Key Highlights from the Amsterdam Coliving Meetup
On the 17th of February SPX Agency, in collaboration with Salto Systems and Conscious Coliving, organised Coliving in 2030: Future Trends in Shared Living, an Amsterdam Meetup to explore the future of the coliving trend.
The event was kindly hosted at Zoku and the discussion has seen the participation of six panelists with a diverse mix of expertise. The discussion brought together operators, developers and others market stakeholders, offering a diverse range of products, concepts, visions and business models.
Conscious Coliving is a consultancy company helping various coliving brands and operators to express their potential and improve resident’s well-being and community management. Matthew Lesniak, who is Head of Impact & Innovation at Conscious Coliving, moderated the panel.
Salto Systems is a PropTech and smart technology provider for the coliving vertical as well as for other real estate and hospitality segments. Salto offers smart locking platforms connected to performance management systems to enhance community experience.
SPX Agency is a creative agency providing multiple branding, marketing, digital and design services to create and uplift real estate brands. SPX relies its expertise on real estate alternatives, such as student housing and coliving, among other emerging segments.
Quoting the words of Bart Sasim, the CEO of SPX:
“This event is a great opportunity to think outside of the box and not only offer commercial services to clients, but also try to push the industry forward and make up a name for Coliving, which I really believe deserves this.”
Tracey Ingram is a writer, content director and editor at Frame Magazine, specialized in spatial design and products, but more specifically in the relationship between spatial design and society. Frame Magazine is a leading interior design, architecture and product design publication, founded by Robert Thiemann in 1997. In late 2019 Frame published a special issue on coliving, interviewing operators and designers.
Lucas Crobach is a development manager at Zoku, specialised in the coliving segment. Zoku provides a flexible home-office hybrid concept suitable both for short and longer stays in Amsterdam. Zoku combines private modular studios with shared amenities and a focus on community building. People live, work and socialize under the same roof often while kick-starting their life in Amsterdam.
Dimphy van Wijk
Dimphy van Wijk is the Real Estate Director at The Student Hotel responsible for the Benelux portfolio. The Student Hotel is a hybrid hospitality brand focused on students and short stay tenants such as business travellers and digital nomads. It was founded by Charlie MacGregor in 2006 and is currently operating in six countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and France.
Mischa de Munck
Mischa de Munck is the Head of the European Expansion at Quarters Co-Living. Quarters Co-Living was founded in 2012 in Berlin as part of the Medici Living Group and was one of the first european coliving providers to expand in the US. Quarters focuses on affordability and high-quality furnished living spaces in microclusters or studios, combined with shared facilities and smart technology systems. Their model is long-stay (from 9 to 36 months).
Ruth van Dijken
Ruth van Dijken is the Founder of BlendingBricks, a coliving accelerator and project development startup focused on an holistic approach to real estate that combines flexibility, intergenerational living and sustainability. BlendingBricks was formed to spark connections between people, the local communities and the planet. Their first project will open in Haarlem in 2022.
Anneke Timmermans is an Investment Director and Asset Manager at Greystar Netherlands. Greystar is an international rental property management company, as well as a leading investment manager, developer and managing operator. Greystar has an all-inclusive concept (furnishing, utilities, amenities, services) also for the extended stay market. It has been active in the Netherlands since 2015.
Coliving in 2030: Future Trends in Shared Living explored how the panelists integrated sustainability, wellbeing and community into their projects, if they are measuring their impact, what kind of tech integrations they are using and what shared living in 2030 will really be like. The panel ended with a Q&A moment with the audience and a networking session.
Sustainability, community and well-being are intertwined aspects. The topics discussed were synthesised in six key takeaways, here following:
In the discussion emerged strongly the necessity to reconsider the variables that real estate and coliving developers have been using for years to target a specific product. New developing models of living will need to shift from demographics variables to psychographic ones in order to better address the desires of people from different age groups that are affected by the same issues such as the “loneliness epidemic” and affordability. The main goal of coliving should be to gather people regardless of their age and looking to shape communities around common needs and niche interests.
Ruth van Dijken, for example, decided to base her business model on intergenerational and multifamily living, welcoming seniors and active adults to be the pillar of the community. Her long-term idea is to foster family mobility within areas of the same building, according to the ever-changing individual needs. The main target at BlendingBricks is people that do not need special care, have the same mindset as millennials and the will to pursue a richer and communal living environment.
Bigger real estate corporate companies recognised the same opportunity and started to open and expand their buildings towards other segments. Anneke Timmermans, stated that Greystar started to focus more and more on investing in senior housing in the US since the so-called “Boomer Market” is going to be the biggest demographic in terms of population in the near future. On the other hand, Dimphy van Wijk from The Student Hotel, mentioned that her company has already been expanding their target to a hybrid rental model since their initial focus on students, is starting to attract mobile graduates and shift into coliving as it is a “low-hanging fruit”. The Student Hotel aims to come back to the same guests in different times of their lives.
