The New Normal


In London’s super-prime new-build market, the post-Covid-19 future is already taking shape. “Old” luxuries such as communal swimming pools, touch-pad lifts and sign-in concierge desks are giving buyers pause for thought in this era of social distancing and obsessive sanitising.

Instead, features such as freshly filtered air, cooling systems and contactless technology are becoming must-haves for buyers entering the brave new world of Covid-compliant properties.

The “race” for amenities in the luxury market in recent years is now “coming under review”, comments Tom Dailey, author of Knight Frank’s new Heating and Cooling Study 2020, which finds that one of the most requested and value-adding features in high-end new London schemes now is a cooling system.

“London is getting hotter, and lots of new-build accommodation is overheated as there is so much regulation around thermal efficiency. We’re seeing many people specifically asking for air con,” says Dailey.

Underfloor heating, “which most developers install as a stamp of luxury”, Dailey adds, is increasingly being replaced by more efficient heating systems such as those that blow hot and cold air through fan coil units built into the walls.

Buyers will always want the sense of community that comes with some shared facilities in a managed block, thinks Dailey. “They will still want somewhere to exercise and watch movies, and will see a private facility in a development of 50 flats as preferable to a public gym or cinema,” he says.

“But in the future, everything will be done with apps and sensors, and large communal spaces will become more compartmentalised, with smaller, private spaces for home-working most important in the short term.”

Buying agent Guy Meacock at Prime Purchase ponders whether buyers will shy away altogether from communal spa facilities and pools, “which form a huge part of the marketing of luxury developments such as Chelsea Barracks,” he comments.

“There may be a perceived benefit, though, if you are buying a new-build flat where no one has ever lived before. I also foresee greater demand for small, boutique schemes such as Banda’s Leinster Square. A lift shared with just two or three other flats may be their limit.”

Touch-free technology is already well-established in offices and public buildings, but new Covid-era priorities may mean it’s “the natural next step” to incorporate it into our homes, thinks Neil Ramsdale, managing director at St James White City, whose White City Living development in West London offers contactless access in its latest phase, The Water Gardens.

“It creates a touch-free journey from the car park or lobby right through to residents’ front doors. Residents can also grant touch-free access to their guests or deliveries via the smartphone home control system,” says Ramsdale.

At the London-Monaco developer Redd’s 82 Mount Street, Mayfair’s first Covid-compliant development - whose off-plan apartments and a duplex penthouse in a renovated Victorian mansion will go on sale in early 2021 - the features will include pre-programmed, “no touch” lifts that open directly into each apartment, Covid-killing surfaces such as anti-bacterial copper, and workstations with “commercial Grade A internet systems” to accommodate new WFH lifestyles.

Following the pandemic, a brave new world beckons and housing is no exception.

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