Build to Rent: A philosophy for building communities


Build to Rent (BTR) is a term that is making waves in the Australian property market, with many developers shifting gears and transitioning from a Build to Sell model to a Build to Rent model.

LynnMall, New Zealand (i2C | Ryder)

This is due in part to the changing nature of homeownership in Australia, with many now choosing the flexible lifestyle of renting, but wanting the added security of ownership.

There is no question that there is an absolute necessity for a strong rental sector to cater to this changing nature of homeownership and affordability, however, a level of respect needs to be paid to how big this sector could get and the design principles that come into play.

For developers, the BTR model is appealing for many reasons. Firstly, BTR can provide a steady income, rather than individual sales, and sidesteps the need for presale requirements. These projects are also typically more sustainable, which looks good for developers, as a greater emphasis needs to be placed on the longevity of materials.

While many developers may look to shift gears from a BTS model to a BTR model during the design phase, it’s important to establish this early in the process to determine the specific design considerations that are unique to the BTR housing model. This generally includes a greater emphasis on the overall management of the facility and the day to day needs of the residents themselves. As part of the i2C | Ryder Alliance, our BTR knowledge extends across 15,000 plus BTR apartments, from design inspiration through to completion across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

While the design differs across different countries as lifestyle factors and weather considerations come into play, the underlying principles remain; these principles are what clearly define BTR from BTS.

Build to rent communities
Angel Gardens, UK (Ryder)

As the developer will retain ownership of the building for 30 plus years, a greater emphasis is placed on longevity – of both common spaces and apartment fixtures and finishes. This goes hand in hand with more sustainable practices, which in turn can minimise outgoings and running costs. Developers also have a responsibility to their investors to meet ESG targets, with some investors now putting sustainability credentials at the forefront of their decision-making process. This gives designers a common language around reducing carbon emission, life cycle assessment, and future-proofing.

From a developer’s perspective, the model needs to be feasible, both in terms of rental demand and overall cost maintenance. But in order to attract long term tenants – or ‘sticky’ tenants – typically 75 per cent who stay for over 18 months or more, the lifestyle on offer needs to be appealing and a level of security has to be on offer.

When designing BTR, considerations need to be given to understanding how people live and how spaces are used, while creating a sense of community and togetherness. As a result of the pandemic and lockdowns, people crave accidental interaction with neighbours more than ever before, and communal spaces need to be pandemic friendly and a safe space. This, coupled with a shift to flexible work arrangements, sees more BTR designs including coworking spaces where neighbours can connect and network.

Build to rent communities
Fieldworxs House, Australia (i2C | Ryder)

In typical BTS models, you might get a gym or a rooftop BBQ as an amenity ‘add on’, whereas, in BTR, the amenities are far more considered. This quality of amenity is a by product of designing for vibrant communities that accommodates long term lifestyle decisions for residents. Often, we’ll see developers want to reduce the level of amenity to reduce outgoings but without investing in a lifestyle and sense of community, the likelihood of long term renters diminishes. After all, that is the appeal of Build to Rent Communities, they offer a level of connection not seen in the BTS space, renters are ‘buying’ into a lifestyle and a one-stop-shop.

Build to rent communities
Angel Gardens, UK (Ryder)

While developers are keen to progress into the BTR space, it’s important they’re in it for the right reasons. By creating trustworthy brands within this space, renters will feel confident in the product they are getting and will trust that they can move between states and cities and remain with the same BTR brand.

Looking ahead, we’re likely to see more retail owners seeking to capitalise on the BTR movement as they can retain capital over their existing asset, such as a shopping centre while being perfectly positioned in terms of access to amenity and public transport. 

See our project page For more information on i2C|Ryder’s BTR projects

Article written by: Mags Uscinowicz and Joe Wright

i2C Architects

i2C Architects