 feel the same about walkability.

•Homes in neighborhoods with good walkability are worth $34,000 more on  average than similar places in neighborhoods with average walkability.

•A dozen bicycles can fit into one parking space.

•More than half of us want to live in a community that has transit.

“This is not just about building a walking trail or upgrading a fitness  center,” said Patrick Phillips, chief executive of the Urban Land Institute.  “Building healthy places is about improving all aspects of the environment in  which people live, from the air we breathe to the places where we work.”

To educate and encourage the real estate community to rethink what, where and  how it builds, the institute has published as a first step a report outlining  the “Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places and Intersections.” The report  examines how urban design and development can contribute to living environments  that are conducive to prosperity.

Here are the 10 tenets of creating healthful places:

•Put people first. Health should be a priority, not an add-on or  afterthought.

•Build economic value. The various aspects of wellness lead to greater  marketability, quicker sales and greater property values.

•Champion health. Community engagement is a powerful link between health and  local land use and bringing about change.

•Share spaces. More public spaces are advocated, as are “living streets,”  which prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars.

•Make health easy. Make it the one safe, easy choice by, among other things,  removing barriers that lead people to an unhealthful practice.

Build equitable access. Make healthful choices accessible to all income and  demographic groups. These include neighborhoods with housing options for all  ages and transit plans that reduce reliance on the automobile.

•Mix it up. Integrate a variety of uses — residential, commercial, cultural  and institutional.

•Create character. Places that are different, unusual or unique can help  promote physical activity and emotional well-being.

•Healthful food. Diet is a major part of health, so access to healthful food  should be part of any development proposal. This means assigning food the same  prominence as, say, open space or housing mix.

•Build active. Designs should be used to create active communities — locating  adult and children amenities together, for example — to boost physical activity  and reduce reliance on cars.

If the nation’s home builders and office developers take even just a few of  these principles to heart, the places we live and work should soon become much  more healthful and enjoyable.

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-lew-20131208,0,7924100.story?page=2#ixzz2nCyByVqF

 

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