Using data to drive demand for healthy design


Rise of Wellness Across the Real Estate Industry

The rise of the wellness market has spurred a new level of innovation across a range of industries as companies strive to differentiate themselves in pursuit of impacting the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. And the real estate industry is no exception, with health-promoting design becoming an ever-increasing priority for REITs, developers, and building owners. The Global Wellness Institute estimates that the wellness real estate sector grew 6.4% between 2015 and 2017, reaching a value of $134.3 billion in 2017. They go on to predict that the sector will grow 8% between 2017 and 2022, reaching a value of $197.4% over that 5-year period (GWI).

Fitwel, a healthy building certification system developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) supports this growing interest in health across the real estate sector. The Fitwel Certification System is a user-friendly and data-driven resource that more than 1,000 building owners, building managers, and other professionals have used to support the health of the occupants within their buildings. Leaders across the real estate industry have been able to redefine what impactful design looks like, bringing evidence-based healthy design strategies to the forefront of the sustainability movement.

Tracking Impact

Unsurprisingly, the expansion of the wellness market has been largely supported by investors and the notable growth of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Impact Investing. Investors are increasingly looking to put their funds towards companies positively impacting the world, whether through decreased energy use, community investment, healthy design, or another meaningful commitment. This intensified focus on impact brings with it increased attention to evaluation and data from both investors and investees alike. In alignment with this focus, Fitwel allows users to easily track a range of data points including, the number of people impacted, along with the types and levels of health outcomes pursued and achieved, as pictured below.
Companies are increasingly using this information to demonstrate their value to investors and to gain eligibility for financing reserved specifically for projects that meet certain ESG requirements, like those issued by GRESB. One example of this comes from Alexandria Real Estate Equities, a Fitwel Champion and a leading innovator within the world of sustainable and healthy design, and most recently, an issuer of Green Bonds. Alexandria will use Fitwel as a way to evaluate success and demonstrate the use of socially conscious business practices. Fitwel’s interactive data opens up new opportunities for businesses and individuals to see both the human and monetary impact of their investments, demonstrating how companies can do well by doing good.

Moving Forward 

In a world where physical activity is continuing to decline, stress and anxiety are rising, and chronic diseases are responsible for nearly 70% of deaths worldwide, a commitment to health and wellness is more important now than ever before (WHO). Design can have a powerful impact on our health, and through the strategic use of technology to provide easy access to impact data, we can continue to disseminate the evidence-based strategies popularized by Fitwel in pursuit of a healthier world. The structures in support of this movement are in place and the momentum is evident. The time to build on that momentum is now, as we work across sectors to create measurable impact within the real estate industry and motivate real change through design and data.

This article is written by Sara Karerat, Senior Analyst at the Center for Active Design.

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