Manny Gonzalez – Building Total Wellness Into the Modern Home

Builder and Developer Magazine

August 1, 2019

Baby Boomers and millennials alike are seeking out health and wellness as much as unique design in their new homes

I was 13 when the Beatles released their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It featured the song “When I’m Sixty-Four.” I was so far away from thinking about ever being 64 back then! The lyrics to Bucky Covington’s 2007 country single “A Different World” more accurately described my world more than 50 years ago.

Here I am at 64, but things have certainly changed. I wear a helmet when I ski. I don’t drink from the water hose anymore; it’s always purified water and I only use low or no VOC building products. As a Boomer, it took me nearly 50 years to fully understand the importance of total wellness, but the Millennials are growing up living that lifestyle today.

The barbell generations, the Millennials and the Boomers, may have arrived at total wellness in different ways, but the two largest demographic groups will demand it in their housing choice.

According to the Farnsworth Group, three-quarters of the people who purchased new homes believe housing is essential in contributing to their good health.

Camilla McLaughlin of New Home Source notes that Millennials have long been touted as the generation that prefers the city over the suburbs, but multiple recent studies show that city living only appeals to a small portion of Millennials (five to 16 percent), while 55 to 66 percent say they prefer the suburbs, depending on the study.

Chris Porter with John Burns Real Estate Consulting (JBREC) reports that the JBREC Consumer Insights survey found that for Boomers, it’s the design of the home that will make them move but 55 percent say they can’t find what they are looking for.

While location and price will always be the top priority for homebuyers, including total wellness in the home and community design isn’t far behind.

The wellness industry has created a boom in recent years. From 2015 to 2017 alone, the industry grew by more than 12 percent and is now worth more than $4.2 trillion globally, according to a report by the Global Wellness Institute. In 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council introduced LEED Certification. In 2007, Carsten Crossings in Rocklin, California, developed by The Grupe Company, became the first master plan where every home was LEED Certified. 10 years later, Gale International’s 21W20 building in Manhattan became the first multifamily community in the world to be certified under the WELL Building Standard. And, less than a year ago, Trumark Homes announced it had commenced construction on The Collective, the country’s first age-qualified community devoted to wellness.

The WELL concept features 11 different focus areas: air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind, community and innovation. Serenbe, a community connected to nature on the edge of Atlanta is the poster child for total wellness. Set among acres of preserved forests and meadows, Serenbe’s miles of nature trails connect homes and restaurants with arts and business. Each of its four neighborhoods has a commercial center focused on arts for inspiration, health for wellbeing, education for awareness, and agriculture for nourishment. The community features a 25-acre organic farm, a seasonal farmer’s market and community-supported agriculture, not to mention edible landscaping, like the blueberries along paths and sidewalks.

The choice of housing products offers opportunities to enjoy living in Serenbe to a wide range of buyers and renters including Millennials. Several years ago, though, Serenbe’s innovative developer, Steve Nygren, introduced its first residences created for 55-and-up buyers.

According to The Hartman Group, there has been no more pervasive lifestyle shift in the American contemporary scene than the desire among Baby Boomers to lead active, healthy lives. At the same time, eight in 10 Millennials believe it is important to eat healthy.

Reasons like these are why biophilic, multigenerational master plans like Serenbe appeal to Millennials and Boomers and every- one in between.

While the connection to nature is a key factor in living well, we spend over 90 percent of our lives indoors and most of that time is spent in our homes. The air, water, light, and thermal comfort of the home are critical elements to the total wellness in a home. The combination of home-design features like these with the healthy living environments of communities like Serenbe promotes the “total” in total wellness.

When Paul McCartney wrote the lyrics, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m sixty-four?” I’m not sure he envisioned Baby Boomers living in agrihoods and eating organic, farm-to-table food, but today you can find Millennials and Boomers alike seeking out communities that promote that type of total wellness.