BTR highlights from Forecast 2021 – a report from CallisonRTKL

“We need solutions that create community and encourage socialising to improve our quality of life” – Forecast 2021 from CallisonRTKL.

The Wullcomb, Leicester - created by Long Harbour - CallisonRTKL | BTR News
The Wullcomb, Leicester - created by Long Harbour.

Around the world, urban and suburban areas alike are seeing populations shift, placing more importance than ever on providing solutions that create community and encourage socialising to improve our quality of life, according to Forecast 2021, the latest report from global cultural agency CallisonRTKL.

We have been – and are – using our homes for more than merely sleeping, cooking, washing, eating, dressing and entertaining. We use them in every aspect of our lives; our homes have become our offices, workout spaces, shops and retail environments.

The pandemic has forced us to do more with the place we call home. However, there are many things that we have enjoyed, appreciated, and will want to hold onto from our lockdown experience.

“As we emerge out of the pandemic, in 2021, we will seek to find a balance in our lives. This may mean spending more time closer to where we live, using local services and suppliers, working from anywhere, buying local and traveling less. All these things help improve the social values of a place, and the environmental impact of the users of residential buildings.”

John Badman, Residential Practice Leader, CallisonRTKL London office

Doubling down on amenities – with a twist

Socially distant amenities like virtual workouts or portable workspaces are on the Build to Rent residential rise. Likewise, meaningful-sized balconies and communal, external terraces have also become non-negotiable, with access to nature and biophilic design becoming critical differentiating factors for buyers and renters alike.

The benefits to physical wellness and psychological wellbeing provided by enjoying the outdoors, even in minimal quantities, will become a fundamental expectation. As Stefano Boeri’s buildings in Italy show, having a forest of green outside your windows – even on the 20th floor – is quite feasible.

CallisonRTKL’s ‘The Rise of the Plus Space in Apartment Living’ report offers insight into the ongoing need for additional flexible spaces that can serve as a workspace, classroom, media room or guest bedroom.

Technology-enabled experiences become the new norm

Buildings that adapt will survive, and those that don’t will slowly decline. 

“Repurpose and reuse will become more prevalent, and we see the transformation and evolution of single assets (such as offices or shopping centres) into mixed-use, lifestyle environments.”

“For existing residential buildings, the question is, how can we better preserve our buildings now to outlive the change in pace that’s needed? The speed at which technology develops leaves little room for our buildings’ infrastructure, let alone our cognitive ability, to evolve as rapidly to keep up.”

John Badman, Residential Practice Leader, CallisonRTKL London office

The lifespan of a building dwarfs modern technology; we design to accommodate for what matters most: connectivity. As long as we build connectivity into the infrastructure, the technology that follows will adapt to the buildings themselves.

City refugees and digital nomads – a shift to the suburbs

As corporate work from home policies extend into 2021, we will see population shifts. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25% to 30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021, thus spending more time in a closer radius to home.

In keeping with the small radius concept is the ’15-minute neighbourhood’, where people can access their basic needs (recreation, food, services and entertainment) within 15-minutes of walking, biking or public transit. Not only does this model of hyper-proximity and mix of uses help mitigate risk, but it also helps to rebuild areas economically hard-hit by the pandemic.


Understanding climate responses and proposing strategies that connect buildings with the environment will continue to be a priority in 2021.

“Expect to see pan-European portfolios, with a variance of product and design to suit the climate, the operator, and the future residents as a holistic approach. It will not be copy/paste.

“Each development and developer will be unique in their offer and their environmental approach, recognising a customer who is conscious of their impact on the planet, will be just as conscious of the sustainable credentials of their home.”

John Badman, Residential Practice Leader, CallisonRTKL London office