DLG Insight

Whilst still in its early stages, the Build to Rent (BTR) market has gained a strong footing across the UK, where demand for well-connected and urbanised living which satisfies lifestyle demands are not being met by traditional residential development.  

The impact of this – both on the number of BTR developments and their design – is significant. In the coming years, BTR residents will have a number of new developments to choose from within cities; the quality of the brand, its amenity and facility offer, a sense of community and quality of finish will all be integral to achieving the highest rents and long-term tenancies.  

Lifestyle & Location

BTR residents’ interests lie in the quality of lifestyle a development can offer. The overlap of residential, workspace and leisure lifestyle design is changing residents aspirations in the same way we are seeing evolutions in the way we work. Focus is shifted to quality of experience, with work-life balance coming to the fore. In BTR developments, residents look for facilities and spaces which support high-quality lifestyle experiences; these can include shared community spaces for meeting, socialising, work, exercise and business. 

Considering how desirable features could be best designed  such as activity spaces within landscaping, multi-use resident spaces that can be reconfigured or hired, and zones that double for living and working –  a good BTR development can make its spaces work harder, and unlock opportunities for commercial rents and partnerships, whilst making efficient use of amenity provision.  

Offcentral locations are also now emerging across cities which makes the need for better placemaking vital. The most successful developments will be those which do not sit peripheral to their surroundings, but create their own neighbourhoods and sense of community. Building design – including materiality, permeability and passive surveillance – all contribute to a successful sense of place, with security particularly important in nontraditional locations. 

A focus on Placemaking

High quality, innovative landscaping and the need to create flexible outside spaces is vital. At street level, maximising active frontages, encouraging community activity and larger open routes and spaces all increase passive surveillance and support site security. This also has the addedd benefit of supporting the sense of community – leading to longer tenancies – and integration between BTR and owner-occupier residents.  

The benefit of such an approach is the provision of sustainable economic opportunities at ground level. People will go to extraordinary lengths to adapt a place to suit their needs. A series of steps can become a place to sit and watch impromptu street theatre and a simple leafy square can become a summer festival destination or a winter ice rink. Indeed the use of successful urban spaces can change daily and certainly seasonally – this also makes a good management structure critical.  

Varied and quality spaces will also give opportunities for commercial activity – street food vans, external seating, external event space – enhancing the offer to residents and other site-users, and providing potential additional revenue. Relationships can be forged with local leisure and restaurant operators for mutual benefit.  



Challenges for the sector

Following Grenfell, and anticipation of significant changes to the Building Regluations, we expect some challenges to the sector in the coming years. Façade costs are particularly concerning currently post- Grenfell, such as limiting costly cavity fire barriers ; other challenges include the cost of balconies, particularly if the Leeds market expects to follow London in mandating private amenity space.  

The ‘budget’ and ‘prime’ markets are diverging with specifications being driven down toward the lower end of the market, making a significant impact on build costs rangeWhat is the target and aspiration? £160 ft2 or £185 ft2 

Our Experience | Designing Successful BTR

We have been working in the emergent Build-to-Rent sector from the outset; our project SOYO, at Quarry Hill, is one of the largest BTR developments in the UK, with Phase 1 delivering over 500 homes as part of an exciting new cultural and living quarter.  

Owing to this expertise, we are now advising clients on BTR schemes across the UK, developing ambitious masterplans and undertaking monitoring roles on-site.  

We understand the challenges of this sector – but, more importantly, the opportunities BTR yields, and how build-to-rent development can sit alongside – or as the main offer of – urban developments. 

We were early adopters of Building Information Modelling (BIM), recognising early on the significance of collaborative design technology. BIM unlocks efficiencies and collaborative potential in design and is a crucial resource in projects of this type where scale is pivotal, quality is critical and repetition frequent. Using REVIT on our SOYO project, we collaborate digitally with design and contractor teams at scale – arguably more important than ever.

Get in touch to discuss how built-to-rent could be explored on your site.