Top 5 building factors for better resident quality of life: #3

Welcome to Episode Three of the five-part educational series from LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company on how Build to Rent providers can better leverage Health & Wellbeing to improve financial outcomes. Today we are joined by Charlotte Robertson from Accouter Group of Companies and Richard Angel from Angel O’Donnell; sharing scientific data and design interventions on the 3rd most important building factor you need to enhance your customers health, wellbeing and quality of life – Interior Design.

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By Adam Hinds, Co-Founder of LifeProven Wellbeing Property Company, Charlotte Robertson, Associate of Accouter Group of Companies and Richard Angel, Founder of Angel O’Donnell 

The top five building design factors associated with a better quality of life:

RankBuilding design factors association with quality of lifeSpearman rank-order correlation coefficientP value
1Episode Five0.5733P<0.001
2Episode Four0.5165P<0.001
3Good Interior Design0.4567P<0.001
4Having access to green space0.4322P<0.001
5Having a good amount of storage0.4022P<0.001

Background to the science behind Health & Wellbeing in the home:    

We conducted an academic study with Dr Brendon Stubbs (one of the world’s most highly cited and influential mental health researchers by Reuters Web Of Science) by issuing a survey to a control group of 121 residential properties strategically located across the UK. The survey captured a wide range of building design, fit-out, placemaking and operational housing data as well as sociodemographic (e.g. age, sex, income), lifestyle (e.g. physical activity), mental and physical health data from residents all over the UK. We then calculated the Spearman correlation co-efficient; which are scored from 0 (absolutely no relationship) to 1 (perfect relationship). In research, it is virtually impossible to score 1 and scores of up to 0.2 equate a small correlation, 0.21-0.4 a moderate correlation and scores above 0.4 a large correlation.  To put these numbers in context, a correlation of 0.4 has been associated with passive smoking and cancer or physical inactivity with being overweight.

This data is designed to help Build to Rent providers understand the areas of a building to focus design and construction budgets; and the elements of your schemes to protect through value engineering to enhance your residents overall housing experience.

Why is good interior design so important for your Build to Rent residents?  

Because what people see, touch, hear and smell within their physical environment directly and indirectly influences how they feel. And the longer a person is in that physical environment, the greater the impact those feelings have on their mental wellbeing, physical health and overall quality of life. When those feelings are consistently positive, residents remain customers for longer because of how the space makes them feel. When those feelings are negative, complaints, issues and voids increase, reducing operational performance as residents simply do not feel good within your building. 

Therefore, understanding how good and bad interior design impacts how your occupants feel is key to consistently creating industry leading Build to Rent accommodation that makes your customers feel positive, safe, connected, relaxed, inspired, encouraged, calm and happy. 

What type of interior design was proven to be the most beneficial? 

Interestingly, our data analysis identified there was no specific interior design style (such as traditional vs minimalist) which was better than another at enhancing occupant quality of life; as the results identified the relationship is completely subjective to the end users’ personal tastes. 

The higher the occupant rated that they liked their personal interior design, the higher their quality of life. 

What style to adopt in Build to Rent based on this data? 

Although no specific style is defined, the data confirms the importance of delivering highly attractive interiors targeted for mass appeal. The greater number of residents who like the interior design, the greater the number of residents whose quality of life will be improved whilst in your building, helping you attract and retain more customers for longer. 

How to create mass appeal interior building environments that your customers love, so you positively influence their quality of life:

Charlotte Robertson of Accouter Group of Companies and Richard Angel from Angel O’Donnell have kindly provided their expert guidance, considerations and recommendations for how you can adapt your interior design to provide the greatest positive Built to Rent experience for your residents: 

1. Air quality

Occupants are becoming more and more aware of their physical environments air quality. As a result, Richard recommends integrating air filtration systems, VOC-free paints with allergen-free and zero toxic emissions, as well as adopting formaldehyde-free building materials wherever possible. Materials such as rice straw MDF can be used as it is non-toxic and naturally mould resistant. 

Build to Rent providers should also proactively and consistently communicate any air quality benefits to customers, enabling positive associations with the building environment to be made.

Additional free resources on air quality:

2. Art 

Richard Angel – Curating an eclectic mix of art to look as though it’s been pieced together over time, rather than artificially assembled for the sake of filling space. Ceramics, line drawings, water colours, acrylics, limited edition prints, special commissions – it will all go a long way to creating a vibrant atmosphere, a place where people will want to hang out, unwind and savour. 

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3. Bespoke furniture 

Richard Angel – adopting bespoke furniture; although it may sound pricey, designing and making a lot of the furniture yourself is cost-effective, especially when you’re designing for vast communal spaces. The other key benefit is being able to closely monitor the quality of each piece and ensure that you hit the sweet spot on the Venn diagram of comfort, affordability and durability. 

