Cities are the crèche of the future. We’ve been living in them for centuries, but they have never been more populated or pressurised than they are today. In 1950, 30% of global citizens lived in a city; that number may rise to 70% by 2050. We are now more familiar with urban surroundings than the scent of country air.

As demand for urban residence continues to grow, Build-To-Rent (BTR) has to acknowledge that people miss a sense of nature in their living environment. Being around trees, plants and flowers makes us happier. It reduces depression. We are more productive and less anxious when we have a foot in the natural world. There’s a word for this too – ‘biophilia’, an urge to connect with flora, sunlight and clean air.

Biophillic design has enormous potential to make residents feel good about who they are and where they live. It’s something that LOFT, and now Twenty Twenty Living is taking very seriously when planning furnishings for BTR. To attract and retain tenants, developers must explore naturalism in materials, aesthetics and spatial layouts. It’s key to protecting the wellbeing and happiness of urban residents.

But where to start?

Human-centred design

People like to balance their phones, Echos and Dolby speakers with a reminder of a world that is less artificial. BTR providers should bear this in mind when introducing tech into the home environment or considering innovation that risks overcomplicating interior spaces. Always consider: how does this benefit the resident?

Smart window placement is one example of such human-centred design; it can help sunlight reach a bedroom or social space at certain times of day, giving a boost to wellbeing.

Real plants – or even fake ones – can have the same effect. Meanwhile, man-made lights, sculptures and steel or plastic furnishing (i.e. whatever nature cannot produce itself) produce the opposite result, if we don’t balance them with more ‘authentic’ choices.

Sustainable materials

The modern tenant is incredibly eco-conscious. This shapes their lifestyle choices and, by extension, their views of BTR providers. To ensure residents move in with a positive philosophy from day one, it’s vital to be transparent about sustainability. Twenty Twenty Living forge trust by being upfront about how we select, assemble and dispose of our furniture.

Biophillic design, after all, isn’t a superficial concept. It starts at the beginning of the procurement process: sourcing sustainable resources for furnishings. That’s why we only partner with eco-friendly manufacturers of chairs, tables, lamps, shelves and dressers as part of our green agenda.

A pastoral element

Even subtle touches can have a big impact on the way people perceive their surroundings. This is where décor and furnishings really come into play; aesthetic choices can have a transformative influence on a room, improving productivity, concentration and happiness levels, while combating the effects of stress.

Certain décor, such as bohemian and scandi themes, can introduce a naturalist theme to interiors. These styles have enduring qualities that make them sensible design choices for BTR schemes. Natural fabrics and materials are just some of the ways in which staple furnishings can ground biophillic design. That’s the thinking behind Twenty Twenty Living’s Bohemian range.

Industry players should wake up to biophilia and the benefits of human-centred design before it’s too late. The whole focus of BTR is to create spaces where people will want to live, long-term. To achieve this, we must put their needs first. The better a developer can implement natural concepts, the faster they will conquer the BTR market and the longer they will thrive.