Top 5 building factors for better resident quality of life: #4

Welcome to Episode Two of the five-part educational series from LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company on how Build to Rent providers can better leverage Health & Wellbeing to improve financial outcomes.

Access to green space - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News

By Adam Hinds – Co-Founder of LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company & Head of Project Management, and Tina Muldowney –  Director of Landscape Architecture from LUC

The top five building design factors associated with a better quality of life:

RankBuilding design factors association with quality of lifeSpearman rank-order correlation coefficientP value
1Episode Five0.5733P<0.001
2Episode Four0.5165P<0.001
3Episode Three0.4567P<0.001
4Having access to green space0.4322P<0.001
5Having a good amount of storage0.4022P<0.001

Background to the science behind Health & Wellbeing in the home

We conducted an academic study with Dr Brendon Stubbs (one of the world’s most highly cited and influential mental health researchers by Reuters Web Of Science), by issuing a survey to a control group of 121 residential properties strategically located across the UK. The survey captured a wide range of building design, fit-out, placemaking and operational housing data – as well as sociodemographic (e.g. age, sex, income), lifestyle (e.g. physical activity), and mental and physical health data from residents all over the UK. We then calculated the Spearman correlation co-efficient; which are scored from 0 (absolutely no relationship) to 1 (perfect relationship). In research, it’s virtually impossible to score 1 and scores of up to 0.2 equate a small correlation, 0.21-0.4 a moderate correlation and scores above 0.4 a large correlation.  To put these numbers in context, a correlation of 0.4 has been associated with passive smoking and cancer or physical inactivity with being overweight.

Why is access to green space so important for your Build to Rent residents?  

Because people who spend more than 120 minutes per week in natural environments have better physical health and mental wellbeing outcomes than those that do not; creating happier, healthier residents. 

The interaction between people and natural environments is associated with lower probabilities of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity, stress, anxiety, depression and mortality in adults and also shows lower risks of myopia, obesity and improved cognitive development in children. 

Research published by Harvard Medical School also found that people who experienced stressful life events – such as unemployment, illness or death of a loved one receive the greatest mental boost from natural interactions.

In a post pandemic world, the quality of life benefits from green space for your residents cannot be overstated. 

Outdoor green space - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News

How to assess your buildings access to green space 

Identifying whether your development has good access to green space to encourage 120 minutes of natural interaction per week is a key consideration to enhancing your residents overall housing experience, customer satisfaction and their quality of life, so they remain a happier customer with you for longer: 

Is your development located within a 5-minute walk of an existing quality green space? 

If yes, your residents have the ideal access to existing green space outside your development, reducing the need for new green space to be designed into the building. However, additional benefits can still be achieved by providing educational reminders to encourage residents to spend 120 minutes per week in a local natural environment, as well as advising residents of local parks, walks and natural environments to use when they move in. 

If no, your residents are significantly less likely to spend 120 minutes per week in a natural environment and therefore will not receive the same health benefits. To mitigate, green space can be strategically integrated into even the most urban developments, providing health benefits to your residents.

If your building is not located within 5 minutes’ walk of quality green space, what green space can you meaningfully provide within your development to maximise health, wellbeing and quality of life outcomes for your residents?

Tina Muldowney – Director of Landscape Architecture at LUC, the award-winning environmental consultancy – has provided guidance and recommendations on how you can integrate natural environments into any building to provide your residents with the greatest positive experience: 

Private external space 

Tina recommends that wherever possible, all residents should have access to their own area of private external space, whether it’s a balcony, terrace or garden:

  • Private balcony 
  • Private garden 
    • The key considerations for delivering a successful private garden is to consider the aspect, level of overlooking as well as drainage, topography and ground conditions. Usable garden spaces are typically less than 10% gradient, with most residents preferring flatter surfaces to accommodate furniture, sports and play equipment. 

External shared space 

Tina recommends that communal spaces should include natural environments wherever possible to maximise daily interactions with nature, such as:

  • Sustainable urban drainage
    • Look to combine your sustainable urban drainage strategy with amenity use and biodiversity. Adapting drainage strategies to create standing water features will attract greater bird and insect life and provide a positive natural setting for residents to interact with.
    • Rain gardens are a highly effective way to collect stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces to create year-round natural amenities. 
Sustainable urban drainage at Forest Way School. Image Credit - SusDrains - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News
Sustainable urban drainage at Forest Way School. Image credit – SusDrains.
  • Roof terraces, courtyards, basements
    • Providing shared gardens or micro natural environments in underutilised areas of a building provides residents with additional natural interaction opportunities. 
Roof terrace planting for resident interaction - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News
Roof terrace planting for resident interaction.
Bringing outdoors indoors. Image Credit David Domoney -  LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News
Bringing outdoors indoors. Image Credit David Domoney.
  • Communal Allotments 
    • The act of gardening boosts physical and mental wellbeing, with older adults enjoying the greatest quality of life benefits. Providing accessible indoor and outdoor gardening and food growth opportunities for resident use – even in urban areas – provides residents with an opportunity to interact with nature and interact socially. 
Integrating allotments to roof terraces and outdoor spaces. Image Credit Bespoke Menu Design - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News
Integrating allotments to roof terraces and outdoor spaces. Image Credit: Bespoke Menu Design.

Internal considerations 

If integrating sufficient green space externally within your development is not possible, it’s possible to achieve similar benefits through internal planting and design strategies – by maximising your residents’ daily interactions with nature as they pass through a building. Every space within a building is an opportunity to become green, enhancing health and wellbeing:  

  • Building entrance, foyer and communal areas.
Image Credit - Smith Cardiovascular Research Building - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News
Image Credit – Smith Cardiovascular Research Building.
  • Hallways and high traffic thoroughfares.  
Image Credit - Mobilane Live Picture Wall Planters - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News
Image Credit – Mobilane Live Picture Wall Planters.
  • Internally in apartments and homes.
Image Credit- Umbra Floralink Wall Vessel for Wall Mounted Indoor Plants - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News
Image Credit – Umbra Floralink Wall Vessel for Wall Mounted Indoor Plants.
  • Biophilic design. 
Image Credit - Ambius - LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company | BTR News
Image Credit – Ambius.
  • Window orientation 
    • Locate and orientate windows so your residents have direct views to natural features and trees. Residents with views of trees from their windows are more satisfied and happier with their homes. (Source: Holtan, M. T., Dieterlen, S. L., & Sullivan, W. C. (2015). Social life under cover: Tree canopy and social capital in Baltimore, Maryland. Environment and Behavior, 47(5), 502–525.)
  • Sensory interventions – smell 
    • Include aromatic planting strategies for residents as they move throughout your building. Aromas produced from plants – such as lavender – can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety in your residents. 
  • Sensory interventions – hearing   
    • Include audio experiences throughout your building by playing various sounds of nature in elevators, building entrances, communal areas and gardens. Listening to natural sounds – such as birds – can increase feelings of wellbeing.   

When should you consider green space provisions? 

The earlier green space considerations can be made within a Build to Rent development, the better the outcomes for you and the customer. By identifying green space requirements early, the quantity surveyor can better apportion your design and construction budgets – to ensure they’re invested in the aspects which provide the greatest quality of life benefits to your customers, ensuring consistently high demand and longer tenancies for your home environments.