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 opportunity 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 do not want to miss. 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 – a national sustainability and green building consulting firm
GGLO – a full service architecture firm based in Seattle and Los Angeles
Our valued relationships with property management companies and their site teams (Special thanks to Epic, Thrive, Greystar, and AMLI SLU)
#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 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 taking this into consideration, 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/work spaces 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.
“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.”
One of the most important recommendations is to involve the 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 significant positive impact on resident wellness and increases 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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Consider non-amenity areas. Too often multifamily landscape design is isolated to exterior amenity areas, but the connection to nature should be reinforced within the interior amenities and residential units as well.
- Reinforce the power that biophilic design can have on human performance in marketing materials and on-site signage. A great way to differentiate your asset!
#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. Teams are accruing additional costs in replanting and maintenance due to dead trees, dead lawns, and withering young plants. Not having the proper irrigation set up is a costly lesson learned from management and maintenance teams, and definitely 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.
Native and adaptive plants are easier to maintain and have a better chance at 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 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 for hot weather is crucial as well. Make sure that indoor plants are not placed too closely to windows (especially green walls!). On hot days, that intense sun exposure can burn the plants. Properties that experience this report additional cost seen in replanting and irrigation needs.
And don’t forget that nasty four letter “C” word….CROW(s)! Projects particularly in urban cores have reported that developers and owners should be very mindful of new plant plugs on green roofs. Crows have a tendency to pull up these new plantings (oftentimes in the roof areas that are the least accessible) and also leave “gifts” of street trash. Personal experience on a project in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle had such a problem with crows and the green roof, that plantings were taken out and gravel was introduced in its place. This ended up leading to crows taking the pebbles and dropping them on the glass awnings below, and breaking them. (enter fist-shaking and guffawing here!) Lessons learned – do not value engineer your new plant plugs, and talk to your landscape architects about the best ways to mitigate these issues proactively.
#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 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 to 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.
Rock scape 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 on 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 providing 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, Everybody!
Arrive, LLC is a residential development consulting company focused on ground-up development and asset repositioning.
Our goal for our clients is increased return on investment. Our passion is the resident experience. And our value is ensuring each new project that comes to market meets and exceeds the expectations of both.