Adapting Build to Rent design to meet new demands

While work continued on site for PATRIZIA’s BTR development, CallisonRTKL overhauled the design to meet new demands.

PATRIZIA's Edgbaston Build to Rent scheme designed by CallisonRTKL who overhauled the design. | BTR News
PATRIZIA's Edgbaston Build to Rent scheme designed by CallisonRTKL who overhauled the design.

Once the concrete is poured and the bricks are laid it can be hard to change tack. Buildings leave a permanent and often rigid footprint. The design of buildings start years before they become a reality and while much can change in that time, there is very little flexibility and time from the drawing board and the site to allow for this. 

By Caoimhe Loftus, Project Lead, CallisonRTKL

How then can we ensure the product being delivered to market is true to current demand and adaptable enough for whatever the future may hold? Let’s consider what this looks like for a project that is already in the ground.

Much of the building stock currently under construction was designed pre-pandemic, and in a world where many were only just waking up to Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) imperatives. With new realities and normals to navigate, old designs and standards must be updated with the times.

For PATRIZIA’s Build to Rent development that we designed in Edgbaston, this meant going back to the planning authority and seeking permission for an additional 140 balconies while the concrete slab was being poured.

Though the initial design played to the project’s green, leafy Birmingham location with a lush, landscaped podium at its heart, it could not pre-empt just how important private, individual outdoor space would be for each resident. Stay at home and work from home orders turned this luxury into a necessity. It also meant the home now needed to double as a workplace, a gym, an entertainment hub, and more. So while we had already worked hard on the apartment layouts to maximise space and light, what we were creating, though above the national standard, was no longer fit for purpose.

To ignore this would be to accept lower resident interest and ultimately a lower return on investment. Instead, CallisonRTKL overhauled the design with PATRIZIA while work continued on site. Maximising floor to ceiling heights, we created more comfortable, well-lit and well ventilated living rooms where a home workspace can now be easily accommodated. We updated the acoustic performance and detailing to ensure residents won’t be disturbed while on Teams calls and Zoom meetings.

We upped the ante on sustainability. As well as the standard smart meters and water usage reduction strategies, we created a clear climate protection road map, comprehensive lifecycle and operational carbon reduction targets. We are in the process of achieving accreditations and certificates for WiredScore Platinum, BRE’s residential Home Quality Mark and Fitwell – all of which are becoming increasingly understood by and important to today’s resident.

We increased common amenities by over 30% to expand the lifestyle offer beyond any one front door and into alternative spaces for working, playing and socialising. We are leveraging and complementing existing community amenities and facilities by working closely with the Cricket Club and other local institutions like the Midlands Arts Centre, to ensure Edgbaston has a rich local culture and an identity that is true to its neighbourhood.

While the original design concept was to provide a large outdoor garden teeming with biophilia and biodiversity, what we have found is that with some immediate changes to the size and type of these outdoor spaces and amenities, we have created a cleaner, greener, more resilient lifestyle development that will serve residents now and well into the future – whatever change that may bring. 

PATRIZIA’s Edgbaston scheme is proof that it is never too late to change. This is the energy and prototype Build to Rent developments should be carrying into 2022 and beyond.