Consumers are taking the initiative to spend their money on brands that are more environmentally friendly – even if they have to pay more for it. The commitment to a greener future is a lifestyle choice affecting customers in every way, including real estate, as green amenities become a determining factor in where people choose to live, work, and shop. Multifamily homes that can offer green amenities like rooftop gardens stand to be more attractive to environmentally-conscious residents.
When people were confined to their homes during the pandemic, shoppers were willing to spend $8.5 billion more on gardening supplies than the previous year, another indication of the commitment to living green. Rooftop gardens involve an upfront investment to construct commercially so it is a matter of due diligence to consider whether it is a passing fad, but due to deep psychological ties to a major life event like the pandemic it is likely the sentiments developed about plants and home gardens will persist.
High-rise vertical gardens—or living buildings—are more than just visually impressive displays of biodiversity as they also work to offset the resources and energy involved in building skyscrapers or other large urban developments. Gardens are not just aesthetic amenities or pandemic trends, but the plants on living buildings provide numerous benefits such as cleaning the air of carbon, increasing oxygen production, better humidity regulation, reduction of stormwater runoff, additional building insulation, mitigation of noise pollution, and even decreases the urban heat island effect.
The Bosco Verticale in Milan—also referred to as the Vertical Forrest—and Park Royal on Pickering in Singapore are some of the early pioneers of living buildings that have become tourist destinations in their own right.
The Javits Center in Manhattan recently underwent a $1.55 billion dollar renovation to add a farm that will produce 40,000 pounds of crops annually using renewable irrigation and will incorporate their harvest into event menu offerings. This on-site farm-to-table service is often a high-end dining luxury, especially in urban areas where farm-fresh items typically are shipped from further outside the city. It might seem like a large investment to make just to add a perceived luxury, but the garden updates have also added value by reducing the Javits’s energy consumption by 26%.
Gardens are not just visually attractive, but they have other features that can be leveraged to boost the return on investment. For example, One Central Park in Sydney also uses their garden space to host farmer’s markets, LED light shows, and music festivals to generate additional revenue.
Commercial real estate has witnessed a similar exodus during the pandemic as residents migrated out of crowded cities and office buildings in favor of rural isolation, but many are now making their way back to commercial apartments as remote workers return to the office. Rooftop garden amenities are just one way to appeal to the need for a natural refuge even in densely populated cities and provide a communal space without total rural isolation. Another way to get creative to entice residents is to set aside some of the green space in the rooftop garden that could be used as a dog park to tap into the market of pet owners.
Ultimately, rooftop gardens were already a way to attract tenants and retain them, which reduces costs of turnover even before the pandemic. Now there is a greater emphasis than ever before on transforming living spaces into an independent oasis and supporting green initiatives—both of which can be achieved with rooftop gardens that will ultimately add value to multifamily properties.