Health comes first in Aan de Rijn

Recent years have witnessed an increased focus on the health aspects of buildings. Especially those used for working have been improved, such as offices and distribution centres. Now the time has come to do the same for the health of residential buildings and Dutch rental agency Vesteda is leading the way: its Aan de Rijn apartment complex will be the first WELL-certified occupied residential building in the world.

Why WELL?
The WELL standard is the leading certification in the field of health and wellbeing in real estate, benefitting residents and the sector alike. “Health and comfort are becoming major valuation aspects in real estate,” says Raymond Schäperkötter, Technical Acquisition Manager at Vesteda. “Until now we have focused more on green and energy-efficient buildings than the health and comfort of tenants. Now we want to shift our focus to these latter aspects, and the WELL Building Standard allows us to do just that.”

A golden experience
Health and wellbeing are fully promoted in Aan de Rijn, Schäperkötter continues: “The quality of the real estate is anchored in the experience of its users. WELL certification will contribute to the residents’ comfort and a healthy living environment, providing them with a positive residential experience. You can finish an apartment in gold but it will never be a comfortable home if it fails to function properly.”

Fresh air
While there are no golden ceilings in Aan de Rijn, the insulation and ventilation have certainly been the subject of careful consideration. The air quality has been significantly improved using monitoring and communication with the tenants. Schäperkötter: “WELL has a major focus on air quality and, together with hello energy, we can guarantee a good performance. Where necessary we can encourage residents to change their behaviour, such as smoking in rented apartments. While tenants who moved in before certification are not prohibited from smoking, we do use the screens in the hall to request them to stop.” New residents are subject to a general smoking ban so the complex is gradually becoming smoke-free, enhancing air quality and giving residents cleaner air in their living environment.

Comfort
In addition to air quality, there is also a growing focus on comfort. As tenants are becoming more critical on this subject too it is an aspect that investors and developers need to take into account. “Health and comfort are increasingly important,” adds Schäperkötter. “Air conditioning and climate control have become the standard in cars, for instance, so why should that not be the case in homes?”

Office versus residential
There have been significant developments in the field of health and comfort in real estate over the past five years. Despite that, and while new commercial real estate has been getting certified for some time, Aan de Rijn will be the first WELL-certified residential complex in the Netherlands. Schäperkötter says that there are various reasons behind this discrepancy: “An office is increasingly seen as a company asset rather than a cost item because comfortable and healthy offices contribute to greater productivity and help staff take pleasure in their work. A healthy office is ultimately, therefore, simply more profitable.”

The same cannot be said for residences, and there is another factor to take into account: “The average residential real estate features far less technology than commercial real estate, limiting the possibilities for creating a healthy and comfortable living environment. This is gradually changing due to the rising sustainability of homes in the Netherlands, which is, in turn, creating more opportunities.”

Integrated approach
According to Schäperkötter, real estate should revolve more around its users. “An integrated approach is far from common in the current real estate sector, and the interests of investors, developers and tenants are miles apart. We should listen more carefully to tenant demands: desirable homes are more easily let and, therefore, the most interesting objects for real estate investors.”

Tenants desire healthier and more comfortable homes, and WELL monitors these aspects. That makes for an ideal match, concludes Schäperkötter “The only thing tenants notice about BREEAM certification and energy labels is the lower energy costs. That’s great, of course, but it does not contribute to their living experience. We believe this should be the focal point, which is why we now feature screens from hello energy. We will also soon be developing an app that will help residents make healthier choices in their behaviour, cleaning products and even their furniture. People will then feel like they are both living in and contributing to a better living environment.”

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