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By Peter Sproule

Design Director, Moda Living


Build to Rent – what does wellness in design mean in 2020?

Moda is positioning itself as a pioneer within the BTR sector.

From interior design to tech and vertical integration we are leading the charge, and resident wellness is critical in how we design and operate our buildings.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a building that actively makes you healthier and happier?


Wellness in the built environment has moved a long way from installing a green wall or providing some gym equipment in a building. Wellness must be stitched into the very fabric of the building if it is to make a significant and lasting impact on a resident’s daily life.

Wellness also incorporates many different elements and senses including sight, smell, sound, touch, daylight, sunlight, fresh air, comfort, control, safety, activity, and nature.

The average person spends 80% of their time indoors, and this is now even higher because of Covid. The environment we live in and work in can impact our mood greatly and therefore affect our overall health and wellbeing.

Good design can have a positive impact on how we feel within buildings. We focus on the ‘customer experience’ and it is considered at a very early stage – how does a resident move through the building, what is the customer journey, how do the spaces flow, how does it feel within the apartments, where and what are the amenities, and how can we create opportunities for social interaction.

The Mental Health Foundation reports that every week one in six adults experience symptoms of a common and diagnosable mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression. As the creators and designers of our Next Generation Neighbourhoods, Moda carries a significant level of responsibility in providing healthy environments for our residents to live in. This includes designing with sustainability in mind, fostering a sense of community, and maintaining our resident’s wellness.

Daylight can have a significant impact on mood. We provide generous 2.5m floor to ceiling heights in apartments with large full height glazing. Amenity areas have a 3.5m floor to ceiling height, creating a sense of freedom, and allowing natural daylight and sunlight to flood into the spaces, whilst improving views out.

Access to external space provides fresh air and psychological benefits. At Angel Gardens we have a large central courtyard, a roof terrace with trees and comfortable furniture, as well as a rooftop sports pitch promoting physical activity and reduced stress.

A key feature of Moda’s design is to have generous and flexible roof terrace space accessed directly from internal amenities. By elevating our key amenity spaces to the upper floors, rather than locating them all on the ground floor or in the basement, this provides healthier environments in which to work, rest, and play.

Storage is an element that is often overlooked by developers as ‘dead space’ however it helps avoid clutter, promoting a sense of calm. Moda provides 1.5m wide full height wardrobes, large kitchens with plenty of storage, and ottoman beds with storage within. Separate dedicated and lockable resident storage areas are also provided on-site for larger items such as bicycles or golf clubs.

Adaptability is important for changing needs and allows flexibility for alternative future uses. The WELL building standard states that spaces should be ‘sufficiently adaptable for working, focusing, collaborating, and resting as needed’.

Landlord storage in Moda buildings will allow for furniture to be removed if a resident requires a room to be converted for home working or as a child’s room, giving residents the ability to adapt spaces to suit their needs making them feel happier and more empowered. Alongside flexible furniture options and flexible tenancies, where residents can enlarge or upgrade their apartments, this encourages residents to stay longer.

Amenity spaces are designed to be entirely flexible from the outset so that they can respond to changing needs, for example, increased work-from-home space provision during the lockdown. At Angel Gardens we have seen a considerable increase in residents working within our amenity areas since lockdown restrictions were introduced.

Our partnership with Utopi has enabled us to install IoT sensors and cameras to monitor social distancing and cleaning regimes. Beyond the benefits this brings us in a Covid world, the long-term benefit of data capture for how and when residents use different types of amenity spaces will allow us to adapt the designs to suit resident’s needs and use patterns.

Utopi’s multi-sensor allows us to monitor and control air quality in apartments and amenity areas in real-time, including temperature, humidity, light, noise, and CO2. This allows us to create a wellness score for each community ensuring the building is providing the optimum internal environment for our residents.

It is estimated that 40% of us will feel lonely at some point in our lives. Loneliness can be triggered by stress and poor physical and mental health. The MyModa App helps to combat this, especially during the lockdown, by providing a platform for community and social interaction.

