Wellbeing of the Translocals in Urbanization

Abstract: Urbanization brings opportunities but also challenges, particularly in health and wellbeing.  Many studies have addressed this problem, but neglected important sub-cultures and sub-markets. This research proposes to study translocals, specifically professional translocals in metropolitan areas, and proposes a better understanding of the needs of this market by applying and expanding existing research motives, incentives, precedents, and methods.


Urbanization is rapidly growing and providing our world with abundant opportunities for culture and economical exchange and enrichment.  However, it also co-exists with a substantial number of challenges.  The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that there will be over 68% of the world’s population living in urban areas by 2050.  Environmentally, our world is coping and dealing with climate change, natural resources distribution and management.  Psychologically, urbanization is impacting inhabitants’ health (WHO).  An accelerated amount of physical and mental disorders have been discovered among urban citizens, such as depression, dementia, substance abuse, alcoholism, crime, family disintegration, and alienation.  Many of these are severe.  

Evidently, there is wide range of factors that contribute to affect the general state of wellbeing, yet “the built environment, the human-modified places where we live, work, play, shop, and more—has been a key element in the ongoing evolution of the field of environmental health”.  Studies have shown that people spend almost 90% of their day indoors, and 65% of that in their homes.  To create a healthy sustainable living environment is vital.

Although much work has been carried out in establishing the connection between housing and wellbeing, not enough evidence has been seen in the market.  In 2016, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) published a report – Health and Wellbeing in Homes, “aiming to provide evidence and advice to the related disciplines to developing, designing, delivering or managing housing on the general needs homes in the UK housing sector” (UKGBC, 2016).  It is one of the few research studies available that was done through a combination of literature review, case studies, dialogue with housing providers and consumer research. It resulted a set of compelling business cases for the industry, offering evidence and advice about building and neighborhood design features which can enhance the health and wellbeing of residents as well as the residential property.


The growth of the urban population also brought in more complex layers of geographical and social fabric.  Translocality(Freitag and Oppen, 2010, Datta & Brickell, 2016), defined as “being identified with more than one location” (Oakes and Schein 2006a, p. xiii), is one of the by-products of globalization that has become a significant phenomenon in recent years.  They expanded the color palette of the existing cities with labor, techniques, knowledge, and cultural emergence and exchange, revealing the beauty of Urbanization.  Translocal and Translocality are in constant negotiation with space-time (Appadurai, 2003), yet their “designated phenomena and experiences” (Datta & Brickell,2016) are produced locally.  Its diversified nature and characteristics, knitted into the local situation, require attention in the grand scheme of urban place-making (Jacobs, 1961) and development.  

However, most of these studies have examined the connections between dwelling conditions and mental health for the general urban population, yet little work has been done targeting different user groups, particularly the important neglected subset of translocals and translocality.


The World Health Organization has called the health and well-being of the citizens “a city’s most important asset”.  Now more than ever, wellness, as a cross history movement, along with its market, has reached a tipping point in the 21st century.  A first in-depth research report – Build Well to Live Well – in 2018 from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), found that “real estate and communities that intentionally put people’s health at the center of design, creation and redevelopment are the next frontiers in real estate”.  Simultaneously, smart cities initiatives offer the opportunity (particularly for government officials) to utilize technology to access and gain insights from data, and to manage assets while creating resilient urban transformation.

The motives, incentives, precedents, and methods of these research studies offer an opportunity as well as blueprint to bridge the gap to research translocality and its living environment.  The intention and outcomes from this thesis are to present evidence and advice on the place-making (building and community) which can enhance the wellness of the translocals.  Furthermore, this information will be shared among all disciplines that are associated with the built environment, particularly for real estate developers, investors, planners and architects to acknowledge the characteristics of this particular user group, providing a further defined roadmap, metrics, and design strategies.  It will promote communication and sustainable resource distribution, providing further understanding on intention, design, and operation to practice “wellness lifestyle real estate and community” (Yeung & Johnston, 2018) in the market.  The UKGBC and the GWI presented research methodologies for quantitative data gathering; more specifically, the summary from these reports provided a starting point for evaluating the physical dwelling conditions and wellbeing status for the translocals.  


This thesis proposes to carry out the research to a more focused group:  the professional translocals living in selected European cities: London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Milan.  The rationale is that complex problems will reveal themselves more fully in a more complex environment.  The proposed steps are:

  1. Collaborate with environmental psychologists to understand the rooted “needs” and “wants” for translocals.  Compile questionnaires that would contribute to the result of the survey.
  2. Contact major residential developers in each city, elaborate the intent, resolution, and significance for this research, and seek access to their database for pre and post occupancy evaluation.   
  3. Identify post evaluation properties, conduct site visits for qualitative data gathering, contact related design and build disciplines for related design information and gain their industry insights regarding that specific property.
  4. Collaborate with data scientists and software engineers to design an app for quantitative survey with a list of questionnaires that are compiled and designed based on the above data and research.
  5. Consolidate the data and information into a report, aiming to achieve evidence and advice on building and neighborhood design features that would promote health and wellbeing for the translocals.


The report, as the outcome of this thesis, will present itself as evidence and advice on place making that would promote wellbeing of the translocal dwellers.  What specifically will set this work apart is its focusing on the professional translocals, a large yet neglected group of people living and transiting among cities and countries. This work will reveal this groups’ presence and characteristics, provide further understanding of their transit identity and needs, and establish references for developing, designing, and constructing dwelling environment that promote health and wellness.  User group focused information and strategies will ensure productive decision making, planning, and designing.  It will be particularly valuable when collaborating with the smart cities perspectives, creating an organic multi-discipline loop to assist in building healthy and resilient urban spaces, places, and connections. 


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