Do you remember you student digs? I'm pretty sure most us will never forget them. I for one have lived in some truly grim places as a student - damp walls, moldy bathrooms, dodgy electrics and I don't even want to think about what was probably living in the carpets. I was a student in the early nineties in Manchester and I can still remember the annual summer battle to secure the "best of the bad bunch" before September. If only Philippa and Tom Charrier had been around back then.
Philippa and Tom own Fat Properties, a pioneering wellbeing-led property development company. I met Philippa and Tom on Instagram after I moved to the Lake District last year. I have been hugely impressed by their commitment in developing and renovating properties to an incredibly high standard focused on delivering wellbeing through design and also their deep rooted passion to bring about real change in the built environment to benefit wellbeing of the occupants of their properties.
I was honored to be invited by Philippa and Tom to be an ambassador for a new alliance they are working on which focuses on creating wellbeing through design . More on that in the future but now lets here the story behind Fat Properties.
Designed for Wellbeing - FAT Properties -Philippa and Tom Charrier
Our homes have a huge impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. In the western world we spend over 90% of our time inside buildings (before lockdown). They affect almost every aspect of our lives : the way we think and feel, the way we socialise, the way we learn and develop, the way we eat, the way we rest and recuperate.
We have always been fascinated by the intersection of the built environment and health. Our professional background has been in the built environment working in urban regeneration and residential development projects across the UK and Australia. Varying in scale from local communities to major urban cities, all these projects shared an important characteristic - we created better places for people to live and work.
We took a leap from consultancy (alongside having three children) to start our business FAT Properties and we began developing student property with the same focus on improving the places in which people live as they had in their previous professional lives. We believe quality of life can be improved by buildings that have been designed for wellbeing.
When we first started looking to develop student homes, we were shocked to see that the same approach was not being taken in the student accommodation sector. Student accommodation had become purely an asset to generate returns, and landlords seemed to be forgetting the impact that homes can have on people’s lives.
The reputation of student houses as poor quality and badly maintained hadn’t improved in years. One in three houses in the private rented sector was deemed unfit for human habitation. Purpose built student accommodation developments had a reputation for high prices but bad design, making regular appearances in the Carbuncle Cup, Britain's award for bad architecture.
Bedroom sizes had shrunk, and communal spaces had been reduced or cut out in order to squeeze in more rentable bedrooms. Rules governing social activity, including visiting hours after which non residents must leave, were becoming more prevalent in purpose built student accommodation. Individual studio apartments with no aspect of communal living had more than doubled in 6 years.
At the same time Universities and the NHS are spending more and more time and money on student support. There were frequent sad headlines such as ‘1 in 6 students don’t have any friends’ is truly shocking especially when we know that social isolation has been found to be worse for our health than obesity and physical inactivity - as great a risk to our mortality as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day! We knew the harm that isolation causes yet here we were isolating our young, something was wrong.
Since 2013 we have been developing properties following the principle that we have outlined in our book Designed for Wellbeing and we see on a daily basis the benefits of creating spaces designed for wellbeing has for students. We felt that it was our duty as parents to three young children to share everything that they had learned from our combined twenty years’ experience in the built environment and seven years developing and investing in student accommodation. This gave us the impetus to write Designed for Wellbeing and to donate all of their profits from the sale to Student Minds the student mental health charity.
We started writing Designed for Wellbeing in 2019. A few months later the global COVID -19 pandemic hit. The whole world went into lockdown. In an unprecedented move, governments across the globe instructed their citizens to stay indoors; no unnecessary travelling, no socialising outside the home, no eating out or non essential shopping. Outdoor exercise was restricted. Life changed overnight in order to curb the spread of this new virus. Schools and universities closed their doors. Many workplaces shut down; if you were lucky enough to be able to continue working, you had to work from home if possible.
Suddenly the connection between buildings and wellbeing was in the spotlight. Covid- 19 made the content of Designed for Wellbeing more relevant than ever.
Our focus on designing for wellbeing has now seen us working on larger projects with the same emphasis of providing better places for people to live. We are currently working on our own regeneration projects in the north west where we are using the same principles set out in our book.
FAT Properties is a pioneering wellbeing-led property development company We founded it in 2013 to make a positive impact on the world through property development. Focused on the design of student accommodation, or student co-living, FAT Properties puts tenant wellbeing at the very heart of the buildings we develop.
Philippa and Tom’s Amazon number 1 bestselling book, published in 2020, ‘Designed for Wellbeing’ offers an ethical guide to creating student accommodation which outperforms the market. Philippa and Tom’s profit from this book go to Student Minds, a UK based charity supporting the mental health of students. They are also hosts of the Designed for Wellbeing Podcast listen HERE
FAT Properties has commissioned research which has received ethical approval from Bournemouth University, with Lancaster University also taking part. Exploring ‘Can the design of student accommodation have an impact on student wellbeing’ it has been delayed due to Covid but is due to start in September ‘21 for a period of 2-3 years.
Thank you to Philippa and Tom for sharing their story, I think you would agree that together they have created an impressive business and taken student living and design in the built environment to whole new level. To find out more about Fat Properties click HERE and to follow their story on Instagram click HERE