The $134 billion global wellness real estate market is on the cusp of a revolution, and countries like America and the UAE are at the forefront of it
Popping into a wellness retreat for a few days every quarter might be a calendar-staple for the well-heeled minority. While yoga sessions, organic food diets that invariably begin with a kale juice in the morning and therapy sessions mid-day to balance their “chakras” provide instant gratification, the three-five- day experience is fleeting. All too soon, they trudge back into the chaotic cities where they came from and which they call home.
There is now though a concerted effort to create permanent dwelling communities – entire cities even – where residents can live and work. Built around the concept of wellbeing and staying healthy. Think of it as a wellness retreat you don’t need to check-out of at the end of the week. The wellness community market is a booming one and is currently valued at $134 billion globally, growing 6.4 per cent a year. There are 740 residential projects in the pipeline spread across 34 countries. Over the next decade, these communities could collectively house 4.1 million residents.
Take, for example, America which has a wellness real estate market size of $52.5 billion. One such community is Serenbe, a 1k-acre community in the middle of a Georgia forest. The brainchild of 71-year-old Steve Nygren, Serenbe has a 25-acre organic farm. Apart from a Saturday Farmer’s Market, it also boasts of what it calls as an “edible landscape”.
Serenbe has some 600 athleisure-clad residents, 130 of who are children. The utopian city is made up of four hamlets, each of which focusses on a different element of well-being: there’s arts for inspiration, agriculture for nourishment, health for well-being and education for awareness. There are currently 300 homes and with prices beginning from $359,000, Serenbe is certainly by no means a cheap hippie-community-pandering enclave.There are also plans to build another 1,200 homes and attract another 3,500 residents over the next few years. Of course, living in wellness communities like this one also means you need to adhere to a set of strict rules like not parking your car outside. But if you’re prepared to make a few adjustments to escape what Nygren terms as the “visual pollution” of urban dwelling, Serenbe could offer you a radical alternative means of living. Halfway across the world in Dubai, the UAE is among the top 25 countries in the world investing in setting up wellness real estate projects. It has a wellness real estate market of around $446 billion. Nearly a decade ago the UAE envisioned building the world’s first eco-city, the Masdar City, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi which was built around the premise of being a zero-carbon development that supports commercial activities and residential enclaves. In nearby Dubai, there are other projects like the Dubai Sustainable city which has placed the city at the forefront of the Middle East’s push towards developing its wellness real estate market. The $354 million Sustainable City in Dubai is a 46-hectare project and is the first net-zero energy project in Dubai. The first phase of its construction is complete.
There are over 500 homes apart from a green school, solar-powered parking lots, and organic farm, a green school, biodome greenhouses and a community centre. It is surrounded by a “green buffer zone” consisting of 2,500 trees that acts as a natural filter system to the air coming into the area. There will also be a fully solar-powered hotel, the Middle East’s first net-zero energy hotel, built within the Sustainable City.
The special zone will be a car-free one, aims to be energy self-reliant and recover its costs in just four years. Sustainable City is Dubai’s first residential solar project and produces green energy for more than 500 villas. The 500 villas which were fitted with solar panels last year were said to be capable of generating 1.2 megawatts of energy, enough to sustain itself and also feed the surplus energy to the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s grid that can later on be used to supply over 200 villas with clean renewable energy. Once the solar panel installation is completed in Sustainable City, it is believed that it would generate 10MW of power at peak capacity. Even the cycling machines in the gym are hooked up to the electricity grid and produce power each time someone pedals furiously.
Apart from Sustainable City, there’s also Healthcare City that has wellness residential projects in the pipeline. Government policy is also shifting to align itself with these wellness communities and to further stimulate their development. One of the key themes of the Expo 2020 is sustainability. In Dubai, the government has introduced “Dubai Happiness Agenda” which creates a framework that uses smart solutions towards promoting higher overall levels of wellbeing. Recently, it announced the implementation of battery-operated autonomous pods to facilitate internal transportation. Projects like the Sustainable City will go a long way to helping Dubai reach its target of ensuring that by 2030, 25 per cent of its energy will be clean energy.
The good news for Dubai and other countries is that the global wellness real estate market is set to continue to grow rapidly and possibly become a $180 billion market by 2022. Suddenly, that energy-guzzling penthouse in the heart of a messy urban sprawl might not look all that attractive anymore.