Summer in the UK has been very different this year. Foreign holidays have been few and far between for obvious reasons, with many people choosing to explore the UK instead.
Four out of five Brits are now opting for staycations in 2021, according to holidaycottages.co.uk, making it one of the most notable trends of post-pandemic Britain. The latest thinking on rental homes – for residents in both PBSA and traditional multifamily – is also changing due to the pandemic.
Feedback from Greystar’s latest 2020 US Design Survey, based on responses from 27,835 residents, not only delivered fascinating insights into residents’ changing priorities – many of which are mirrored in the UK – but also shone a light on how property companies could optimise their operations with design that meets these requirements.
This is certainly the case with parcel deliveries. Package lockers or parcel rooms were cited as a “very high priority” by 28% of US respondents last year, which coincided with record-breaking ecommerce sales on both sides of the Atlantic during the pandemic.
As part of our ground-floor refurbishment of Chapter Old Street (pictured), one of our top student accommodation buildings in London, we put additional thought and attention into a new parcel room. Developers will need to carefully consider the flow of parcels – as well as food deliveries – in and out of buildings, alongside resident access, if they are to keep everyone satisfied.
Resident behaviour has changed with the shift to working from home or hybrid models involving a few days a week in the office. This has put the provision of co-working spaces front of mind for many residents and it is no longer simply a ‘nice to have’.
A commute from a faraway destination that once was impossible for a traditional office working environment suddenly becomes feasible with truly flexible working. Our options for ‘home’ have suddenly been unlocked.
As most of us are trying to grapple with setting flexible work policies for our companies and teams, we will go through a period of discovery. It is not yet fully clear what will work best in the post-Covid world, but working from home looks as though it is here to stay and building design must evolve with this seismic shift.
Buildings designed with co-working in mind will not only result in larger, well-lit communal lounge areas and kitchens with comfortable chairs and desks equipped with multiple charging points, but also personal breakout rooms for meetings or conference calls that can be booked in advance.
Pre-installed, ultra-high-speed wifi is now considered the number-one utility inside apartments and throughout communal areas.
We are also trialling the use of flexible space in one- and two-bed apartments where you could potentially have more than one person working from home – therefore having a bedroom that can transform into a workspace allowing for two people to work and take calls in separate rooms.
Naturally, the need for increased area extends to external space and a sufficient provision of balconies for apartments. Similarly, residents now give much higher priority to rooftop and courtyard amenities and secure bike storage, as it has become clearer that Covid-19 transmission rates are much lower outdoors.
The importance of good kitchen design in rental homes should not be underestimated either, as residents spend more time at home preparing their own meals. Kitchens need to be designed with ergonomics, aesthetics, hygiene and utility in mind.
Using the right technology in strategic places is also key to making buildings operate better and more safely and providing an enjoyable experience for residents. We are trying to go contactless as much as possible through infrared technology.
We are also striving to integrate as much of the building tech as possible into an app that residents can use to communicate with our team, systems and other residents.
More broadly, the pandemic has driven a fresh wave of thinking about urban living. Our developments have always been pet-friendly, but we’ve recently seen a big increase in four-legged friends. At Ten Degrees in Croydon, 60% of our residents own a pet, which makes our in-house pet spa a very popular choice of amenity.
Residents now expect more dedicated space for their pets, including community dog parks. We have even added an outside area for residents to spend time with their dogs at our Greenford Quay scheme near Ealing.
If property companies can embrace the design changes residents want, they can not only improve their satisfaction levels but also optimise their operational performance.
Michela Hancock is managing director, Europe, at Greystar Europe Holdings
RESI Convention takes place 8-9 September 2021, join Property Week and inspirational speakers as we deep dive into the key strategic issues that really matter post-crisis in ‘The Age of Responsibility’.