Adaptable BTR communal spaces for a post Covid world

Covid-19 has created the unpredictable, so can multifunctional communal spaces play its part in the built environment?

Deansgate Square, Manchester. Adaptable communal spaces. | Manor Interiors | BTR News
Deansgate Square, Manchester.

By Farhan Malik, CEO, Manor Interiors

If Covid has taught us anything, it is that the world can be unpredictable. This time last year, the Covid-19 pandemic presented an uncertain future, and led to a lockdown and the closing of communal spaces and amenities at Build to Rent developments. Operators were quick to act, to develop processes and practices to keep residents safe in their homes, and to shift health and wellbeing activities online.

Now, almost a year on from the first lockdown, and while we’re firmly in lockdown 3.0, Covid has taught us lessons and forced us to rethink communal spaces for a post Covid world. Although unpredictable, it does present us with some valid questions on how the sector can futureproof communal spaces in the built environment, so they are adaptable and resilient.

In latter 2017 to September 2018, the National Building Museum in America exhibited a 1000 sq ft house as its centrepiece. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment showed how four adults could co-live, using the then latest universal design and adaptable furniture technology. The exhibit used motorised partitions, moveable walls and wall furniture with built in storage. 

So is it worth considering how this technology can be used in the built environment to provide multifunctional communal spaces?

A valid question at the least, intelligent design could have a place in the Build to Rent sector – supporting multifunctional spaces using a hybrid model. A communal space could be used for a fitness class in the morning, a co-working space during the day, and a social space – for example a pop-up bar – in the evening. Desks could be pulled out into a table seating 10 people, large mirrors could double as TV screens, and sliding walls and doors could provide spaces for zoom call rooms, boardrooms and both private and co-working spaces.

As the use of technology plays its role in Build to Rent developments, it can also support the hybrid model – for example by sliding walls with a touch of a button, via an app or through voice commands. This type of technology can provide ease for the onsite management team.

Intelligent design coupled with adaptable furniture can set the scene for flexible, multi-use spaces in Build to Rent developments, supporting change to meet residents needs. This can present opportunities to futureproof Build to Rent communal spaces, support change, provide flexibility and extend the life of the built environment, while providing resilience and durability.

With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing many to work from home, organisations across the world are re-evaluating how their employees work, with some planning for more flexible working post Covid, while others adopting a move to working from home permanently. 

While we can anticipate a rise in home working in the future, Build to Rent developments provide a lifestyle through amenities and activities, with community at the heart of schemes. 

Adopting a hybrid model in communal spaces can support the varying needs of residents, while providing Build to Rent operators with flexibility and design resilience. Although a knee-jerk reaction is unadvisable as we continue to face uncertainty, discussing a hybrid model for communal areas early on during the planning and design stage could present opportunities for operators, and perhaps a competitive advantage.