4. Biophilic interiors 

Following Episode 2 – Access to Green Space whereby the significant health and wellbeing benefits of integrating green space and natural environments for your customers was discussed, Richard recommends filling your space with air-purifying, climate-moderating plants. Living walls made from sustainably harvested moss, ferns and other vegetation are lush and bosky additions to any interior. But also think about curvy furniture that mimics some of the silhouettes found in nature. And wherever possible, position seating and breakout areas by large windows for plenty of natural light and expansive views.

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Durability of finishes 

Charlotte Robertson:

  • When it comes to selecting finishes for the communal areas, choose durable, timeless finishes that allow for high traffic whilst bearing in mind the space needs to appeal to a wide variety of people, ages and lifestyles within your target demographic. 
  • Think ahead to how the resident will use the space and how you will encourage the space to be used.
  • Time and consideration should be taken when sourcing furniture suppliers – ensure each piece is good quality furniture with a long-lasting guarantee.
  • Beds, mattresses and sofas should never be overlooked, these are the key items you want to last the longest. 
  • Ensure you adopt good durable fabrics that can easily be cleaned. 
  • Investing well in hard appliances like kitchen and bathrooms will be better in the long run and also more sustainable.
  • Go classic on hard finishes and it will mean you can update with soft furnishings as a way to always stay on-trend.

Richard Angel – When you are designing Build to Rent accommodation, you can’t select furniture and materials based solely on how they look. A chair, for instance, has to be capable of weathering structural stress because, let’s face it, it’s going to have to accommodate thousands of bottoms in its lifetime. Similarly, fabrics need to be carefully chosen for their thread count, weave tightness, colourfastness and stain resistance. 

Local connections

Charlotte Robertson – draw from the local area to bring your spaces to life. This can start at the very beginning of the project – from interior architecture to informing the finishes and materials used. Or it can be used at the end of the project to emphasize the lifestyle and create a story of the future tenant. At 8 Water Street, we drew on brands that were available at Canary Wharf or coming to the Wood Wharf area to promote a certain lifestyle the potential residents would lead by living there.

Pet and child friendly surfaces 

Charlotte Robertson – In pet or child friendly environments, use stain treated fabrics as these will ensure longevity for your furniture pieces. And ensure to include removable, washable covers on your upholstery.

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Outdoor space 

Charlotte Robertson – Private outdoor space attracts an 8% price premium with 38% of renters willing to pay more for a roof terrace. This can be achieved by creating safe, fun communal spaces with BBQ’s, private gardens and even a bar area permitting residents to sit back and relax. 

Security provisions 

Richard Angel – A key consideration in every Build to Rent building is security; whilst technically not on the subject of wellbeing, developers and designers should be considering biometric safes and secret compartments into their designs. With more people working from home – a cultural evolution that’s here to stay – occupants are going to need a place to keep their sensitive files and expensive hardware secure without worry of losing the information.


Following Episode 1 – Having Good Storage whereby the significant health and wellbeing benefits of providing sufficient storage to mitigate the risks of anxiety and stress driven by clutter, Richard advised the more storage that you can provide, the better. 

Richard Angel – There needs to be lots of it – and not just for clothes. Now more than ever people need multifunctional shelving units with retractable desks, discreet cupboards and display shelves for books and objects. These storage solutions can also divide rooms and create visual points of interest.

Having good storage - LifeProven | AGC | Angel O’Donnell | BTR News

Sustainable design 

Richard Angel – Furniture made from recycled ocean plastics, fashion made from old fire hoses, frugal baths designed to require less water are smart, but expensive. It may be a long time before such designs are sufficiently replicable to become mainstream and affordable, so the best way to be sustainable is to invest in products that are both timeless and long-lasting. 


Charlotte Robertson – Over the last year, we’ve seen a shift in focus to the demand in working from home – wellbeing and sustainability becoming ever more important for residents. By designing flexible communal spaces lends itself to more opportunity to work from home and build collaborative spaces. We’ve seen the importance of building a community within Build to Rent buildings and that’s why it’s important to design beautiful open spaces that allow the community to connect through building events. At 8 Water Street, we designed a flexible working space by day that transforms into a bar and community space at night. This was key for the operator Vertus, who encourage residents to use the space by hosting events. In the development, there is also a resident’s lounge that can be hired for private cinema nights or screenings and a dining room that can go from daytime lunching to private dining events.

Richard Angel – In anticipation of people’s changing styles, interior designers need to create resilient schemes that can easily adapt to enjoy a new lease of life. This is specifically important for Build to Rent as communal areas will need to be easily adapted to keep them fresh and appealing for residents.


Charlotte Robertson – By offering a variety of layouts and schemes, you are able to attract a variety of residents from all lifestyles to form one community within your Build to Rent development. To achieve this, understanding the future residents of the development is crucial – knowing who they are and what they enjoy allows us to create spaces where they will feel right at home.