A guide to the design and operation of leisure facilities in Build to Rent

Adding the right leisure facilities improves customer experience and can translate into longer tenancies, but they must be properly run and well maintained

Leisure facilities in Build to Rent developments provide a desirable amenity space which can help developers build a community feeling by engaging with like-minded residents.  

Leisure facilities can also act as a unique selling proposition (USP) by providing amenities that competing developments don’t have.

It can also allow investors to charge a premium on the rent, over and above the extra cost of installing a facility.

Finally, it will improve the overall wellbeing and happiness of residents, and happy residents can translate into longer tenancies.   

What leisure facilities do residents want and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?  

  • Most popular facility
  • Relatively low cost to install  
  • Can be installed to any level within a development  
  • Excellent way to engage with residents  
  • Low running cost  
  • Can take up quite a large space  
  • Pools are uncommon in BTR so provide a real USP  
  • Can be installed on any level but do well on ground floors or basements  
  • Higher running costs  
  • Complex management requirements  
  • Can be very expensive to install  
  • Small space requirements  
  • Virtual studio has very low running costs  
  • Staffed classes could provide an additional income stream  
  • Very low cost to install  
  • Provides a flexible space for multi-purpose use (given the right storage)  
  • Providing lots of classes each week can become expensive  
  • Loose equipment is a potential trip hazard, and an easy target for thieves  
  • Booking and management of the studio is an additional task   
  • Versatile space with multiple uses  
  • Good space to host resident events  
  • Small, private workspaces within larger communal spaces are popular  
  • Other than at resident events, the spaces experience relatively low use  
  • Hugely popular for a wide demographic of residents including families  
  • Expensive to install  
  • Ensuring the correct licences and subscriptions are in place can be costly  

Design considerations

A well-designed gym can be very popular with residents but can also take up a large amount of space

Cost analysis and forecasting  

The costs below are based on a mid-high specification of gym equipment from a leading manufacturer, supplied by motive8.   

Total number of apartments   250 750
Gross cost to buy equipment   £108,000 £195,000
Size of gym (sqm)   150sqm 280sqm
Gross cost per sqm of gym space   £720 £696
Gross monthly cost based on a 60-month lease   £2,250 £4,100
Cost per apartment per month   £9 £5.50

Operation of leisure facilities  

With all elements of the operation of any facility, it is important to ensure the service provider who is being promoted to residents is up to the task of delivering the service required and that they, or their team, have the required qualifications, experience and insurances.

Partnering with a reputable company might be marginally more expensive than a local “one-man-band” trainer, but it will provide peace of mind that the facility and the residents are in safe hands.   


Inductions: Considered best practice to ensure safe use of equipment by residents and to ensure they get the most out of their gym facility  

Maintenance: Minimum bi-annual servicing of equipment  

Personal training:  Great additional service to offer residents; try to refrain from allowing residents to bring their own trainers as the management of this becomes problematic and there are grey areas over liability   

Classes and events: A cost-effective way to provide group activities for like-minded residents, for example running clubs, outdoor yoga

Swimming pools and spas  

User safety:  Complex guidance over safety requirements of a pool relating to whether lifeguards are or aren’t required along with the various design and operational requirements  

Staff training:  Staff who are designated “on-call” must be pool responder and first aid trained. There should also be an on-site staff member who is competent in pool plant  

Maintenance:  Varies depending on usage but, generally speaking, weekly service visits should suffice. However, water testing is required at least three times per day on a pool and every two hours on a spa pool  

Water testing: Minimum three times per day on a pool and more frequently (up to every two hours) on a spa pool  

Sauna & steam room:  Different councils have differing requirements on their management; refer to the relevant special treatment licence terms  


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