10 August 2023

Learning from the Scandinavian approach to Build-to-rent and Co-living

By Build Zone

As the Build to Rent and co-living sectors in the UK continue to expand and gather momentum, it’s evident that there are still numerous opportunities for learning and enhancement. Scandinavian nations like Norway have successfully executed a community-focused approach that delivers exceptional advantages and effectiveness for those choosing co-living.

Emphasising communal facilities and sharing services and resources is pivotal in forming a community, an aspect that the UK co-living sector still needs to embrace to the same extent as their Scandinavian counterparts fully.

The demand for co-living and build-to-rent properties has grown significantly, resulting in numerous companies and investors investing in new projects. Although popular worldwide, Scandinavia has championed the concept and has fast become the ‘gold standard’ for community-focused living.

It’s no secret that this region has always been at the forefront of driving development trends, from minimalistic interior design to innovative city solutions. Here, we can discover what Scandinavia can teach UK BTR developers about co-living and community building.

Like the UK, housing demand has significantly increased, especially in Nordic capital cities. This can be attributed to population migration from less central areas and the global preference for urban living. Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark boast the highest percentages of one-person households in Europe. Additionally, limited land supply and low new construction rates exacerbate the imbalance between housing supply and demand. As housing prices rise much faster than rental growth, many prospective first-time buyers are priced out of the market and forced into the rental sector.

Scandinavia strongly emphasises building communities where sharing resources and social interaction are the norm. In these locations, people focus on collective well-being, which is reflected in the design of their housing units. One example is the “kollektivhus,” a co-housing where 10 to 40 households share communal spaces like dining areas, kitchens, and laundry rooms. With kollektivhus, socialising is promoted, and residents are encouraged to meet and engage in activities regularly. Such design elements foster bonds beyond families, paving the way for better social integration.

The Scandinavian co-living model also prioritises shared spaces like gardens, playgrounds, and recreation areas, which promote community activities and interactions. Rather than emphasising individual freedom, there is a proclivity towards communal spaces that benefit everyone who lives there. Research has shown that people with access to green spaces are happier and more relaxed, leading to better mental health and well-being. This focus on shared space is essential in future commercial building developments.

Co-living is not only about the community. Instead, the design of the buildings also prioritises sustainability and energy efficiency. Developers use green technologies like solar, wind, and geothermal energy to reduce the carbon footprint of the structures. Likewise, energy-efficient materials and ventilation systems minimise the buildings’ energy consumption. These designs promote environmental responsibility and stewardship, a message that resonates not only in Scandinavia but across the globe.

One of the most remarkable things about Scandinavia co-living spaces is their accommodating multi-generational living. With communal dining spaces and easy access to shops, these living spaces are perfect for families and older people. It is an excellent example of how community-focused housing can cater to different demographics’ needs, from the young to the old.

Scandinavia always inspires us with its innovative technological advancements, design, and architecture. It has become a leader in community-focused development, from co-housing to energy-efficient design and accessibility concepts. These aspects are crucial for commercial developers to consider when developing co-living structures. The goal is to create a sense of community and well-being for the inhabitants who reside on the property. With this unique approach, Scandinavia has given us an excellent blueprint for creating sustainable, energy-efficient, and inviting co-living spaces.

The UK market is buzzing with excitement as more people begin to recognise the advantages of this model. As we gaze into the future, it becomes evident that it can play a crucial role in fostering inclusive urban communities.

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