Case-Study 6 | Insight / Consultancy

Bedu: Research and strategy for a new co-living space in East London

As a result of our strategic insights, the client was able to make improvements his design, and more fruitfully engage with local planners.

Co-living is emerging as the next ‘big thing’ in the real estate industry. It provides people with an agile living arrangement that not only keeps living costs under control, but also make the logistics of working in a large city easier.

The problem

A small property developer and operator, dealing in hostel accommodation, wanted to enter the co-living market. He had identified a site in East London where he planned to build up to 60 units and shared facilities, including a community cafe for entrepreneurial activities.

He knew very little about the target market, which were local key workers. He needed insight into their lifestyle choices to shape the co-living offer and distinguish his scheme from others. He also wanted advice on how to design the space to best support key workers’ needs.

The considerations

Potential tenants expressed their interest in living in the new building by email. However, the property developer needed more in-depth insight. We ran a series of workshops with community groups, local residents and potential tenants. We also interviewed end-users and walked in their footsteps for a day.

We translated their requests into design principles that we gave to our client, which he used to write the strategic brief. He shared our design principles with short-listed architects during a Royal Institute of British Architects design completion, and they used them to create the design concept. The client also benefited from sharing our insights with planning officers to show them how the scheme would deliver social value.

The implementation

As a result of commissioning us, the property developer:

  • Got on the inside track with planning offers and learnt which alternative residential schemes in the area had and had not been successful in the past;
  • Built up trust with local councillors and residents, which meant that the co-living scheme would be integrated into the community and not be regarded as an ‘island’;
  • Understood the design challenges, such as how to deal with access and security, and assessed possible solutions, such as designing separate access points for public and private residents; and
  • Established areas — such as the East London Community Garden Trust — where the developer could extract value from potential partners  and give value in return.

The benefits

The client used our insights to:

  • Optimise space usage to increase rental yield whilst ensuring a good customer experience;
  • Balance the requirements of tenants with those of local residents in order to enhance brand reputation; and
  • Develop a strategy for enabling tenants to have a role in managing the property, possibly with the use of a mobile app.