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Post-pandemic, a quest for more meaningful places to live takes shape

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Forward-thinking property developers are increasingly delivering residential schemes based on the core principles of community, sustainability, and lifestyle to meet the growing desire for more authentic, values-driven and eco-conscious ways of living.

The acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic may be over, with countries including CanadaJapanthe Netherlands and Australia recently lifting many or all of their remaining restrictions. However, various studies indicate that the unprecedented events of the past two years are likely to have long-term ramifications on how people live and work, which are expected to reshape cities, suburbs, shops, offices and residences around the world.

The pandemic’s global upheaval has rapidly accelerated trends which were already taking shape, such as a shift towards community-centred real estate and a desire for more space and amenities—especially access to outdoor areas. This has encouraged many people to move to suburban and rural areas in search of sustainable, eco-friendly living environments, and property developers are taking note.

The rise of the lifestyle ecosystem

Even prior to the pandemic, certain prominent real estate developers had foreseen consumers’ emerging desire for a sense of community and purpose when deciding where to live or stay on holiday, a factor that is swiftly becoming as important as stunning architecture or a great location. Israeli entrepreneur Vitaliy Borisov, founder of international property group Mirum, anticipated that his clients would increasingly seek out what he describes as a “lifestyle ecosystem,” explaining that “keeping a pulse on emerging trends is vital for property developers working on a major project; you need to anticipate five, seven, even ten years ahead.”

Rather than simply constructing ‘cookie-cutter’ homes or resorts, forward-thinking property developers believe that a lifestyle ecosystem should mean creating spaces that have multi-generational appeal, with a particular focus on sustainability and incorporating the local landscape and culture. Exemplifying this vision, Borisov spent 10 years piecing together the adjacent land parcels for Mirum’s latest project located along an elevated site overlooking Mirabello Bay on Crete’s northeast coast. Showcasing the kind of mixed-use property for which there is high and growing demand, Elounda Hills marries a wide range of elements, such as a signature 5-star hotel, marina, commercial and leisure amenities, private residences—including Crete’s first branded residences—and even horticultural gardens with an amphitheatre.

Mirum has partnered with US-based 1 Hotels brand—the sustainability-focused brainchild of hospitality legend Barry Sternlicht—to deliver Borisov’s ambitious new development, which taps into two of the most significant incipient trends in property preferences: a remarkable rise in eco-consciousness and significant interest in the lifestyle and investment benefits associated with the branded residence concept and its amenities.

Sustainability taking centre-stage

Consumers around the world have steadily put an increasingly high value on sustainability; pre-pandemic international studies showed that more than three-quarters of people were keen to live more sustainably, and well over half were prepared to pay a premium to do so. Analysis by PwC indicates that half of all global consumers have become more eco-conscious in recent years, with certain regions (Asia and the Middle East in particular) and generations (notably Millennialsseeing particularly marked rises in eco-awareness.

A phenomenon which the World Economic Forum has labelled the “eco-wakening” is increasingly being observed worldwide in both developed and developing economies. It has even pervaded the luxury sector; ”luxury and sustainability are one and the same”, declares François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, the conglomerate behind Gucci, Saint Laurent and other famous fashion labels. In the hospitality industry, countless eco-resorts are popping up around the world, with major international brands like Hilton, 1 Hotels, and Six Senses showcasing pioneering sustainable practices at their flagship resorts.

Goa has emerged as a particular model of luxury and eco-friendly real estate, with architects and developers embracing innovative technologies to combine the aesthetic value of Portuguese villa and French château styles with sustainable design. In addition to energy-efficient LED lighting, CO2 absorption mechanisms, and rainwater harvesting and geothermal cooling systems, eco-friendly properties use locally sourced, high-quality recyclable materials. What’s more, some developments also incorporate vertical farms and community gardens, showing that beyond technological interventions, eco-friendly developments are fundamentally based on “an attitude that is appreciative of nature…in every aspect of the design,” as described by sustainable real estate pioneer Jorge Loza.

Branded residences draw aficionados from around the world

In a parallel shake up of traditional luxury residential developments, new players are increasingly breaking into the branded residences market, which combines premium living amenities with luxury brand association. While the biggest names like Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons remain on top, non-hotel actors such as fashion designers Armani and Versace, mass media brands Elle and Condé Nast, and even automobile heavyweights like Bentley and Aston Martin are expanding into the sector. This trend has been driven by growing demand for unique lifestyle experiences, which lifestyle hotel innovator Ian Schrager claims has created an “egalitarian and democratized” luxury living sector.

According to real estate consultant Savills, branded residences have grown by a stunning 170% over the past decade. And, while North America remains the leader with 40% of global schemes, this sector is booming in all corners of the world. East Asia, led by Thailand and Vietnam, is home to nearly one-quarter of all branded residency developments underway, while Egypt and UAE are driving growth in the MENA region, which has just over 20% of global pipeline schemes. Looking ahead, this growth is set to further expand, with post-Covid home buyers putting ever-greater value on safe, comfortable and innovative living environments.

While the pandemic is fading into the background around the world, it is not doing so without leaving its mark; extended periods of isolation and home confinement have rapidly driven a lasting shift in lifestyle preferences that were already in their nascent phases. It is therefore the responsibility of developers to embrace opportunities for creating truly exceptional communities designed to satisfy this evolving lifestyle while protecting the environment.

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