Residents have high expectations but maintenance and upkeep must be easy and affordable
Based on our specification experience within the BTR sector we suggest a number of items should be planned into the kitchen wherever possible.
The aim is of optimising the space available and delivering well thought out, practical solutions for residents, whilst ensuring maintenance and upkeep is easy and affordable.
The way kitchen facilities are laid out is a matter of meeting resident expectations as well as good aesthetics. In our experience there are pitfalls to avoid and best practices to adopt in meeting those requirements and also in setting the groundwork for easy maintenance.
Environmental factors, plus initiatives such as food preservation technologies that reduce waste, are becoming increasingly important to potential residents, so look at energy ratings, water usage and other sustainable aspects of the appliances you choose.
As a minimum, most residents would expect their kitchen to include a combi fridge freezer, an oven and hob plus microwave. If the property doesn’t have a utility area, adding laundry appliances either as a separate washing machine and tumble dryer, or washer dryer if space is limited, and a dishwasher would deliver the complete kitchen.
Space will be the driving factor when it comes to choosing appliances, and most manufacturers will have solutions to ensure it is optimised, whether it be slimmer products, different capacities or clever tech like a multi-function oven.
Each of these configurations may meet resident needs but have different space considerations or hidden trade-offs that are best avoided.
Food cooling and storage
While under-counter drawer-based options for food cooling and storage are available, these do not typically provide sufficient space for most users.
A better solution is a combi fridge-freezer which may take up more floor space but tends to provide the storage that residents need.
Those offering frost free automatic defrosting help avoid maintenance visits or worse, residents doing it themselves and damaging the appliance.
Depending on the model or brand chosen, a combi fridge freezer may also include food preservation technology which helps extend the life of food whether it be meat, fish, fruit or vegetables. This in turn helps in reduce waste, and resident’s weekly shopping bill.
Ovens are available for both built-in or built-under installation meaning they can be part of a tower cupboard unit or, more typically, set below the hob. They can be single or double-oven formats – or even 2-in-1 ovens providing varying capacities.
It’s worth checking functionality as many will include basic functions (grill, defrost and fan cooking) plus an array of further cooking options. Becoming increasingly available are options for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Additional features like removable door glass and self-cleaning functionality are important considerations for maintenance and keeping the appliance pristine.
The perfect hob
Our recommendation is to install induction hobs where possible.
This style of hob only heats the pan surface and reduces the risk of burns, is extremely energy efficient and offers the user the quickest technology along with precise control.
It is easier to maintain (both during residency and at lease end) and with the electrification of the grid, they are a better option for future proofing.
For anything other than a small studio, a 60cm hob really is important.
While countertop microwaves might be available, typically their inclusion removes valuable real estate – available worktop surface for food preparation.
If including a fridge-freezer as recommended, this is typically incorporated in a set of wall units with a wall-mounted microwave.
An alternative is to include a combination oven that has microwave functionality.
Most residents will expect a dishwasher to be provided as standard. As well as enhancing the apartment’s specification and thereby increasing the likelihood of securing a tenancy agreement, a dishwasher can offer benefits like saving water and freeing up time.
However, if the space is open plan, consider the noise during operation.
Residents will expect either a washing machine or a washer-dryer to be included. In apartments the laundry appliance is often within the service / utility cupboard.
The depth of many laundry appliances may make this difficult, however, washer-dryers no more than 500mm deep can be sourced and even shallower washing machines are available.
Minimising the impact on the environment
The appliance selection process should aim to minimise the impact on the environment locally whilst in use, from a manufacturing source perspective and in terms of recyclability at end of its life.
Energy labelling offers a perspective on the energy consumption of products during typical operation, but do not cover the management of materials, emissions and energy embedded in the production.
As part of a sustainability strategy, consult the credentials of the manufacturer (for example within their Annual Report and wider sustainability reporting) to understand their approach toward managing such impacts.
Some of the ongoing maintenance costs can be better managed.
By selecting products covered by a warranty, maintenance costs can be minimised.
Whilst it is the norm for kitchen appliances installed within new-build schemes to be covered with a two-year warranty, one or two premium brands offer longer warranties as standard.