UK, December, 2022 - LifeProven. ESG Property Company, the newly expanded and repositioned #esg consultancy for the built environment, has launched the ‘Real Estate Wellbeing Metric’ (REWM) with major BTR Operator VervLife, providing the industry’s first solution to accurately measure the ‘S’ benefit of real estate in ESG.
The metric will provide VervLife and other clients such as Dandi Living with data-driven insights as how their buildings best be designed and operated to maximise the #wellbeing of their occupants, both mitigating the risk of mental and physical health issues for them, but also capturing valuable evidence companies can use to improve buildings and report their unique benefits.
LifeProven co-owner Adam Hinds said: “With mental health firmly on the national agenda, and with people spending 95 per cent of their time indoors, thinking of the building process anew, as a means of preventing potential poor health is clearly a progressive idea. By considering the likes of natural light, air quality, acoustics, thermal characteristics, privacy but also opportunities to socialise, and the like is all relatively new compared to, for example, carbon emissions. So, equally, is recognising that bad quality buildings can have a negative impact on quality of life, especially over a period of time.”
To date the company has collected 165,000 data points across occupant variables the likes of age, gender, income, fitness, nutrition and mental health, as well as by the type, location, features and operation of the building itself. As LifeProven collates further data points with every project, so its analytical potential will become more finely finessed, particularly to different building types and uses. And it will allow predictive modelling too - the data-sets available won’t just assist in improving existing buildings, but could lay the well-being groundwork for future buildings too. Indeed, the company hopes its metric will become a new industry standard.
LifeProven highlights that the challenge to date has been how to convincingly and accurately demonstrate this idea in real scenarios. As such, few property developers have been able to look further than readily reported standards, such as environmental ones. That can be deeply problematic in the case of, for example, a student population living away from home for the first time - a fact that hasn’t been considered by providers of accommodation in their welfare or satisfaction measurements until recently.
“Wellbeing is highly personalised, not a generic metric, and property operators typically haven’t known where to start with addressing it,” adds LifeProven co-founder Jordan Relfe. “Sustainability is more widely understood but I think the market has been much slower in considering wellbeing as central to a building’s performance. Perhaps Covid has changed that for the better. Either way, we’ve set out to make it as easy to measure a building for its wellbeing as one might for its carbon footprint.”
LifeProven hopes that its Real Estate Wellbeing Metric is one such solution - by being accessible but also rigorously data-driven. The timing of the metric being rolled out hopefully chimes with a society that, as Covid demonstrated, increasingly looks to data as the benchmark information both to underpin all sorts of decision-making and, what’s more, to build trust. This is possible thanks to LifeProven’s robust and transparent system of GDPR-compliant surveys and a proprietary process of data ‘cleaning’, coding and in-house analysis - developed in conjunction with world leading data scientist, Dr Brendon Stubbs of King’s College, University of London and set against standards from the likes of the World Health Organisation.
Certainly, major BTR operator VervLife has bought into that idea in a big way - it has now become the launch partner for LifeProven’s metric across all of its future developments. VervLife Director, Brent Stojanovic has argued that, since environmental standards are being pushed through by legislation anyway, what will increasingly set its properties apart will be their measure of occupier wellbeing. “At VervLife we feel strongly about doing our bit as operators to improve the physical and mental health of our residents and members. This sector-leading partnership with the team at LifeProven will give us unique, science-backed and granular insight into the wellbeing of the people that live in our managed communities and the factors that affect it. With this knowledge we can make smarter decisions on how our buildings are run, providing our investor clients with valuable data on how their assets are performing from a health and wellbeing perspective”
This measure - reviewed and updated for each building every six months - will give it the detail to benchmark its assets - against themselves and those of competitors - better understand the correlation between #design and wellbeing, and, in turn, maximise value. It’s even planning to make occupancy dependent on agreeing to take part in LifeProven’s periodic surveys.
That means getting a measure - and, crucially, a useful one - will become all the more important for many property operators, LifeProven believes. Hinds insists that, while the broad formula for a building of positive on wellbeing is well-established, what isn’t is a means of seeing the big picture in a sufficiently detailed way that, on balance, allows the right overall outcomes for any specific building to be reached. And that in keeping with inevitable budgetary limitations too: by a better assessment of what wellbeing aspects of a design are genuinely worth saving, and which might be replaced with an alternative offering better value. More wellbeing bang for your buck, as it were.
This, Relfe acknowledges, may sometimes prove counter to the traditional quantity surveyor’s cost-saving mindset - and he speaks as someone trained as a chartered quantity surveyor. Indeed, it can lead to counter-intuitive decisions too: don’t, for example, rush to install a gym when other less flashy options are both cheaper, simpler and, crucially, will actually better drive greater total wellbeing for occupants.
“In today’s market it’s essential that developers pay only for what they need to pay for, not for surplus features of dubious value”
Relfe stresses. Certainly with the future of hybrid working still unclear - but nonetheless a major new influence on the use of buildings, office and residential alike - much is in flux.
“Because of that, being able to demonstrate a building’s exact impact on wellbeing - through data - is going to be central to the future of investment,” believes Lifeproven co-founder Adam Hinds. “We’re finding from our clients that they want to know if their buildings are actually improving the lives of the people inside them; what can be done to improve this relationship, and how can this benefit be measured and reported within their ESG reporting.”
“Covid has also seen more and more operators recognise that buildings that have responded best are those that have performed well from a wellbeing standpoint, even if they didn’t know exactly how,” he adds. “Now clients, engineers and architects - who actively want the better brief that our data affords - are talking about building wellbeing. The big difference will be their ability to say ‘this building performs better than that one for wellbeing - and we understand why’, right down to being able to give a hierarchy as to why, say, putting bigger windows into a particular building is more important than the size of the property.”
Wellbeing certification in the property world has, to date, not only been cumbersome and expensive but - more importantly - not come with that degree of actionable insight, LifeProven claims. Once attained, such certification also offers diminishing returns in terms of differentiation building to building, as more and more buildings are so certified.
But there’s more to all this than just finding a competitive edge, Relfe stresses. “Environmentally, buildings will get to where they need to be. But, on reflection, one can consider wellbeing as being in many respects more important - not just because it’s a huge growth area but because it’s really about making buildings better for the people in them, and, really, it’s remarkable that this hasn’t been scientifically assessed by the industry before. It’s the future of property.”