Rent smart, live smart: the emergence of Build to Rent

Renters want spaces that serve them, a social trend that has catalysed the emergence of BTR. To meet demand, schemes must invest in the right smart technology, as discussed by Schneider Electric.

Sustainable Build to Rent building with smart technology - Schneider Electric | BTR News

According to Statista, the number of Build to Rent homes under construction in the United Kingdom increased from approximately 31,300 in 2017 to almost 37,000 by the end of 2020. In fact, recently a £610m project was announced proposing the construction of another 4,000 Build to Rent properties in London, Birmingham and Brighton. 

By Nico van der Merwe, VP Home & Distribution, Schneider Electric UK & Ireland

While Build to Rent properties currently represent a very small percentage of the five million rental properties in the UK, its popularity is growing. Now, one-in-five new properties are Build to Rent, according to the British Property Federation. So, what is the hype?

There is no chance of getting lost in translation, as Build to Rent properties do exactly what they say on the tin – housing that is purpose built for renting, rather than for purchase. Build to Rent agreements are designed to remove the gripes associated with the current renting model, offering no upfront costs, long-term tenancies and a single landlord who maintains the building. 

With that in mind, the idea of staying in a poorly run rental unit with a less-than-accommodating landlord is no longer acceptable for the modern-day tenant. Today, renters demand more from their living spaces, they want a space that serves them. This social trend has catalysed the emergence of Build to Rent properties. To meet this demand and prosper in the long term, developers and construction companies must invest in the right smart technology. 

The smart choice 

Our homes are now a hotbed for innovation. Technology, digitisation, energy efficiency and sustainability are already changing the way we live, and our expectations at home are revolutionising the way property developers design, build, operate and maintain properties. To attract and retain tenants, developers must strive to achieve impeccable service, flexibility, safety and comfort. 

To create the most personalised experience for residents, developers must seek ways to best make the technologies available. By delivering systems that offer personalised experiences and opportunities for automation such as controlling the heating and lighting to fit the season or mood, tenants can live in a comfortable environment that works for them, all-the-while keeping costs down.   

The benefits of designing a home that maximises comfort and convenience doesn’t stop at the occupant. By creating a building that is more connected, intuitive and intelligent, developers can improve the health of the building as well as its occupants. Actionable insights gained from open platforms, building performance can be monitored and improved, meaning facility managers can optimise efficiencies, keeping overall costs down for them.   

Improving experience 

Buildings are unique, and so are the tenants within them. Using data to understand tenant habits and preferences is the first steppingstone to providing an experience that is  personalised and comfortable. In a time when the line between our homes as living spaces and our homes as workspaces is becoming increasingly blurred, it is critical for properties to reflect occasion, use and mood. 

As buildings become much more than the places we work and play, a focus on reliability, efficiency and comfort is key. By integrating collaborative Internet of Things (IoT) solutions manufactured to the latest industry standard protocols, buildings that are connected, intuitive and intelligent will become the norm. As time goes on and rich data becomes available to facility managers, it is possible to uncover hidden efficiencies and better plan the use of spaces, achieving greater personalisation for tenants.  

Driving profitability 

In the same vein, tenants who have a vested interest in keeping energy bills down and keeping themselves safe can utilise the data collected by technologies in their rental unit.  

Through devices and applications with intuitive interfaces, users can access the data collected and begin to use it to improve their own energy performance. To do this, the data needs to be insightful, accessible and useable. By putting control into the hands of the occupants, this creates a sense that they are taking responsibility for the climate and creating an environment that is both sustainable and comfortable. 

Our homes are our sanctuaries. To feel safe within them is a critical component of comfort, and cybersecurity is an important element of that, particularly when using large scale digital systems. Occupants need to feel safe in the knowledge that the data being collected by these open platforms is secure. That is why unifying the building security infrastructure and building management systems into an easy to manage, single platform that enables faster, more efficient, potentially lifesaving decisions is essential in today’s digital age.  

A coming of age 

Build to Rent is an exciting prospect that is finally coming of age. The actualisation of the concept is at a critical juncture, with property developers holding the key for building managers and residents to create properties that strike the balance of sustainability, energy efficiency, security and comfort. The integration of open-source, innovative technologies that interoperate can help residents to thrive in an environment built to serve the needs of those within it.