Architect Catalina Ionita discusses the future of BTR in Manchester at a Material Source roundtable

Catalina Ionita attended a roundtable discussion recently organised by Material Source, a destination in Manchester that brings together product, material insights and inspiration for architects, designers, and property professionals. The roundtable discussed the subject of multi-occupancy residential, looking at some of the different residential offers such as Build-to-Rent (BtR), Co-living, Student accommodation, and assess how Manchester is performing in these sectors compared to other UK cities and more mature markets overseas.

The panel of experts alongside Catalina included Chris Trunkfield, Senior Design Executive, Moda; Lauren Maylor, Co-founder & Director, Project Studio; Stephanie Porfyriou, Architect, Atkins; Sarah Moulson, Founder + Director, White Circle; Jan Harmens, Director, Tsiantar Architects; and Elizabeth Bushell, Student Accommodation and Housing Manager, Forbo Flooring Systems. The discussion was chaired by Material Source Director, David Smalley.

The event explored the potential impact of Build-to-Rent (BTR) / Co-living developments on Manchester's property sector. It highlighted the rising demand for affordable and flexible housing options in the city, driven by population growth and an influx of students.

The discussion highlighted the benefits of BTR / Co-living, such as fully furnished apartments, shared amenities, and flexible leasing options. Discussions suggested that these developments could address the housing shortage and rising rent prices in Manchester. However, it the roundtable acknowledged that BTR / Co-living may not appeal to everyone, as some individuals prefer more privacy and independence.

The event also discussed the investment potential of BTR / Co-living developments. It was suggested that the growing demand for affordable housing in Manchester presents an attractive opportunity for investors.

A big part of the roundtable discussion emphasised the importance of incorporating sustainable design and technology in BTR / Co-living developments. Energy-efficient features and eco-friendly initiatives can attract environmentally conscious tenants and contribute to the overall sustainability of the city. Alongside the sustainability agenda, placemaking needs to be addressed in future residential schemes as a priority in our ongoing ambition to create healthy cities and to respond to climate change. Catalina referenced Alexandra Notay saying: “It’s the social aspect behind a city, if you want to design socially inclusive cities, you need to think about the ‘S’ in ESG. It’s the year of the ‘S’".

In summary, the event explored how BTR / Co-living could become a foundational element of Manchester's property sector, providing affordable housing options while considering privacy, sustainability, and investment opportunities.

Chapman Taylor is recognised as a leading expert in the UK in the design of BTR residential schemes and apartments. We have thousands of BTR homes on the drawing board and under construction, with many more in the pipeline.

Photographer: Tim Ainsworth

Catalina Ionita (BA(Hons) MArch ARB RIBA AFHEA)

Architect, UK

Catalina joined the Manchester studio in 2021 as an Architect supporting the Feasibility team. She brings a passion for successful placemaking to her work in the residential and mixed-use sectors.

She has experience working on a wide range of projects at all work stages, including large residential developments, masterplans, offices, and listed building restorations.

Catalina is teaching a Masters of Architecture and Urbanism course one day a week at Manchester School of Architecture, whilst completing PhD research, with a focus on art-centred placemaking. In 2020, she made RIBA’s Rising Stars shortlist for her project work and her research on ethics and sustainability in architecture. Cat is also a committee member for Women in Property North West, with a strategic role as Inclusion Champion.

Areas of expertise:

Place making / Residential / Mixed-Use /Research

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