Meet the “wellness real estate movement” evangelist

Paul Scialla, CEO of wellness company Delos, spoke with TRD's Amir Korangy on the latest episode of Coffee Talks

On the latest episode of Coffee Talk, TRD’s Amir Korangy sat with wellness real estate CEO Paul Scialla, whose company Delos has raised over $230 million to further its mission of, as Scialla put it, “merging the health sciences with the building sciences.”

The company has been valued at over $1 billion and attracted attention back in 2014 with a wellness-first development. The project’s residents, including Delos board members Deepak Chopra and Leonardo DiCaprio, enjoyed vitamin-C infused showers and cork floors engineered to provide lumbar support.

But the company’s goals go beyond splashy luxe developments. Since 2014, it has garnered investments from the likes of Bill Gates, expanded into Asia and Australia, and made partnerships with major real estate players like Brookfield, Lendlease, and Marriott.

Delos’ company includes subsidiary the International Well Building Institute, which provides a new set of standards for building owners and developers.

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“This is going way beyond removing what’s harmful or toxic and promoting what’s beneficial,” Scialla explained. That includes monitoring the quality of the water, examining the way a building’s lighting influences productivity and engineering spaces that encourage healthy lifestyles.

The Well Building Institute “WELL certifies” buildings that provide healthy environs and practices. Delos’ various products — which include the plug-and-play air filters used in its partnership with the NYC Department of Education— provide solutions for the buildings that fall below the WELL standard. Scialla said WELL certification doesn’t require the use of Delos products. “[The standard] is about achieving outcomes,” he said.

The science here is fueled by Delos’ Well Living Lab, a collaboration with the Mayo Clinic. And it seems especially prescient today. Scialla uses the term “health safety” to refer to the need driving many developers. “Unfortunately, it takes something like a pandemic for people to realize something very simple,” he said. “What surrounds us matters.”

Still, Korangy wondered whether developers would push back against another cost add-on.

“Like any movement, I think it takes a while. Green building and green principles did not just convert overnight,” Scialla said. “The WELL building proposition… has never been anything more than maybe a half a percent premium in construction costs.”

So for Delos, the pandemic has brought a silver lining. “What we’ve seen is certainly a catalyst here for the wellness real estate movement.”