A while back I followed a conference about Co-living Development organised by Coliving Hub during which were discussed numerous topics related to the growth and evolution of this market segment, especially after the pandemic impact.
Many of these discussions actually apply to a wider range of accommodations, workspaces, and residences that are developing in today’s market. Student accommodations, co-working, serviced accommodations, and similar schemes. So, I think it is extremely useful to keep in mind the main points exposed during the conference which could turn into a proper trend in the industry. The ones that definitely caught my attention were:
Design a shared future for all
Technology in Co-living
Building Intentional Communities
Design and Construction in Co-Living Spaces
Along with these, there were a lot more, so if you find these interesting let us know and we’ll write more.
1. Design a Shared future for all
This first talk regarded the evolving needs of people in co-living spaces, and specifically for a range of experiences that vary from the private space to the communal one, but with other options in the middle.
While the original study was conducted on a potential senior community, we already reported the relevance of this argument in previous instances. And as mentioned in the introduction it was not just regarding co-living spaces. One above all, when reporting the Students’ Opinions who expressed the choice of the right roommates and community in each situation. This is also a potential development proposal we discussed during the Class Conference a few months ago.
The focus then is on creating a varied experience and offering the opportunity to create a closer community, collaborations, and relationships between individuals through spaces that offer higher privacy.
2. Technology in Co-Living
This subject was tackled from two different points of view. The technology impact on co-living and the effect that Covid had on this technological development.
Now technology is of course already a “trend”, and not just in real estate but literally in every aspect of our life. The panel anyway highlighted some innovative applications that are worth looking into and others that are already applied in certain countries in the world.
The first one is the smart locking system, which removes the need for keys or cards, and substitutes them with a phone app. This is a system that is fairly common in countries like China and will surely spread. Not only it streamlines the check-in operations but also reduces potential hazardous contacts in these times.
Other technology aspects, even when reducing the potential contacts, were actually analysed as tools to encourage community development, once again the core of the co-living experience. Compared to “old” technology, co-living spaces are moving toward wireless technology with the application of different instruments. AI, Quantum Computing, Blockchain, and so on. All of these can be connected into a single or very concentrated eco-system that spans from Data management for marketing purposes, and service improvement, to Energy saving, accounts, parcel management, chats and contacts with staff and other residents, cleaning, access management, travel, food & beverages, and work spaces. All of this becomes increasingly important as the business is scaled up, to limit operational costs.
3. Building Intentional Communities
During this longer panel, the discussion went specifically on community-building, and what Co-livings need in this case to succeed.
First, an interesting trend that might become even more important in the coming months is the development of a co-living around a specific community of people. This usually comes down to professional and personal interests. While it can be a risky choice, as it could alienate a share of potential residents, on the other hand, it is a good solution to create a tighter community, brought together by shared interests and collaborations, which in turn would be the group that is less likely to change when something new and exciting comes out.
Bringing in people with the same, or similar, interests and experience can be a powerful motivating factor to bond, and for long-term residents to help new ones feeling part of the community, or even just getting to know a new city.
While human relationships eventually develop on their own, the property managers and developers' challenge is to provide a place and services that facilitate this as much as possible.
The first step is to have a deep understanding of a brand’s values and communication around which the community is to be built. Once these are understood, the company and managers themselves have to embody these values. Only then, the people who come in are more encouraged to share and become really part of a community with values they can relate to. This is definitely something that can easily reflect on the development of co-workings and PBSAs and it is closely related to the interior design and layout of such spaces.
An interesting fact, reported by the panellists is also that during the pandemic, the residents’ sense of responsibility toward the shared spaces actually increased. So, shared spaces became, in a way, their own even without a property manager or community leader in charge.
In all of this, especially during the application process a lot of attention is posed on mental health potential issues arising within the community, and other social challenges such as gender or race-related issues.
4. Design and Construction in Co-Living Spaces
In terms of design, as we discussed before, Biophilic Design is gaining importance and the pandemic period only made this need stronger. Along with that, architects had to review the balance of private and communal spaces while still offering an affordable living solution.
Both these subjects have been deeply influenced by the pandemic impact. The first because people globally, especially with remote work, had to spend much more time indoors, and second because social distancing became a priority. These changes are likely to stick in the future as they improve the overall experience and offer a ready solution if similar conditions should arise again.
Again, another trend reported during the panel is the importance of the local culture and, as we highlighted for other sectors, like PBSA, and hospitality, bringing this local culture indoors. So, while not forgetting the larger dimension of a globalised world, Co-Livings and their communities have to become part of their neighbourhoods. With reduced mobility in 2020 and 2021, this aspect too gained importance.
It was an extremely thought-provoking event, with many points and inspirations on how this industry could evolve and what can designers, developers, and property managers do to succeed, bring something different and efficient in the modern market, as we gradually move toward a ‘new normality.
Written by: Martina Pardo
I am Martina, an Italian designer based in London. I spend most of my time designing interiors or writing about it. I also love travelling. You may find me walking around the East End of London, drinking coffee and stopping at every single bookshop I bump into.