Courtesy Pegasus Residential

Healthy amenity programming, HVAC equipment that provides fresh air, and plenty of outdoor space. Oh, and don’t forget the Peloton bikes.

Those are a few of the wellness choices that Gen Z renters, born 1995 and later, are looking for in their apartment communities today, according to leading multifamily developers, operators, and designers.

“Gen Z prioritizes wellness at the top of their list when choosing an apartment home,” says Laurie Lyons, vice president, client services, at Atlanta-based Pegasus Residential, an operator of 33,000 units. “Their favorite wellness features include indoor and outdoor fitness areas, virtual training systems, sustainable spaces, and experiential programs.”

Indeed, according to data from the New Zealand-based fitness programming firm Les Mills, 87% of Gen Z regularly exercise three or more times per week.

A Healthy Lifestyle That Goes Beyond Fitness

But that doesn’t mean you can just build a gym in your common area and call it done.

For example, Lyons says beyond fitness equipment, residents are seeking out other experiential wellness options on site, such as virtual cooking classes, nutritional counseling, personal training, fitness classes, wellness programs, and shared bike and scooter services.

Courtesy Pegasus Residential

And while Peloton bikes and training programs such as TRX and CrossFit also appeal to these renters, Lyons notes you can’t just build your community’s unique wellness marketing message around other people’s brands.

“They connect more with humanized messaging like exercise more, eat well, buy natural, and be sustainable,” Lyons says.

A Farm Stand Picnic in the Courtyard

Indeed, for Stan Kubinski, principal at Boston-based architecture firm Bergmeyer, cross-branding can be a double-edged sword when it comes to courting Gen Z.

“Gen Z is historically less trusting of brands—they have the strongest BS filter among all groups,” says Kubinski, a father to twin daughters and a son who fit into the demographic. “Be openly transparent, remove all the marketing speak, and give them the data they are looking for to reinforce their decision to live at your property.”

For example, he says telling the story about the happy couple that enjoys a farm stand picnic on a blanket each Saturday in the courtyard will emphasize the outdoor areas and wellness lifestyle they crave, while appealing to them more than any flashy marketing campaign ever could.

“Show them that you’ve created spaces that will help manage their stress and promote their healthy lifestyle,” Kubinski says. “That’s the key to their hearts.”

Show them you care, as well. Grand Rapids, Michigan-based construction, development, and property management firm Rockford Construction recently partnered with a local counseling center to help residents deal with the increased stress of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The call offered a break from the ongoing chaos by providing comforting tips and guidance to people during COVID,” says Monica Steimle-App, executive vice president, real estate development, at Rockford.

Wellness Is in the Air

While indoor air quality was important to this cohort before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, 64% of Americans are now concerned about indoor air quality, with nearly a fifth of the population being more concerned today than before COVID-19 struck, according to Knoxville, Tennessee-based sustainability consultancy Shelton Group.

For those reasons, operators and developers are emphasizing upgraded HVAC systems at apartments today. At Pegasus, for example, Lyons highlights bipolar ionization systems and air purifiers inside apartment units.

For Brandon Chasen, CEO of Baltimore-based boutique developer and builder Chasen Cos., which operates 300 units, that has meant ensuring that his apartments have dedicated HVAC units.

“To offer the best air quality, we are installing individual mini-split HVAC units with separate air filters in all of our new properties to ensure renters are not sharing air,” Chasen says, who notes that regular cleanings at his properties, are also a must in a COVID-19 world. That’s something other developers are keying in on as well.

“During this tumultuous time, residents want to know that communal spaces are being routinely sanitized, extra attention is paid when cleaning and preparing units for their occupancy, and clear social distancing protocols are in place and enforced regularly,” says Michael D’Andrea, vice president of development for the Southwest region at the Miami-based Related Group, which has built and managed over 100,000 residential units.

Elevating the Great Outdoors

Chasen is also making use of his roofs, in tandem with promoting his wellness programming. “We’re working with one of the top cycle studios to set up an outdoor spin class on the roof deck of one of our new properties,” Chasen says.

Indeed, many operators are leveraging roofs to give residents more access to the outdoors.

The Madison, Baltimore, Md. Courtesy Chasen Cos.

“We’re seeing an increase in roof decks,” says David Shove-Brown, co-founder of Washington, D.C.-based design firm //3877. “Developers are asking us how they can make that area—often utilized for building materials and machinery—a space that residents can enjoy.”

At Clarkson Estates, a new 291-unit affordable housing community in Brooklyn designed by New York-based architecture firm CetraRuddy, outdoor space includes a landscaped interior courtyard and a series of landscaped terraces with community gardens, fitness areas, innovative play spaces, sculpture gardens, and event spaces.

Clarkson Estates, Brooklyn, N.Y. Courtesy, CetraRuddy

“Outdoor space is a critical wellness feature for renters in the Gen Z cohort, and it’s important to find new and creative ways to incorporate the outdoors into apartment communities,” says Nancy J. Ruddy, co-founder and executive director of interior design at CetraRuddy.

One Essex Crossing, New York, N.Y. Courtesy CetraRuddy

By authentically emphasizing wellness amenities and programming, while stepping up to ensure Gen Z’s health is top of mind, apartment operators can stand out, while offering residents a safe, clean, active, and healthy place to call home.