The Coronavirus has engulfed the world in an unprecedented challenge to our collective wellbeing, and our very way of life. Now more than ever, the current situation forces the need to pursue healthy built environments – what we are now facing reinforces the importance of a healthy and supportive environment for everyone. For developers the present focus is a reminder of a central ideal – to improve the health and wellbeing of those who live and work in the built environment.
We know that social sustainability principles are vital to our health and wellbeing, and the ways we create healthy supportive environments must make it easy to be not only physically well but also socially connected.
New research shows loneliness is a serious public health problem, for young people as much as the elderly. Many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic’. Statistics have also identified a particular risk of loneliness among young people who were renting and who did not feel a sense of belonging to the local area.
The challenge we face as effective building managers is what can be done about it?
With 1 in 5 Australians living in multi-storey developments and up to 1 in 4 Australians identifying as feeling lonely is there a connection between the two?
Local space and place have become more important during the lockdown and more highly appreciated. While attractive spaces are important, it is more important, especially within multi-storey developments, to foster projects that support social connection. Examples include face to face or even online building or neighbourhood groups, volunteering programs and befriending/meetup projects and events. Creating community needs to be continually encouraged and facilitated.
At National FM our building managers are important facilitators. They establish and maintain connections between residents and help in developing a sense of community and place within the buildings they manage. Interventions are aimed at both the individual and the building community levels. Further, while it is crucial that developments are planned out so that they are walkable and include social spaces where people can meet up, such as with gardens or recreation centres, but it is equally essential to have building managers who care about and take the time to make people feel connected to, and within, their built community.