Adapting Design And Spec To New Buyer Needs

Posted 1 February 2021 by Lizzie Leigh

Shanly Homes' Stewart Kirk on how the company is listening to buyers and their needs and demands in a brand new home...

Stewart Kirk, managing director of Shanly Homes Thames Valley, tells us why people are in search of a more aspirational home living experience.

Stewart, can you tell us a bit about your role at Shanly Homes?

I am the regional managing director for Shanly Homes Thames Valley and oversee the delivery of homes from conception to completion across the region. My area of operation spreads from Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and North London.

Delivering high-quality homes is my goal, where families can grow and enjoy the fantastic locations we develop in. We build stunning apartments for first-time buyers through to large family homes.

I have an exceptional team working with me providing both technical, commercial and sales input. My land team are actively sourcing new opportunities throughout the region. Our build team pride themselves on their attention to detail and are always reviewing our specification to ensure we deliver exactly what our purchasers require.

You develop schemes in the Thames Valley area, have sales in this popular commuter belt continued to perform well during the coronavirus pandemic?

Yes, especially in July and August when we experienced a significant upturn in enquiries from people looking for Home County destinations which, at Shanly Homes, we have in abundance. These buyers have been coming from both the capital and the London suburbs. Unsurprisingly, Londoners are looking for a more aspirational home living experience since COVID. They want outside space, individual study areas, access to lively town centres and still want to be able to jump on a train and get into London easily – I think many of them aren’t quite ready to hang up their London boots yet and want to feel well connected to the city.

Do you think there will be fundamental changes in what commuters are looking for in a home if the commute is not such a huge factor in their working week, longer term?

There has been a seismic shift since the pandemic began in what commuters are looking for in a new home. The traditional living experience of somewhere to eat and sleep, has morphed into home being the centre of most people’s lives – eating, sleeping, working and family living all now taking place within the same four walls.

At Shanly Homes we have been quick to review the internal designs of our homes to adapt to this change and we have been thinking differently about space and requirements. The spike in desire for outside space and usable work areas is key. People don’t want to spend their day working at the kitchen table or in their living area. They want to differentiate between home and work.

The CroftThe Croft

Also, the ability to get to a place of work for many has diminished, with many homebuyers only going into the office for a couple of days a month, so they’re not averse to a lengthier train journey. For example, we have had a couple of buyers at The Croft in Binfield who have stretched their affordability; what they are saving in a daily commute is going towards a larger home and they are using the third bedroom as a study.

Shanly Homes is currently building Waterside Quarter in Maidenhead, how is it going?

The build is going extremely well. We had our first occupations in the first block, Rialto, in December. The total number of homes we are delivering at Waterside Quarter is 182 units and there are the added benefits of private and secure underground gate parking, a concierge, car charging points, plus ample cycle storage. At the end of last year we released homes in the second block, Paradiso, which have views either to the west over a landscape park and church, or to the east, overlooking the waterway and what will become the vibrant heart of Maidenhead.

Will you be introducing any design features of note to the scheme?

We have been mindful of the heritage of the site and there are some key features that stand out. This is phase three of a wider regeneration programme that stretches along the river and over the Chapel Arches bridge, maximising the waterside location. So many towns in the local area are known for their waterside setting – such as Windsor, Marlow and Henley. I see no reason why Maidenhead can’t join the ranks of these beautiful riverside locations.

Waterside QuarterWaterside Quarter show apartment

We have introduced three very different and striking styles for the three phases and this latest phase uses some beautiful stone, giving an Italian feel to the development, hence why Waterside Quarter’s three apartment blocks have been named Rialto, Paradiso and Tre Archi. We have restored the bridge across the waterways to its former beauty and upgraded the public realm in this area. Our development will have a wonderful walkway leading both up and downstream when we are complete.

The homes have been designed for aspirational living with a concierge and stunning views from the balcony or terrace. Well-known restaurant provider, Coppa Club, is situated across the bridge on Phase I and within Phase III we will also have a large piazza with bars, shops and restaurants for residents and the wider community to enjoy.

Do Shanly Homes offer incentives such as Help To Buy or Shared Ownership to their buyers?

Most of our schemes currently offer Help to Buy and a selection also have Shared Ownership. Buyers have also been making the most of the Stamp Duty holiday recently which has increased sales and provided buyers with a considerable saving.

We hear there are some pretty interesting construction techniques being employed at the scheme, including an enormous water tube diverting the existing scheme, tell us more!

It was an interesting part of the project – we created a dam upstream of the development and then ‘fitted’ the pipe so that over the past year all of the water from the stream has flowed through this and is released back into the waterway a few hundred yards downstream, under the bridge. This construction technique was created so that we were able to form a new concrete base for the waterway, which is now complete so the pipe will be removed and water flowing once again in February. This pipe also had the added benefit of us being able to construct underground parking with greater ease, which was helpful for the construction team.

Some other notable sustainable initiatives have been included in the project. For example, we have installed a CHP (combined heat and power plant) which is providing heat to all 182 apartments and can generate on-site electricity. This can reduce carbon emissions by as much as 30% and give residents cheaper fuel bills. There are also green roofs to all three apartment blocks and we have enhanced the ecology of the site, bringing wildlife back into the centre of the town.

And finally, what other schemes will Shanly Homes be working on in the next 12 months?

We have a great deal coming over the next 12 months. From contemporary apartments to family homes, there is a great deal of work being done to deliver top-quality houses across the South East of England. We have developments launching in Surrey, North London and Buckinghamshire; we are expecting a very busy 2021 and I am looking forward to a successful year.

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