How millennials are setting new benchmarks for city living

“Of course, millennial buyers want to know that design is good for the environment, but they also want it to make them feel better”

The following is an extract from the How to Spend It supplement in the Financial Times. The full article can be read here.


Sustainability – like plug-and-play 1GB broadband and an electric-car-charging station – is now a given but personal wellbeing has undoubtedly soared up the want list. “Of course, millennial buyers want to know that design is good for the environment, but they also want it to make them feel better,” says Olga Turner, who with business partner Jonathan Baker launched Ekkist last year, a design-and-build practice focusing on wellbeing.


Over the past few decades, various health and sustainability benchmarks have been introduced to guide more “woke” developers and consumers, including Passivhaus (a German standard of low-energy heating and cooling), Breeam (which concentrates on sustainable construction) and more recently, the Well Building Standard (launched in the US in 2013), which addresses occupant health.


Here, the mark scheme rates the quality of air, light, water and materials and the impact a building will have on the residents’ state of mind. In response, working with its architectural partner Studio McLeod, Ekkist has devised the Ori House, the UK’s first concept property to abide by both Passivhaus and Well Building Standard principles. Available to purchase as a blueprint for a freestanding building (there are also options for extensions and alterations or a bespoke model can be commissioned), the design has taken account of all requirements: maximising daylight (and happiness-inducing serotonin) with plenty of well-positioned glass and offering the chance to upgrade to circadian lighting systems – synched to the body clock to fine-tune performance – as well as providing air and water filtration systems and fireplaces filled with focal planting rather than wood-burning stoves. “Nasa studies have shown that certain species of vegetation help to filter pollution,” says Turner, “and other research has demonstrated that exposure to greenery can help concentration, lower stress and aid recovery.”


Biophilic design – an approach reconnecting urban homeowners with nature – has become increasingly widespread. For example, at Wardian London, an innovative development at Canary Wharf (where apartments are priced from £635,000 to £1.85m through Savills), buyers can not only swim in the pool amid 100 different exotic species of plants and flowers, but can also customise their own indoor and outdoor greenery with a bespoke landscaping service. In Milan, meanwhile, at Bosco Verticale (where Frimm Academy is selling a one-bedroom flat for €930,000), the façades have been enveloped with 900 trees intended to improve air quality, moderate temperature and reduce noise.


Confident, concerned and in a hurry – that’s this brave new world.