As our lives and cities increasingly intertwine with technology, chance in-person encounters become rarer. But co-living spaces can create opportunities for fostering valuable social connection between tenants.

By embracing the full-service boutique hotel offer, property developers can provide high quality spaces at affordable prices. But co-living can be a challenge for those tenants who rent small studios with limited storage options and little space for socialising.

The problem

The Collective is a pioneering property company that specialises in developing and operating co-living schemes. Pitching itself as a platform that provides young professionals with access to the city, the firm prides itself on giving tenants a remarkable living experience. So when tenants told them that the studios in their Old Oak property were too small, they acted quickly. Commissioning Human City (in partnership with University College London), they asked us to help them get to the heart of tenant dissatisfaction and find a way to transform it.

The considerations

Keen to gain a deeper understanding of how people use and interact with each other in their purpose-built space at Old Oak, Acton, The Collective wanted to:

  • Review and improve existing spaces and services; and
  • Use this fresh insight in planning meetings for new developments in London and further afield.

To achieve that, they needed to understand more about the nature of communal living, the importance of a building’s layout, studio size and storage options. They also wanted to gather wider feedback on the quality and relevance of their services.

The implementation

Phase one of the research was immersive, as our team spent a week living and working in the building, and walking in the footsteps of a typical tenant. We analysed existing data, interviewed staff, and recorded, evaluated and shared their perceptions and activities.

From this research we developed strategic recommendations which helped the client to:

  • Boost returns by improving the design and layout of their studios and communal areas, particularly those which were underutilised, like the Secret Garden;
  • Increase their chances of attracting and retaining long-term tenants by sharing information through engaging community newsletters and involving residents in decision-making; and
  • Improve customer satisfaction ratings by developing a more sophisticated digital technology strategy, including a mobile app and smart living.

The Collective used our findings to explain the design and layout of new co-living schemes, particularly in its engagement with the Greater London Authority.


The benefits

The Collective used our findings with influential bodies such as the Greater London Authority to explain the design and layout of new co-living schemes and to demonstrate their commercial and social value.Since our collaboration, The Collective has gone from strength to strength, employing our insights to improve the design of new buildings in the UK and across the world.