Landscaping: Secret Opportunity Not to Be Missed!
Landscape architecture is emerging as an extremely valuable and desired component in today’s multifamily housing market. Thoughtful landscaping is creating a remarkable impression and refuge for residents and providing significant opportunities to boost wellness and well-being.
However, these benefits are often under-appreciated and overlooked, and developers are not realizing the true potential of landscaping. But we’re here to tell you that wellness and sustainability through landscaping is the new amenity opportunity that you will not want to miss out on. Taking this approach and making landscaping a priority in the resident experience can improve your asset’s financial performance and increase retention.
In this month’s blog, we will discuss the relationship between landscaping and wellness. We will also highlight some operational lessons learned for best practices to keep in mind for your new development or renovated asset.
Before we dive in, we would like to give a huge High-Five to our awesome contributors in this month’s post:
Paladino & Company – sustainability and green building consulting firm
GGLO and their landscaping team – a full-service architecture firm
Our valued relationships with property management companies and their site teams around the Seattle area.
#1. Wellness: YOUR RESIDENTS WANT MORE!
There is an increasing opportunity to attract and retain residents through wellness, and the WELL certification is not something to overlook. The studies around biophilic design, which is the design that links people to nature, show a profound positive physiological reaction to nature and natural patterns. Developers who want to target topline growth can use biophilic concepts in their landscape design to take advantage of those good feelings and health benefits. When prospective residents experience the burst of good feelings from the nature connection, they will want to live in that property and stay at that property – improving lease-ups and reducing turnover.
Sustainability through well-being has become a table-stakes expectation from prospective residents. If a property isn’t considering this, it’s walking away from its market potential. What developers may not realize is the awesome differentiation that a project designed for wellness and human performance can experience. This is particularly true of the live/workspaces where people are working from home and want to demonstrate engagement and performance. Landscaping plays a huge part in the work-from-home residential customer’s experience.
One of the most important recommendations is to involve landscape architects early in the design process. Too often, the vision for the property doesn’t make it to the landscape architecture team, because they are brought in after those conversations have concluded. Landscape design can link the vision to the experience in a way that has a significant positive impact on resident wellness and increases the demand for the property. Connecting the interior designers to the landscape architects and linking their work to the project vision is a smart strategy.
And biophilic design doesn’t just mean that you have to put in a lot of plants and green walls. Biophilic design can be achieved by recreating natural patterns, forms, sounds, and views through materials and design.
Here are a few ideas that developers and designers can consider when bringing wellness to a multifamily property through landscape design:
Let’s start with exterior landscaping.
Thermal comfort is an important facet of wellness design, use landscaping to achieve thermal comfort, and protect residents from the elements through shading and overhead coverage. If that overhead coverage provides dappled light, mimicking the effect of being in a forested area, all the better. Dappled light has a calming and restorative impact.
Did you know that looking at nature has health benefits? Even looking at pictures of nature will improve cognitive function. Landscaping that offers views of nature will reduce blood pressure and improve decision making.
From a social/emotional perspective, landscape design can provide gathering spaces for social connectivity, or reflective spaces for quietude and reflection, both of which are important wellness offerings
The more plants you have, the more oxygen you have – so landscape design can also improve air quality, which is a significant factor in wellness.
Green walls, vegetation, and water features can also be used to distinguish spaces and separate areas acoustically.
Interior landscaping is just as important. Here are a few ideas for interior landscaping:
Offer views of nature and natural patterns from regularly occupied areas.
Consider non-amenity areas. Too often multifamily landscape design is isolated to amenity areas like terraces, but the connection to nature can be reinforced within the residential units as well (such as a window box with perennials or balcony planter).
Provide views to green spaces – especially from fitness centers and workspaces, where looking at nature will have an immediate and tangible impact on performance.
Use landscaping to enhance the mood in the lounge and workspaces. Reinforce the power that biophilic design can have on human performance in marketing materials and on-site signage.
Here’s an example of the impact that landscape architecture can have on a multifamily property’s value and topline growth:
The Highline in New York City was an elevated rail line that was re-imagined as an elevated park. While it has proven to be a popular and beloved addition to the city, some people challenged its benefits during the planning stages. As it turns out, the multifamily projects that offer views of the Highline park are experiencing higher demand, greater retention, and higher rent rates now than they were when they offered a view of the elevated train. People want to see nature – and particularly in cities where views of nature are harder to come by, they are willing to pay a premium for it. Multifamily developers can create that same powerful connection to nature on their project sites.
#2. Seasonality and Irrigation Concerns – Lessons Learned From Your Architects and Operations Teams
Months of constant Washington rain followed by our periods of hot sunshine leave plants and lawns struggling with seasonal changes. We see buildings with dead trees, dead lawns, and withering young plants, and teams are accruing additional costs in replanting and maintenance. Not having the proper irrigation set up is a costly lesson learned from management and maintenance teams and not one to ignore!
Be proactive in the winter months to make sure your irrigation is set up correctly. And plan for the hot weather! If you outsource your landscape maintenance services, make sure the company you hire is experienced in caring for plants during weather changes.
Also, native and adaptive plants are easier to maintain and have a better chance of surviving the seasons. To see a list of great northwest native and adaptive plant options for your project, look here.
And another great long-term cost-saving tip: If you are already experiencing the dead landscape, don’t be shy in creating rain gardens! It’s a great way to adapt to the situation in a sustainable way, and lower time spent on maintenance.
When it comes to interior design, anticipating hot weather is crucial as well. Make sure that indoor plants are not placed too closely to windows. On hot days, that intense sun exposure can burn the plants. Properties that experience this report additional cost seen in replanting and irrigation needs.
#3. Lessons in Street Appeal: Design and Upkeep
The resident’s first impression of a property is made before they set foot inside of the building. This is why the street appeal is so important.
Damage around the perimeter landscaping from feet, paws, and wheels is inevitable. Not to mention, cigarette buds and beer bottles are found in planted areas all too frequently. To curb these issues and maintenance costs, it’s important to plan for a design that directs foot traffic and focuses the attention on preserving the plants.
Here are some examples:
Place high benches next landscaped areas, with the back against the landscape. This physically directs people away from stepping on or placing trash in the plants or soil. In contrast, a low bench with no back will allow full exposure.
Rockscape in high traffic areas, such as along the sidewalks with street parking. This will help protect the plants and soil and deter those who are parking from stepping all over the landscaped area. Rock scaping also helps protect plants from doggy damage.
Elevate planted areas. Placing plants closer to eye level will immediately address foot traffic issues. It will also emphasize the focus on the plants and reduce the amount of trash getting mindlessly thrown into the area.
Although issues in curbside landscaping are going to happen, these tips will significantly reduce damage and further help preserve your artistic design and operating costs!
The full sensory experience of landscaping is an unbelievable opportunity to define and differentiate your product, and we do not want you to miss it! From the resident’s first impression to their improved well-being, landscaping is becoming an increasingly desired amenity in the multifamily market.
So, before your building is up and operational, or if you’re considering renovating and repositioning, bring the landscaping conversation to the forefront.
And as always, give us a call if you need help deciding what’s best for your project. We love helping our clients create amazing residential experiences.
High Five, Everyone!