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  • Writer's pictureMillen Homes

Building for Rental

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Designing and building for rental


Following from our previous post on traditional vs. modern design, we thought it would be relevant to discuss our site Orchard Road, located in Essex, which is a true representation of this.


So…. A quick background of the planning history there:


After an arduous two year planning journey we finally won an appeal for a pair of semi detached houses. This was following 2 local level (local council) refusals. The council were unsupportive of the first application due to the modern design (super sustainable units) pictured here:



So, in attempt to work with the council and accommodate their concerns we redesigned, offering more traditional units which would be more in keeping with the current street scene. Frustratingly, these were also refused locally so we chose to appeal this decision. This was finally supported by a lovely Inspector (yes totally bias response here)! Needless to say The Team were super happy with the end result.

The design that won approval:




Just a quick note here to mention that the system can be a little frustrating to navigate and we are all too familiar with this feeling. Often sites we think stand a great chance at planning can prove "challenging" and vice versa... Sites we think seemingly have a slim chance on paper can whizz through. It really is dependent on the council, the area and the individual officers dealing with each application. Resilience, navigate... Right back to topic now!


What next ?


After a lot of research and lengthy team discussions we decided Orchard Road will be a great site to build with the intention to rent the 2 houses (a first for us!). Our research shows the yields look promising, assuming we can build tightly to our set budget. So, with planning under our belt and a decision made to keep for rentals, how next to move forward?


1. Deciding on exterior materials/finishes:


With planning permitted for outline only (meaning no building materials/details specified), our first priority is deciding on the exterior finishes.

With the approved units seeming fairly basic, how do we turn them into something we are proud to put our name too, how do we make them pop? But also, importantly, ensure the houses remain viable for renting.


There are a number of considerations we must take into account when designing:

  • It has to be quick and easy to build with

  • It must be low maintenance

  • It must be cost effective

  • It needs to look aesthetically appealing

  • Oh and of course, we endeavour to consider the environmental implications of all our choices!

2. Playing with a design:


Throwing around initial designs is always easiest on a computer first, working closely as a Team we utilise each others experience, knowledge, expertise and ideas (with a bit of taste and style thrown in).


Ben's general understanding of build cost implications, together with Vince's CAD skills and joint overall planning experience, and coupled with Lucy's design background gives us the ability to decide a rough direction before researching into specific materials (this also prevents sending Lucy off on a wild time consuming goose chase)!


This involves ALOT of trial and error, trialling different combinations of basic features and materials.

Will this suit a more minimal modern aesthetic or shall we embrace the traditional look? What window styles best suit this house type? (We definitely think that windows can make or break the look of a house!)

Or even will this front door work well with these windows? Will these features integrate with each other? What mix of materials would work well together for this house style; brick, wood, render...? How do we make sure this house has curb side appeal?

As you can see the process is a creative one that evolves naturally, but this is always our starting point.

This is our modern minimal option:


And this is our traditional minimal option:


Next step…. Send off for tender:


On finalising the preferred direction of our design we send off for build prices (this is very much Ben's domain).

The tender packages give us a price with a preliminary allowance for materials, so Lucy's job now is to source within these, whilst satisfying our sustainability credentials.

Things to consider such as simply; something might be cheaper in the short term but will it need replacing in a few years time? If so sometimes it will make more sense to buy quality to ensure the longevity of a product.

We will constantly need to evaluate and weight up the short term and long term cost implications against environmental factors (in this case the ripping out and throwing away of short lived materials).

Other important factors such as low maintenance products, high energy efficiency, where are the materials coming from.


There are of course many more technical considerations... It is all a balancing act!


Keep a look out for more updates on our Orchard Road journey, as we mentioned earlier this will be our FIRST build to rent site, so I am sure there will be some learning curves to come!

We look forward to you following us on this journey where we will document the good, the bad and the inevitable.


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