The first U.S. residential condominium development to provide natural wellness technology solutions for every unit.
BY GEORGE MCCLURE
DEVELOPED BY RISHI KAPOOR of Location Ventures and designed by Hamed Rodriguez of Hamed Rodriguez Architects, Villa Valencia features wellness technology provided by Jan Vitrofsky of HEDsouth that includes Lutron/Ketra lighting and the pioneering Delos DARWIN system consisting of clean air and purified water methodologies among other health-related attributes.
Located in Coral Gables, the building’s 39 estate-sized residences range from three to six bedrooms and offer from 2,616 to 6,263 square feet, with finishes selected to bring contemporary style and timeless craftsmanship together with technology into perfect harmony.
I recently had a conversation with the visionaries behind this incredible project. Here are some of their insights.
Hamed Rodriguez Architects
George: Tell us a little about Location Ventures.
Rishi: We are a Coral Gables based real estate development and investment company. We have four divisions that focus on high-end single family, luxury, wellness condominiums and multi-family rentals. And then we have a co-live, co-work and wellness company by the name of Urbin, that provides acceptable price points for people to live and work inside of core sub-markets. Our three pillars are nature, wellness and technology. So I think it’s a great conversation that we’re having where we really look at pushing the envelope and being a thought-leader on the technology side and how we integrate that into our real estate.
When we started the company six years ago we were always trying to find ways of how to bring more wellness into the home environment or office environment. And we just happened to be very lucky on timing where that was a space that we were already exploring. We met the guys at Delos, maybe now it’s been four years ago, and started planning them into our projects. And obviously, the pandemic has put a really big spotlight on the wellness space. And I’m proud to say that I think we were really early to the category.
GEORGE: I understand you actually planned the building in a certain location so you could create a park adjacent to it?
RISHI: Again, we love nature as one of our three pillars and the city of Coral Gables worked with us by saying, “Look, what we want are amazing outdoor green spaces. And we want world-class art as a part of that.”
And that led to the inception of shifting the project a little bit to the west on our site, on the eastern edge, donating a public park with a one-of-a-kind outdoor sculpture. It’s going to be a really nice destination for the neighborhood.
George: Hamed, when did you get involved in Villa Valencia?
Hamed: We were retained to add amenity areas for well-being, an elevated health club, and a space for experimenting with gourmet foods that are healthy. So we have what they call the Cucina, which is right by the pool deck level on the fifth floor. And then he’s got a hammam [a Turkish-style spa] in there as well for men and women for physical relaxation.
We wanted to use natural materials as much as possible. We didn’t want things that would off-gas or be regionally inappropriate. There are some things that you can’t avoid, but for instance, concrete is a manmade material that’s very prevalent in South Florida and therefore, doesn’t travel far.
We’re using Coral stone and some Oolithic limestone in certain areas. Also known as Oolite, this stone is harvested from South Florida. The landscape pallet is using much native vegetation. The building has to abide by certain green standard which is specific to local code requirements. All of this is layered into the wellness aspect and overall experience.
George: Jan, you were instrumental in bringing the Delos platform to the attention of technology designers, correct?
Jan: Yes, several years ago I was brought in to be the industry consultant for Delos for the system integration channel, and I’ve sort of been the evangelist for getting the word out that this is a subcategory for system integration companies — that it’s the hottest thing out there.
I brought it to Rishi’s attention when he was building two spec homes in the Miami marketplace and wanted a differentiator for his product versus what everybody else was doing, like Sonos and big screen 4K TVs. So I pitched him on this wellness narrative because I thought it was an important thing to get happening in the Miami marketplace.
To be honest, a lot of times people are skeptical about this stuff. But with Delos, their business partner is the Mayo Clinic. You don’t get any more real than that when it comes to the science; as well as input from the Harvard Sleep School, Columbia School of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, etc. I brought Rishi up to New York to Delos’ headquarters, and he’s like, “Okay, I’m in.”
I convinced him that it needed to be part of the basic developer deliverable versus being an upgrade. Because again, it’s a new category, getting people to understand the value, the understanding of it, is based upon sophistication and who the client is. Miami’s not California. Miami is Miami, which is a market that’s known for “I can get it for you less, or I can build it for you cheaper.”
