How should UK investors approach wellbeing real estate?

3 MIN READFebruary 27, 2020

Wellbeing real estate: the concept may be in its infancy, but it’s something that an increasing number of operators and developers are considering in their new office builds. A key factor in this is millennials and Gen Z’s placing more and more priority on their mental and physical health, which is driving office spaces to try and create a more suitable work/life balance. As modern workers are beginning to reject the idea of long commutes, desk jobs and drab office cubicles, how exactly can the idea of wellbeing be implemented in new builds? And is this something that investors are looking for?

GRI Club UK & Ireland members and selected guests gathered on the 25th February in London to discuss the increasing importance of wellbeing impacts in the real estate market, especially how to unlock social value and retain occupiers. The meeting was kicked off with expert insights from the WELL Building Institute, which highlighted the key profit drivers of having wellness-accredited assets, and addressed the disconnect between investors, asset owners and planners to move projects forward. 

This was followed by an informal, roundtable conversation. Quality of living through design, community and functionality were highlighted as ways to attract tenants, while others debated the disconnected priorities of asset owners, tenants, and planners as a risk to wellness in portfolios. The logistical side of wellbeing was said to be much more difficult than any physical ones, as it can be very easy to place a long-term financial burden on investors and tenants. Physically, wellbeing in real estate is categorised by providing air, water, light, heat, comfort, and privacy in abundance, which operators should be ensuring anyway. 

Some stressed ESG as a key driver for evolving institutional investment appetite into the trend, while others believed more that the key to unlocking quality assets lied in community and unlocking social value through planning and development. The atmosphere is important too; relaxed office policies have had some interestingly positive side effects for office spaces - with one Amazon office in Seattle reporting an average of 500 dogs are bought to work every day. 

The meeting concluded that the responsibility for creating sustainable, valuable and ultimately profitable spaces was not just on developers but also on investors and asset managers. The senior attending members said that the industry should work more actively in order to meet social value for communities, and work with the public sector to bridge the gap between all aspects of its integration. 

For further discussion on wellbeing, and the wider subject of ongoing trends in commercial real estate, senior investors, developers and lenders active in the UK will gather at British & Irish GRI, taking place on 20-21 May in London. 

Article by Matt Harris

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