Digitisation and innovation are driving the evolution of our world like never before, writes Erin Walsh, Director of Market Intelligence at Connected Places Catapult, and the time has come to apply this ever-increasing capacity for meaningful change to housing. Which is why we’re excited to announce the forthcoming launch of our Future of Housing programme.
The world is changing at a rate that is actually accelerating. There will be 1 billion more of us added to the world’s population by 2030, and 2.2 billion more by 2050. Life expectancy is increasing too – we’re all getting older! – particularly in the most developed countries. Resources are tightening, we need to re-think where we source our energy and how much of it we consume, and availability of land on which we can build is becoming scarcer all the time. What does this mean for the Future of Housing?
We all need somewhere we can call home. There’s no way around that. So we need a housing programme that factors in all of the above – not to mention whatever might yet be coming around the corner. This is a complex and ever-evolving challenge that we simply HAVE to find solutions for.
Housing: ‘Home’ is where its heart is
‘Future of Housing’ is a BIG idea, so before we set out, it would be a good idea to define exactly what we actually mean when we say ‘Housing’. I believe that it’s critical in the first instance that the base-unit of our thinking in this space is the idea of the individual home. However, we must then move outwards in our thinking to incorporate the broader housing ecosystem; the wider network encompassing streets, high streets and, above all else, the community whose needs housing has to meet.
So, while it might be easy to approach all of this with our infrastructural hats on, I would argue that for any innovation to succeed in this space, for it to create the requisite demand and uptake, we need to put people first. If what we develop doesn’t work for those who need it, (and by ‘work’ I mean emotionally and socially as much as practically, perhaps even more so) then it’s dead in the water and we will have failed.
This is why we’re so keen to get involved. User insight and user-centred design is what we do here at the Connected Places Catapult. By applying our human–centred design approach, we can support the drive towards the kind of integrated innovation the housing ecosystem so urgently requires.
Who are ‘we’?
As well as establishing the broader definition of ‘housing’ outlined above, we need to also be clear on who this should involve. I’ve already indicated how we need to put people at the heart of it all, but who else do we need around the table?
Everyone from innovators and housing developers to central and local government, building regulators, rent and social landlords, private renting landlords, tenants and homeowners, not to mention charities, SMEs and academia – all these players should be involved in the process. Only then might we be able to fully explore and redefine ‘housing’ issues like development, engineering, planning and architecture, and the economics of the financing and funding models that underpins it all, and how what best innovation is needed to tackle it.
We need to look at the whole thing, from the ground up, and key to that is working with others who want to be or are already active in this space. That’s why we’re convening this initiative and inviting all of you to get involved.
The mountain housing needs to climb
In the face of rapid population growth, demographic shifts, climate change and resource limits, cities across the world are struggling to deliver housing. And on top of this, these urban areas are growing. The UK population is now 83% city-based and will be over 90% by 2030. Globally, 55% of the world’s population is urban and that will rise to nearly 70% by 2050.
This growing population is also ageing, and if our health services are to cope, older people need to live healthier, more independent lives for longer. The suitable housing, and the right kind of support systems are essential for independent living as we age. And right now, we are poorly prepared for this.
Not only do we need to build more homes faster, but we also need to:
- Make them more energy efficient
- Make them more resilient to climate change
- Develop adaptability for changing use and an ageing population
- Enshrine the ideal of affordability for the end user
- Refurbish older properties to meet future needs quickly and efficiently
- Improve the safety, comfort and convenience of home living
- Explore new sources of funding to support house building
- Facilitate property management and community engagement
- Empower buyers and renters to find new homes more efficiently
Daunting? For sure. Achievable? We think so. Where the technology isn’t already available, it’s certainly both conceivable and deliverable. We – the industry – just need to put our heads together and start making it.
Stay up to date with our work on in this area by visiting our Future of Housing hub where you’ll be able to find the latest reports, blogs and statements from the team here.
Are you interested in sharing your insights in this area? If you’d like to let us know about some of the projects you’re working on in this space, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.