What is really needed is not fancy bolt-ons, but a design that fosters a sense of community. ‘We do this quite deliberately in our buildings. We create points of collision, so residents and our staff have no choice but to run into each other. We make sure things like the post boxes or coffee machines are in places you can’t help but be seen. Communal spaces like that need opening up,’ Heiko says.
The upshot is that poor designs – like lobbies that mean residents can get to the lift without even glancing at the concierge – are quickly rejected by Moorfield. Experience in Liverpool, where they owned the 240-unit Keel BTR scheme at Queens Dock, persuaded them they need this kind of interaction.
‘There was almost no communal space at Keel. People came and went without seeing anyone,’ Heiko confesses. No surprise then that Moorfield sold the block. Moorfield are now using data to refine their sociable spaces, and this is playing a role in the next round of designs.
‘As a hotelier, I’m always concerned about how people move around a building, where and when they have a coffee, when they take their rubbish out,’ he says. For instance, data mining revealed that, in their 232-unit Trilogy scheme in Manchester, they dispensed 21,500 cups of coffee in the six months from April to November 2019. One in four was a latte, and almost all were between 6.30 and 8.30 in the morning. The result: beef up staffing in peak times, buy more milk, and start to talk to residents about where else they can get good lattes (including offers). And, of course, none of this works if you can’t see the coffee machine from the concierge desk.
If this sounds a bit too hands on then, up to a point, Heiko agrees. ‘Sometimes we need to stand back a bit, and let things develop themselves,’ he says, pointing to the in-house tenant app, which lets tenants schedule meet-ups, ask questions and look for local services.
The sense that BTR design and amenity has improved since the BTR concept collided with reality is behind the latest work by developer Nikal. Their burgeoning BTR portfolio is centred on Birmingham’s £350 million Masshouse scheme. The first phase included 603 rental apartments in blocks of up to 27 storeys. The apartments have been sold to LaSalle Investment Management through a deal worth in excess of £100 million.