At Angel Gardens Moda can share information about events such as HIIT classes, wellbeing workshops, and yoga, and residents can create their own clubs such as a 5-a-side football club with 50 members.

Control of internal environments is important to our happiness. This can be as simple as an openable window or scene-setting lighting control and comfort cooling in amenity areas, allowing residents to control their environment for optimum comfort. Thermal comfort is linked to health and wellbeing and contributes towards resident satisfaction in buildings.

The World Health Organization states that noise pollution can disturb sleep, reduce performance, and cause psychological effects and changes in social behaviour. As Moda buildings are in prime city-centre locations, we address both external and internal noise by providing a 5dB improvement over Building Regs in sound insulation for walls and floors. This coupled with 95% dim-out curtains in every bedroom ensures enhanced privacy, a quieter more relaxed internal environment, and a better night’s sleep.

The average person spends 26 years of their life sleeping and a further 7 years trying to get to sleep. A good night’s sleep can have a big impact on our productivity and mental health. This starts with a good bed. Moda buildings provide a variety of bed sizes and mattress firmness, with all mattresses made from natural materials, with anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties to combat allergies.

Apartment furniture in Moda buildings is designed for maximum comfort, whilst being robust and operationally efficient. We have a range of colours and fabrics that promote mental wellbeing and calm, whilst offering choice for residents. At Angel Gardens we have seen a 95% take-up in furnished apartments as opposed to unfurnished.

Recent restrictions due to Covid have placed high importance on exercise and nutrition. In the last three months, UK households ordered 50 million takeaways from Just Eat alone. Food can impact mood and happiness; therefore, it is important to encourage residents to spend more time in their kitchens.

Moda kitchens provide high-quality Samsung appliances and plenty of storage. During the lockdown, Moda hosted online cookery classes and provided ingredients to your door. Nutrition is one of the key parameters of FitWel and Moda also regularly host cookery classes in our fully equipped private dining room at Angel Gardens to promote healthy eating.

Moda’s partnership with Hero allows for a holistic approach to wellness, with the ability to speak to experts who offer support around mental and physical health and nutrition. Moda residents can receive a full 3D body scan, and diet plan whilst the Hero wellness platform will track sleep, movement, nutrition, and mood.

Our partnership with PKB will offer residents a variety of healthy food options without having to leave the development. Fully equipped 24-hour gyms in each Moda building offer residents a variety of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise options as well as open-plan studio space, and at The Mercian in Birmingham, we have incorporated a 200m running track on the roof terrace.

To ensure we are providing the optimum built environment for our residents, Moda buildings are aligned to both WELL and FitWel with The Lexington in Liverpool to achieve FitWel Certification. These standards focus solely on the health and wellbeing of building occupants, by implementing strategies in the design, construction, and operation of buildings. These strategies address health as an interconnected system, enhancing communities, improving fitness and nutrition, water and air quality, and occupant safety.

The WELL Building Standard places importance on creating joy and visual comfort. Within Moda buildings, colourful bespoke artworks by Adam Ellis Studio located throughout amenity areas and circulation areas reflect local culture and heritage, enhancing the customer experience by providing inspiration and increasing productivity.

Integration of public art is also encouraged by WELL and at The Lexington in Liverpool, we are installing a large public artwork on the front elevation.

Our partnership with Neom allows us to create a subtle but recognisable scent within our buildings. Once operational Moda residents will be able to move between our portfolio of 8,000 rental units across the UK. From Edinburgh to Manchester, Birmingham, and Hove, the Neom scent will be utilised, creating a sense of home and familiarity.

Health and wellbeing are becoming increasingly important to consumers especially in the current climate and residents are willing to pay a premium to live in a building that improves their overall wellness. If we create the right environments, residents will be happier, healthier, and stay longer.

*Peter Sproule is Design Director at Moda Living  - Wellness in Design


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