Originally published in Elite Agent, 25 August 2020. Image by Taylor Brammer, supplied by Crown Group.

Crown Group Chairman and CEO Iwan Sunito is calling for tenants’ physical and mental wellbeing to be considered and incorporated into building design standards in the post-COVID world.

“Many people are spending more time working from home, studying from home, home-schooling their children and exercising and recreating,” Mr Sunito said. “People who live in well-designed homes that offer plenty of living and working space, access to gardens and fresh air, as well as facilities such as play areas, fitness facilities, and music rooms, have been far better able to adjust to this new lifestyle.

Image: by Taylor Brammer, supplied by Crown Group

“Good developers are competing in this space – wellness real estate is worth an estimated $134 billion, or 1.5 per cent of global construction, according to the Global Wellness Institute. But unfortunately, not all homes are designed this way – and residents can literally feel the difference.

“The pandemic must force a rethink of house and apartment design so that all residents are able to feel secure, relaxed and socially connected when they are at home. “This ultimately will lead to better physical and mental health around the world. The hotel industry puts a great focus on wellness; the residential industry needs to too.

“It’s not just about sustainable buildings but a sustainable lifestyle.”

Mr Sunito says the first step is to “bring nature into buildings” – greenery, water, natural light and fresh air.

“Numerous studies around the world have proven that being among nature can improve our mood and even our intelligence,” Mr Sunito said. “One of the largest universities in the world, the University of Minnesota, has studied nature’s effects on people’s peace of mind in its biophysical department.

“Their studies proved that nature makes people feel more in tune with themselves and has the ability to heal, restore, and connect people.

“Just like the sound of water can soothe us and help us sleep, loud noises like traffic can ignite our fight-or-flight response and increase our stress levels.

“Nature can also be good for our cognitive functions – a walk in a forest for example can help our emotional regulation and memory functions.

“Even long after this pandemic is over, people will be working more from home, so these are needs that will endure,” he said. “People will need more common areas for co-working and socialising in a safe space. And they will need nature around them.”

Urbis Director of City Strategy and Place Michael Stott said people were now reflecting on how they relate to each other as well as the value of physical access to open spaces and nature.

“It’s widely accepted that, even in small doses, green spaces – whether parks, playgrounds or residential greenery – are essential for our well-being and mental health,” he said.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve all seen the value and joy public spaces around the country have brought people, even while physically distanced. There is also growing recognition of the crucial role green spaces play in urban areas, particularly in high density areas where residents don’t have direct access to open space.

“What we don’t want is for people to perceive that their only ability to access green space is to escape the city. With limited opportunities to include further green spaces in the densest of Australia’s cities any opportunity to increase it should become a priority.”