The built environment impacts all of us in innumerable ways. Sometimes in good ways, when we enjoy a walk in a well-designed public park, and sometimes in a bad way when we find ourselves trapped in the center-lane of a highway unable to turn or rejoin the flow of traffic, or lost in a maze of unmarked corridors in a poorly designed medical building. The built environment includes the public and private realm which is described broadly as “real estate.” And real estate values, or at least the discussion of them, drives endless conversation, sparks bouts of fear and envy, and influences buying decisions of other consumer goods both big and small. Real estate can be used to build, convey and protect wealth just as it can be an anchor that drags an individual or company, or country into bankruptcy.
Real estate is as much a construct as it is a thing, or a place; and constructs are assembled ideas, just as a house, or a shopping center, or an office building is made up of assembled materials. If you remove a key piece of the construction, or assemble the parts in the wrong way you can create wholly different objects altogether. Sometimes the differences between the properly assembled product and the improperly assembled product are miniscule, barely perceptible to those living or working within them; and sometimes the results can be catastrophic. It is an important and often over-looked fact that the physical design of the built environment (both public and private) impacts the feel and function of a place. How you design a community, the widths of streets, lengths of blocks, abundance or absence of landscaping and open space can have a much larger impact on how comfortable that neighborhood feels than the design, size (or price) of the houses that populate it.
Most of us encounter places each day where there is little regard for design at a human scale. Though we may not be able to articulate the feeling, we know we feel uncomfortable. This discomfort will ultimately discourage us from staying in or returning to that office, store, model home, restaurant, ect. The impact of place must not be overlooked when considering where and how to build, buy or lease your office, shop, home or school. So while the old real estate adage “location, location, location” still matters, make sure that great location feels as good as it looks.