RISHI: Yeah, I had finished a house with Jan where we did a personal resort. He introduced us to some of these concepts, and he said, “Hey, I’m building a relationship with Delos, let’s go to New York.” So we went to New York, we met with him and the Delos team, and they got us turned on to the entire ecosystem, the circadian rhythm lighting, the air purification system, the monitoring, the water purification system. So Jan, who we hired to lead our home technology, was the genesis of introducing this for us. And we’re very grateful for that.
JAN: We came to him with a number that was affordable to do, and he said, “Okay, we’re going to provide this in every one of the units.” And so the process began, and the marketing legs that came with it from him have been huge. And for HEDsouth as well — we’ve been written up in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, all of these different consumer and business-to-business type publications.
"A lot of times people are skeptical about this stuff. But with Delos, their business partner is the Mayo Clinic. You don't get any more real than that when it comes to the science"
Jan Vitrofsky, HEDsouth
George: Tell us more about DARWIN.
Jan: DARWIN is a product that came out of Delos, taking data and research from the WELL Building Standard and from the Mayo Clinic and research and tests and reports and studies that were done, and embedded all of those things into breathing clean air, etc. Something called Dawn Simulation, to give you an example, which helps enhance sleep – think of it as taking the different pillars, putting them into a little computer and running wellness shows.
So what does that mean? That means that when you push the keypad for your Lutron lighting system on the wall, which has an astronomical time clock built into it, it knows what time of day it is and it shifts the light through the Ketra fixtures to the color temperature that’s appropriate for your circadian rhythm. You want in the morning to wake up with a warm color temperature as you’re getting ready for the day, have it energize you by changing the color temperature of the light, going throughout your day with the proper color temperature of the light matching outside. And then when it’s time for your brain to start getting into the sleep mode and producing melatonin, it automatically changes the color temperature of the lights. So your brain knows it’s about to be bedtime, it starts producing melatonin so that you sleep well.
Dawn Simulation also sends a command to the thermostat to warm up the room a couple hours before you get up and slowly raising up the blackout shades in the bedroom to start bringing natural light into the room. When the lights come on in the room, they come up at a warm color temperature, so you can wake up to a warm color.
It’s taking these different pillars and putting the story behind it, that works to what the tests and results that they pulled out of the data from the Mayo Clinic. So it’s the ultimate alarm clock, if you want to call it that. And as the day progresses, when you set what time you’re going to go to bed, it knows that it should be making the room colder because you’re supposed to sleep with a cold room versus a warm room. Delos also has curated wellness audio content, so part of the wakeup sequence, as opposed to the nasty alarm clock, is birds chirping and nature sounds to wake up to. So, that’s part of what DARWIN does.
GEORGE: How about for the air and water filtration?
JAN: Through sensors that are embedded in the walls, it monitors PM1, 2.5, PM10, TVOCs, all of the pathogens and pollutants that are in the air; and will speak with the thermostat in the room to torque up the fans in the AC system based upon how the AC system or the air system in the home is plumbed, so to speak. It figures out the best way of washing the air, to give you the cleanest possible air while you’re at home.
It’s got AI built into it, so that if, at five o’clock at night on a regular basis, you’re cooking dinner, it knows that in the kitchen area, there’s going to be stuff coming off of the stove from cooking or smells that are coming out from that time of day, and ramps those fans up to clean the air as well. So DARWIN’s an intelligent system.
GEORGE: I understand these wellness amenities have become a real selling point for these units.
JAN: In their sales center, there’s a whole Delos wall that has the lighting, the representation of a water filter, the air. The sales center itself was outfitted with all of this stuff as well, to be able to demonstrate it. And after we signed them up, which was a while ago, then COVID hit. And it went from being an item that needed to be sold to an item that everybody wants. For this channel, this system integration channel, it’s a huge opportunity.
RISHI: We’re committed to creating the healthiest homes possible. And this is technology that is now reasonable from a price standpoint, it’s accessible to people. While it’s always possible, it’s difficult to add these things after the fact. And we just want it to be able to allow as minimal disruption as possible for the homeowner.
We just thought it’s such a fundamental part of where the world is going — and this was four years ago — we just said, “Let’s include it with every unit.” And I’m proud to say we’re the first condo in the United States that included it with every single unit.
JAN: In our industry we always like to talk about the cool new thing, and right now the cool new thing is, “How about you live in a house that’s healthy and maybe you live longer?”