Property development is the sum of the built and the social environment, where the built form cannot be successful without considering how new residents will positively participate and contribute to the community.
For Melbourne mixed-use and residential developer Neometro, a commitment to delivering projects that give back to the communities in which they’re built, underpins every element of the business, from design, through to community consultation, site activation and construction.
Neometro became the first property developer in Australia to be a certified B Corporation in 2012, a US-based accreditation of businesses that set high standards in community, environmental, governance and social endeavours.
Director James Tutton, who was a founding Board Member of B Lab Australia, sees the clear advantage of applying a triple bottom line business model to Neometro.
“Our participation in the conversation about redefining business success encourages others to follow, and that’s only a good thing when it comes to the traditionally conservative, male dominated property sector,” he says.
For Tutton, the Australian property industry is based on, “What happened yesterday, not what we think is going to happen in the future,” leaving limited room for innovation and leadership towards more sustainable urban environments.
This culture of doing good involves a number of inward and outward looking programs. Neometro supports a wide variety of arts and social initiatives that unite the community with shared interests and new ideas. Urban farming group 3000acres, Slopes Gallery, Phase One Coffee, Smiling Mind and the free print and online publication Open Journal are the pillars of Neometro’s vision of High Density Happiness.
Neometro has found tangible value in its B Corp certification. In line with the Edelman Earned Brand research, 80 per cent of consumers want to connect with brands that are trustworthy and aligned in values. With the B Corp certification, customers have a platform to identify and connect with businesses that are transparent about what they’re doing, that are connected to the community and good to their staff.
“Money has pervaded real estate development, making the need for change even more important and presenting a fantastic opportunity for those companies that are willing to spearhead that change. It creates an open field for brands like Neometro that do development with a strong focus on community, social infrastructure and sustainability. It’s a competitive edge.”
That edge similarly applies to talent attraction and retention. Deloitte recently published a survey on millennial employees entitled One Foot Out the Door, which found that 40 per cent of millennials are going to leave their organisation by 2020, 70 per cent of them want to work for a purpose driven company and seven in 10 want to work for a company that puts purpose above profit. As a B Corp, Neometro ticks these boxes to be a workplace of choice. B Corps are going to naturally attract and retain more talent to support strong staff engagement and company growth.
High density happiness
The concept of High Density Happiness evolved from the findings of a study commissioned by The Heart Foundation into maximising the health benefits and minimising harmful impacts of high-density living.
The study gives the property development community a clear template for how to deliver projects that will contribute to a world that is physically, emotionally and environmentally healthy.
Using the study as a platform for public advocacy, Neometro launched the High Density Happiness speaker series on housing futures and urban sustainability at Melbourne’s MPavilion in 2015.
The series brings issues such as elevating apartment standards and curbing the urban sprawl into the public domain for discussion and debate to contribute to a more transparent and inclusive development industry.
Neometro’s New Urban Village at Jewell Station in Brunswick is intended to be the embodiment of High Density Happiness, bringing together environmentally sustainable design and a variety of social partners to create a series of one and two bedroom apartments set in the context of extensive community infrastructure including bike paths, public art, urban farming, meditation and yoga spaces, art studios and project spaces.
In order to lead in a rapidly changing market, and especially in the property industry, businesses need to be confident.
Neometro advocates for a new standard in design, building and livability; one that demands developers go beyond a profit margin to deliver housing that supports positive well-being and resilient communities. The vision is for the creation of communities that are rich in platforms to meet new people, join discussions, form creative partnerships and bring to life those ideas that give back.
Laura Phillips is Editor of Open Journal, an initiative by Neometro that advocates for good design, progressive planning policy, pedestrian cities and high density happiness. Watch a series of short films about the bike workshop, urban farming and more at New Urban Village at Jewell Station here.
Images courtesy Neometro.