The Venture BTR Series 05

BTR: An investor’s take on specification

Cinema, gym, nursery, green outdoor space, Amazon box room, private dining? While these may seem like vital elements of any build-to-rent (BTR) scheme, they are window dressing. If the fundamental technical aspects of the building structure and fabric are not completed to the investor’s specification and highest institutional standards, then stylish, dual-aspect, naturally ventilated space becomes an irrelevance.

With the devastating impact of the ongoing cladding scandal ringing in the ears of investors, the role of the development monitor and their influence on quality control has been brought into sharp focus.

Environmental performance rarely stops at statutory compliance. Investors expect exemplar sustainability standards to attract tenants, protect liquidity and unlock green financing. An experienced development monitor with sound comprehension of Net Zero and ESG can help investors push the boundaries and futureproof their assets. 

The right specialists, at the right time

With a strong understanding of the investor’s point of view, the development monitor’s role is to drive the quality of the product and ensure the procurement process aligns with the business plan in terms of time, cost, specification, and contractual reliance.

By working in partnership with experts, such as fire engineers, cladding specialists, acoustics engineers and construction lawyers, the experienced development monitor can draw on the right expertise at the right time to ensure the scheme is designed and delivered strictly to the investor’s criteria. Fostering links with well-established specialists means that those monitoring on behalf of investors are very quickly able to proactively identify and solve issues that may arise along the development pathway.

Procurement in a post-Brexit world

The impact of Brexit on UK construction procurement is insidious. Techniques need to be adopted that manage supply chain risk, maintain programmes, and protect the investor’s income forecasts.  

Moving towards on-shoring, UK suppliers, and adopting a ‘just-in-case’ approach to procurement, are all strategies that can help secure the procurement process in the post-Brexit world.

The rise of modular BTR

Modular BTR is increasingly being considered as a way to manage specification uniformity and compliance, while achieving increased speed to market.

By manufacturing the buildings inside a controlled factory environment, modules can be delivered to site fully kitted out with windows, exterior walls, electric wiring, and more. Evidence suggests the time advantage is considerable, with ‘stacking’ techniques now tried and tested.

Apartments and their inherent components can be fully certified and accredited, and backed by the UK’s leading certification bodies.

This is certainly an area gaining ground in the UK, with firms such as Greystar having already made notable investments in the method. The 546 modular apartment scheme in Croydon, developed by Greystar in partnership with Henderson Park, is a significant statement of confidence in modular as a solution.

Having said that, with the benefits of new technology, also comes risk. This means the development monitor needs to upskill and learn the nuances of modular, ensuring standards enable every apartment to be fundable and insurable.

So yes, glossy high-quality kitchens, cinema rooms and gyms are important, but it’s what you can’t see and how you deliver it that underwrites the investment. Alignment of the specification and procurement method with evolving institutional expectations is key to the development monitor’s role.

By Richard Taylor, Partner, Venture Project Management

Previously in The Venture BTR Series 04: BTR: Build bridges, solve problems; the new face of development monitoring

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