Future homes: How do we engage younger generations to disrupt the housing space?

In another guest blog as part of our Future of Housing series, Mark Southgate, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE), highlights the crucial importance of attracting young people to design, manufacture and build the homes of the future, the homes that they will all be living in for years to come.

“The home is the most important piece of architecture in our lives,” says George Clarke, architect, TV presenter and the founder of MOBIE – the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education.

It is an indisputable truth that the future will be lived by the youth of today. Therefore, no discussion on the future of housing and housing design is complete unless it involves younger generations. This is central to the purpose of MOBIE and our aim to attract and inspire future creators of homes and the built environment.

Homes, the design of homes and architecture are nothing without people. George Clarke founded MOBIE in 2017 as an educational charity to inspire and train young people to innovate in the design and construction of homes in the UK and abroad. We believe it is for them to define how they want to live now and in the future.

Three challenges to overcome when building the home of the future

In the UK we are facing three big and urgent housing problems:

  • We are not building enough houses – We are in a housing crisis. The government is committed to building 300,000 houses per year by the mid-2020s, but even in our best years, we are only managing to build a little more 200,000 over twelve months. We must significantly increase the number that we build.
  • The quality of houses is inadequate – In terms of their design, construction and performance. We have hardly changed the way we build houses in 100 years. Other sectors such as cars and phones are undergoing manufacturing revolutions, but housebuilding remains rooted in tradition. We must transform the way we build, learning from the best manufacturing industries here and from abroad.
  • There is a homebuilding labour shortage – We have an enormous lack of new talent coming into the housebuilding and construction industries. The Farmer review of construction skills, ‘Modernise or Die‘, identified the potential for the industry’s workforce to decline by 20-25% in a decade, and the HM Construction Sector Deal highlighted that 32% of the UK construction sector workforce is aged 50 or over, with only 10% under the age of 25. We must bring in new talent if we are to build the homes we need and deserve.

In short, home design and manufacture lag way behind other sectors and young people are not choosing construction as an attractive or inspiring career option.

What can we do to change this?

In the 21st century, we should be building homes in very different and much better ways than we have done in the past. With incredible developments in digital technology, the amazing research and development that goes into the performance of individual building products and higher standards of building practice, we have an opportunity to radically transform our product. Learning from other industries we can transform house building into a clean, precision-engineered and efficient product and process.

MOBIE is attracting and inspiring future creators of the built environment through exciting new technical and vocational courses, home design challenges and schools outreach. We engage them in the built environment and give them the skills they need to make great homes.

We want housing design, manufacture and construction to be a career of choice, not one of last resort. We need to create an entirely new way of educating and training, establishing an environment where people can be inspired to design, engineer and manufacture modern and factory-built homes. By providing education and skills in construction, offsite manufacturing, digital competencies and new materials we will transform UK housebuilding and secure a bright future with a workforce that thinks and acts differently.

Is there cause for optimism?

You bet there is. If the first graduates from our MOBIE MSc in Advance Home Futures and the students and school children entering our 2019 Student Design Challenge are anything to go by, there is amazing talent out there to be harnessed. The quality of the design work and the creativity shown by these young people is truly impressive.

In the future, we need to build smarter and build truly beautiful homes. This will take the very best in design talent – designing amazing digital software, designing innovative supply chains, designing efficient manufacturing processes and designing new systems and financial models as well as designing homes.

By working together as an industry, we can show how rewarding and exciting a career in home design, manufacturing and construction can be. We can develop a whole new generation of industry-disrupting architects, designers, engineers, builders, factory workers, managers and financiers.

Many young people are genuinely interested in housing design and the built environment. We need to turn that interest and latent talent into a career in making great homes and places. By focussing on four magic ingredients we can change the face of home construction and ensure the future of housing is a bright one: Home + Inspiration + Education + Innovation

Mark Southgate, Chief Executive of MOBIE. You can follow MOBIE on Twitter here @MOBIEhome.

This blog is one in a series and is part of our new Future of Housing programme. Find out more about our work in this area by visiting our new Future of Housing hub.