As the industry is exploring different possibilities, hybrid models seem to be the way forward for many players in the marketplace and in the future we can assume that we are going to see even more versions of coliving blending different generations.
Community is the main driver of coliving spaces and all the operators built the product around consumers’ needs. Coliving aims to be an option to counter loneliness in cities, inviting people to create meaningful connections and shaping a vibrant ecosystem.
It emerged that community must be authentic, it is not granted and cannot be forced. That is why community management is regarded as the key for the success of coliving. Another aspect to consider are the cultural nuances, which is basically thinking about what living means for different cultures and adjusting the offer to an international target.
Spatial design is crucial for inclusivity and to make communities flourish. Quoting the words from Lucas Crobach representing Zoku: “We crafted a studio that does not feel like a studio. We don’t want the bed to be the center of tenants’ stay, but the kitchen table because that is the place where people connect, socialise and interact.” Zoku actively listens to its residents’ feedback and surveyed them to gather comments to co-create social spaces and improve their well-being, while also focusing on the personal development and well-being of the internal team. Creating a stakeholders’ feedback loop can be an efficient method to constantly fine-tune and improve the offering.
A topic that has been repeated several times during the Meetup is certainly the importance of the neighbourhood and, in general, the challenge of opening the community to the external world and to commercial opportunities. Bringing people from the outside to experience both the community and defined public spaces within the buildings is regarded as a crucial factor to make tenants feel an attachment to local communities.
In order to get the love of locals and open the coliving space to the world, one possible way that Greystar is exploring is to include commercial areas that are beneficial, but not designed specifically for the residents, such as restaurants and stores. Also The Student Hotel is opening its doors to the neighbourhood and bringing people together through their Food & Beverage concept, which is always the core of the ground floor of each building. The integration with the local environment fosters a connection with the city itself.
Sustainability was one of the key topics of the discussion as the focus on environmental initiatives became a staple to success in almost every industry. There are endless possibilities to make an effort towards sustainable practices and all the companies in the panel are now considering sustainability as an important aspect of their business. Strong effort around impact and corporate culture is a must since now investors and tenants are only buying sustainable products.
Sustainability is often addressed internally. Zoku, for example measures carbon dioxide emissions, energy usage, food waste and is actively trying to make Food & Beverage as sustainable as possible. Thanks to their efforts Zoku was able to gain the B Corp Certification, which is released by B Lab to for-profit corporations that respect the parameters for social and environmental performances.
Making consumers understand these issues and improve their lifestyle is something that many operators are looking into in addition to sustainable internal efforts. The Student Hotel has a dedicated sustainability team that deployed several programmes to build responsibility, create awareness and positively influence the everyday behaviour of tenants, also through the use of engaging design elements.
Despite the difference in terms of development, both BlendingBricks and Greystar base their offer on a sustainable three-point model, which are respectively a 3-P model and a 3-S model. BlendingBricks is strongly focused on impact and sustainability as the order of the three Ps is not casual: People, Planet and Property. The three S of Greystar’s model, which is focused more on the efficient use of space, instead indicates Smart, Social and Sustainable.
During the panel, it has also been said that scale brings more opportunities for sustainability purposes because of the chance to control and overview the complete operations process. Furthermore, long term partnerships, for example with local municipalities, can also improve the impact of environmental efforts.
5. Choosing the Right Design
Design is a key aspect of real estate that is also connected with sustainability. Starting from the choice of refurbishing and giving new life to older, less central buildings, we recognised that the need to build in future-proof ways is dominant among designers and developers.
Flexible, modular and retractable solutions seem to be a necessity to optimise the available space, transport design around the world through easier on-site production and enable to reimagine materials. Tracey Ingram, from Frame Magazine, suggested choosing neutral elements that are distinguishing enough, but can be sustainably reused in a second moment to address different times of the life cycle.
The choice of materials, and in particular the use of wood elements, _was indicated as a critical aspect for Quarters Co-Living to reduce the noise, improve privacy and create a sense of home-feeling.
The use of PropTech solutions enables operators to create a better relationship between guests and between the brand and residents. PropTech is mainly used to optimise the access to rooms, logistics and for communication purposes. Zoku and The Student Hotel are using sensors to better understand how spaces are used, where crowds gather and where people are alone.
Understanding tenants’ behaviour in coliving buildings serves two main purposes: measure the efficiency of spaces and choose the right ratio between public and private areas. This is another important topic for developers, Tracey Ingram quoted “it is possible to live together only if it is possible to live alone”.
So, what is the Future of Coliving?
When asked “What is the future of coliving?” the panelists answered confidently: “bright”, “now” and as the main “placemaker” in the future of cities. We definitely believe that the industry will not stop to grow also thanks to initiatives such as the Coliving Meetups that are continuing to spread awareness and further expand the shared living revolution.
As the event was a success we plan to organise more Coliving Meetups in the near future. Stay tuned for our news, more articles and the latest real estate insights subscribing to our newsletter below!
We also decided to craft a PDF Booklet both for the attendees and all the people that were not able participate. Request it now!