Every era of homebuilding has its aspirational trademark—from the picket fences of suburbia to the sprawling estates of the elite, from the tiny houses of the sustainably minded to the wired smart homes of early adopters. Of late, the overarching ideal of wellness has also shown up in all aspects of our lives: daily self-care, outdoor lifestyles, screen detoxes, as well as a movement to plant-based both in our diets and also our household cleaning products. So too, then, has wellness entered our homes. And that’s just the surface of things.
Troon Pacific CEO Gregory Malin photographed at Residence 2646 in San Francisco.
In fact, the wellness real estate industry is rapidly growing, with the Global Wellness Institute projecting it will reach $197 billion by 2022. And few are as intimately familiar with what defines a “healthy home” as Gregory Malin. As CEO of real estate development and investment management company Troon Pacific, Malin has been elevating primary residences along one ultimate standard: that they “support physical and emotional health for both residents and the planet,” he says, going on to describe “a place that restores energy through the creation of a peaceful environment and is energizing, with an abundance of natural light and a fluid connection between indoor and outdoor spaces.”
While the description is idyllic and inviting, its execution is no easy feat when the necessary materials, permits, infrastructure, and overall vision may be a few steps ahead of the marketplace. But the challenges haven’t deterred Malin, who along with Charlot Malin, his late wife and business partner, shared a pioneering vision for Troon Pacific, where Charlot served as co-founder, COO, and Director of Design until passing away in 2017. Included on Charlot’s interior design résumé are landmark properties like George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort, as well as the LEED-Platinum luxury residences Troon Pacific has been bringing to the San Francisco market for the last decade.
“I love the fact we were able to build this niche together,” Gregory reflects of their early aim to make a difference in development. “These are discretionary homes, with a larger footprint. What can we do to make them more sustainable for the planet in the future?” With this initiative, Troon Pacific determined to make the highest LEED-Platinum home in the country. “And we accomplished that at the time,” he says of 2342 Broadway, which sold in 2010. Most recently, the portfolio includes Troon’s building health initiative with its two new residences: Residence 2646 (at Union Street and listed for $29.8 million) and Residence 950 (at the base of Lombard Street and, at $40.5 million, currently the most important expensive home on the market in San Francisco).
“Charlot would say the greatest luxury in life is your health,” Gregory says. “We try to maintain that.” Troon Pacific does so by creating an environment that promotes wellness and health without impacting the earth’s resources, and incorporates sustainable materials and technologies that mind the environment. Early on, that included rainwater harvesting (Troon Pacific secured the first permitted tank in the city) and buying certified woods for windows, doors, framing, and sheathing from material providers certified for their forest stewardship (FSC)—when it was hard to find anyone willing to provide FSC wood or even build with FSC certified wood. “Most of our investment is hidden in the walls,” Gregory says of wrapping plumbing in clay for acoustical reasons, avoiding wood contact with copper lines, and changing the air in the home 9-12 times a day, to name a few of many examples.
“Healthy homes should include spaces that serve various purposes, including those designed for families and friends to gather and enjoy company in both intimate and larger social settings, as well as cozy spaces for individuals to retreat on their own,” he adds. “We believe that homes designed with health in mind should also allow space for art and self-expression, which can enhance the creativity of the people who live there.” For Residence 2646, a LEED-Platinum four-bedroom, five-level home bordering Cow Hollow and Pacific Heights, wellness amenities include a fitness center, yoga/meditation deck, massage room, a sauna and steam shower (there’s even a pet spa!), as well as a lush and private garden level that unites indoors and out, complete with an outdoor kitchen and sunken living room with fire pit and heated benches. (At LEED-Platinum Residence 950 in Russian Hill, you’ll also find a wellness center, art gallery, and infinity-edge lap pool.)
Energy-efficient details include thermally insolated double-pane low E2 windows and doors, ventilation/exhaust outlets under sinks and in closets, solar panels, and LED lighting. There’s also a Tesla Power Wall and a Savant Smart Home automation system—a technology that provides the peace of mind of home security as well as the ease of remote access. Then there are details that may not be noticed but that make life easier—and that’s largely the point. Examples include: investing big in all aspects of infrastructure; minimizing the amount of sound made in the home with quiet rock and insulated walls; and using matte, non-reflective surfaces in thinking about these impacts on mental health; selecting cabinetry and products with low emissions; mitigating electric and magnetic fields (EMF) with shielded cables in bedrooms; and avoiding flame retardants and chemicals of known concern in paint and sealants.
Gregory adds that part of that infrastructure investment is also intended to “future proof” the home, from engineering that renders structural posts unnecessary so certain walls can be opened up down the line, to a whole-house water filtration system, prewiring for A/C, and installing a gray water system that collects, cleans, and reuses water for landscape irrigation—because California will continue to face droughts. “What we believe in is providing the foundation of the home that gives as much flexibility to people to live the way they want to,” he says.
Air quality also remains a big factor, with a complete air change cycle every 2-3 hours that removes air from closets, the kitchen, and trash areas and adds clean, filtered air to bedrooms and common spaces. As Gregory says, “Troon strives for all its homes to be no different than a tree. It’s not only beautiful to look at, it’s also carbon neutral, gets energy from the sun, is a wonderful place for shelter, and cleans the air.”
Troon Pacific has three more health-minded San Francisco properties in the pipeline, one due to be completed by the end of the year and the other two to follow in 2020. When asked if there are plans to develop these homes beyond city limits, the short answer is: Yes. “In the future, I do see us looking outside the city,” says Gregory, mentioning London, New York, and Los Angeles (where he grew up and attended UCLA before moving to San Francisco in 1989). Growth within the Bay Area is possible as well, from Marin to the Peninsula and East Bay. “If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere.”
What Gregory has also been doing here is building a full and enriching life that includes twin sons, with whom he loves to experience the fine and performing arts, sailing, cycling, and camping and who will soon be off to college, as well as ample time dedicated to the arts and education—causes that Charlot also championed as President of the San Francisco Opera Guild, Chairman of SFMOMA’s Artist Circle, and as a board member for organizations like the Voss Foundation, which Greg remains a supporter of as well. “The Zoo, within a week of when Charlot passed, dedicated a memorial plaque in her name,” says Greg, who is still on the board of the San Francisco Zoological Society. He also serves on the Leadership Council of the San Francisco Education Fund and Residence Hall Committee for San Francisco Music Conservatory, and was co-chair for the past two years of ODC’s Dance Around Town Gala.
When Gregory talks of San Francisco as its own idea, its own place in the world, he talks about the challenges the city—and his own family—has faced and why it makes it easy to want to give back. “I went through one of the larger struggles that the Bay Area’s ever seen in recent history,” he says of the Loma Prieta earthquake. “I really saw a community that looked out for each other in remarkable ways.” When Charlot passed away, he and his sons saw that kind of care from their local fire department, Station 38 in Pacific Heights. “The fire department came back an hour later for a hug. They came back an hour and a half after that with pizza, and then hosted my kids to a birthday party about three months later.” His sons, too, were born in the city in 2002, a decade after he and Charlot originally met and soon before they worked on their first homes together professionally. “Selfishly, I would love them to be local,” he says of having two high school seniors on the brink of leaving the nest. “But I think they want to go far. They should spread their wings.”
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