Housing Innovation Week: What we learned about the future of housing

On 23 September 2019, Connected Places Catapult launched its first Housing Innovation Week. The aim of this series of events was to explore the future of housing in collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders. As Connected Places Catapult continues to delve into the housing sector, we are prioritising the role that technology and innovation play in redefining housing as an adaptable support system for the UK population.

In this blog, we summarise the highlights of the week’s activities.

Housing and Mobility-as-a-Service webinar

We kicked off this unique event series on day one with an online, streamed session on housing and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). With a great panel of thought leaders, the discussion focused on how the future of housing may be influenced by the emerging transport innovation field that is MaaS. MaaS represents a shift away from the private ownership model of transport towards an on-demand business model supported by digital technology.

We were joined by:

Panellists began by sharing their perspectives on how MaaS has the potential to reconfigure the UK’s complex housing system. MaaS was framed as an opportunity to reimagine communities as places that offer mobility without reliance on car ownership, supporting low carbon living, high distribution, increased quality of life and greater choice.

Two key challenges identified by panellists were:

  • the need for greater distribution of quality mobility options as part of existing and new housing developments; and
  • creating mass customisation, while balancing this with effective operating models.

The main takeaway from this webinar was the acknowledgement that the UK’s built environment is ripe for change. And, as the week progressed, it became clear that data will provide a key component for the future of housing and MaaS.

Click here to watch the whole webinar online.

Homes and healthy ageing workshop

On day two of Housing Innovation Week, we were joined by a charitable organisation working to create a society where everyone enjoys a good later life; the Centre for Ageing Better. The day took the format of a workshop wherein the gathered delegates explored how innovation can play a key role in supporting our ageing population to live healthy, happy and independent lives at home for longer.

According to the Centre for Ageing Better almost a quarter of people in the UK will be 65 or over by 2037 and 74% of households in 2039 will be home to someone aged 65 or over. With that in mind, there is an urgent need to think about how we can harness the power of innovation to meet the challenges presented by this demographic shift.

To do this, we brought together over 40 organisations to discuss issues ranging from current and future housing options and adaptable homes to the impact of poor-quality housing on health, the serious socioeconomic inequalities within the private rented sector, and how we mitigate social isolation. Taking a human-centred design approach, we ensured people were placed at the centre of every discussion.

Some of the key challenges identified during the workshop included:

  • encouraging people to think about available and practical housing options earlier;
  • improving understanding of the available housing options and providing a comprehensive package of services to support movers;
  • supporting better co-design of products, services, standards and guidelines;
  • assisting people to make the adaptations they need to live safely in their homes; and
  • enhancing the condition of the existing housing stock and reducing the number of non-decent homes.

This workshop acted as a springboard for a key piece of work to begin. Together with stakeholders, we’re developing a report that highlights how and where innovation can play a key role in supporting healthy ageing and the home. Watch this space to find out more in the very near future.

Innovation Programme for built environment; Innovation programme UK; Transport Innovation; Future of mobility
Retrofit workshop

On the third day of Housing Innovation Week, we, along with The Institute for Engineering and Technology (IET) and Innovate UK, hosted a workshop designed to be a launchpad for the development of a roadmap to take the UK housing stock to net-zero by 2050. Again, another 40 organisations came together for this session as we explored the key innovations we should be focussing on to unlock the UK retrofit market.

The UK has very ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero in the next 30 years. Using approximately 30% of the UK’s energy and responsible for 20% of carbon emissions, our homes must play a vital role in this process.

As the previous day’s workshop highlighted, retrofitting our homes has the potential to benefit the UK’s ageing population as well as positively impacting our environment. Upgrading to net-zero will allow the industry to adapt homes to support healthy ageing and meet some of the needs identified in the week’s second session.

The day started with a state of play review of our Housing Deep Retrofit Project. Where are we today, where do we need to get to, what are the benefits of transforming the housing stock and what are the barriers to progress? The group concluded that although there are many opportunities for innovations in products, processes and business models, it is not primarily a technology challenge. We know how to make existing homes low-carbon, but we don’t know how to do it fast, at scale and cost-effectively.

The course of the workshop guided us towards looking at the needs of institutional buyers – specifically social landlords. What things had to be true for them to invest in deep retrofit? We also considered the challenges of the supply side. If these are the needs of the buyers, what capability does the supply side need to deliver?

The conversation covered many interesting ideas. People talked about the need for confidence, standardisation, reproducibility, lower costs, better data, and ‘whole-house’ retrofit plans.

Four themes emerged as key opportunities:

  • Integrated retrofit solutions – packages of measures that work together to dramatically reduce energy demand
  • Investor confidence and finance – developing better business cases and finding innovative finance models
  • Process innovation to improve productivity – changing the way we carry out retrofit to drive out cost and increase speed
  • Deep understanding of existing stock – using data about individual homes to select the best upgrade strategy and predict the performance gains

Connected Places Catapult will be working with other partners and stakeholder groups to further develop these ideas into a practical plan for unlocking the retrofit market. There will be an update on progress at CityX and the first full draft will be out by the end of the year. We will be keeping you up-to-date on how the plan is evolving and inviting interested members to contribute their thoughts and to find out what role they can play.

Future of housing roundtable

The final day of Housing Innovation Week was marked by a roundtable discussion. In attendance were:

As a group, we used this time to reflect, discuss and debate two key questions: What will the future of housing look like in the next five to 15 years? And, what are the gaps in terms of tech, innovation and policy? Of the extremely interesting insights, one highlight was the recognition and agreement that any single innovation in housing is seen as a huge leap for a sector that is fundamentally very conservative. There was also a call for the need to understand what the customer might be looking for from housing in the next decade and a half with connectivity highlighted as a must on the night. Of the gaps, waste within the construction industry was a hot topic of discussion and was in fact branded ‘scandalous’.


A clear message came from the week – the complexity of the human life cycle needs to be supported by the housing supply. There was much enthusiasm from all participants and attendees on the breadth of potential and the scale of the opportunity.

Going forward, it is with much gratitude we appropriate the insights of those who participated over the week. We now embark on a UK housing programme that synergises occupant health with technological innovation, using evidence-based outputs and strategies. Stay tuned for an update on progress at our November CityX event, followed by the release of housing innovation reports on retrofit and healthy ageing in December.

You can stay in touch via the Connected Places Catapult LinkedIn Housing Innovation Group or message us to see how these challenges, and opportunities, are evolving into a roadmap, or to contribute your thoughts and to find out what role you can play. Read all our previous work on the future of housing by visiting our Knowledge Hub.