The wave of interest in well-being in the United Kingdom is expected to translate into significant investment over the next three years, according to ULI research released in the report Picture of Health: The Growing Role of Wellbeing in Commercial Real Estate Investment Decision-making. The report was released this month at an event in Birmingham, England, by the ULI UK Sustainability Forum to highlight the rise of well-being investment in commercial buildings.
Sponsored by E.ON, a top U.K. energy producer, the report represents the first time a comprehensive survey of leading property experts has been carried out to understand how health and well-being are influencing investment decisions across the real estate industry. The report focuses on survey responses and interviews with more than 100 investors, developers, fund managers, consultants, valuers, and analysts. Eighty-six percent of respondents expect to increase their investment in well-being in the next three years, with 17 percent expecting this increase to be significant.
The momentum for the trend is part of wider changes in the workspace toward flexibility and shared space, as well as companies looking for improved office environments in order to compete for talent by meeting the expectations of the younger generations.
The survey revealed that the expected investment will largely be driven by perceived tenant demand rather than investor demand or government policy, as occupiers fight to attract and retain talent across an ever more mobile—and socially conscious—workforce.
“The increased interest in health and well-being we are already seeing from major players in the real estate industry cements the fact that well-being is becoming central to development and investment strategies,” said Victoria Lockhart, co-chair of ULI UK’s Sustainability Forum and director of market development at the International WELL Building Institute.”
“As companies seek to attract top talent, well-being is increasingly prioritized as fundamental to environmental, social, and governance [ESG] factors. Companies are looking closely at the workspaces they offer, as well as how the workplace can help translate a company’s values and build a culture of health.”
Five case studies from the report include 22 Bishopsgate and the Broadgate Campus, both in London, which already have health and well-being placed at the heart of the developments.
While 22 Bishopsgate may be making its mark at the tallest tower on the skyline of the City of London, AXA Investment Managers–Real Assets, which invested in and is developing the building on behalf of an international consortium of investors, has dedicated over 149,600 sq m (13,900 sq m) of the 1.4 million-square-foot (130,000 sq m) tower to shared amenities.
“We refer to it as a vertical village,” said James Goldsmith, head of leasing at AXA IM. “Everyone always talks about a hospitality environment, and that’s a given, but we are also keen to differentiate with what we are doing.”
Among the community amenities are a 20,000-square-foot (1,900 sq m) food market, as well as the Exchange, 13,000-square-foot (1,215 sq m) knowledge area that will include an accelerator space, a broadcast media suite, and event space. Its 8,400-square-foot (780 sq m) gym will include a climbing wall 410 feet (125 m) above ground level, and a 7,900-square-foot (730 sq m) well-being retreat area.
British Land, which is completing the redevelopment of 100 Liverpool Street in 2020, has ensured a healthier Broadgate campus environment, including the introduction of larger amounts of seating, new retail space, bars, and restaurants, as well as increased landscaping and greenery.
“Our customers are increasingly recognizing that ‘workplace’ is a vital component of staff engagement and well-being strategies,” said Matthew Webster, head of well-being and future-proofing at British Land. “Our role is to support this by creating fantastic environments that promote well-being and that enhance the experience of work—from the provision of engaging public realm and amenities through to ensuring buildings create healthy internal environments.”
The report addresses questions about the investment case for incorporating well-being into buildings and how to measure its impact.
“Energy is a vital industry, and every aspect of modern life relies on it—our economy, our well-being, our work, and our leisure,” said Phil Gilbert, director of customer solutions at E.ON. “In terms of cost, air quality in our streets, and wider carbon emissions ambitions, we must lay the foundations for this change now. As this report sets out, incorporating well-being into new and existing building stock and the use of technology and differing energy sources will be crucial to this.
“The opportunity here is a cities-based approach that delivers local solutions at a scale with real impact nationally,” he said. “We have proof of that concept. From our citywide partnership to help deliver a zero-emission Berlin by 2050 to our deployment of cutting-edge smart-home systems in Malmö [Sweden], we have many live examples of where we are already sharing experiences with our customers at scale and working together now to create a better tomorrow.”