Two recent experiences re- focused my thoughts on the homes that will be built in the future – houses or apartments, rented or owned. The first was DAC Beachcroft's involvement in judging some tech awards, which showcased some leading edge thinking for the property sector. The second was a timely reminder about Skorba in Malta, a settlement that has seen continuous human occupation from about 5000BC – and that showcases some much older examples of ingenuity!
The Skorba homes are remarkably sophisticated; two storey dwellings with separate rooms built from the local limestone. It underlined for me that the basic design of our homes hasn't changed that much and I feel that this will remain the case for the twenty first century at least. The elements more subject to change are linked by four Cs: choice, convenience, comfort and climate.
Virtual reality is already helping developers choose and test the configuration of schemes and units off-site, ironing out problems before construction starts. Technology will facilitate the real-time collaboration of the many professionals involved in a development and it will also enable communities to more easily understand what is proposed and give their input. Virtual reality will also reach more widely into home selection and design. Future proofing and flexibility will drive innovation. When once choice might have been provided over carpets and worktop finishes, it will extend, for example, into where the walls can be placed, allowing to adapt the space to their particular requirements.
Technology will also increase the speed at which we search for a property, create faster access to a wider choice of finance and automate the way both owner and occupier manage a tenancy. From the information they hold on tenants, owners will be able to suggest what property might best suit their next move, helping build loyalty and enhancing the customer experience. However with the opportunity comes the risk of data management. Owners of multiple units will also be owners of large quantities of data. The changes to data protection regulation of 2018 demand much more careful handling of personal information and recent legal cases have shown that the supervisory authorities are not afraid of flexing their enforcement and fining powers.
Space will be at a premium so changes in design will try to create the illusion of greater room. Glass, so extensively used in office construction, will become more widespread in the use of outer walls. The introduction of the outside to the inside, more green space, more sensitive and personalised temperature control – again applied in many new offices, will also come to the home. There will be increasing emphasis on well being, both for the individual and for the environment, and these changes respond to those trends. Waste water and rain drainage will be seen as commodities and will need to be collected. Less car ownership means more deliveries to the home, with consequent changes to outside storage facilities.
And when it comes to moving in, the internet of things will help speed up what are currently frustrating processes. Drones can support immediate wi-fi connection. Cableless and switchless will become the norm. Utility contracts will be more associated with individual and less with the property, becoming more portable and transferable.
However technology changes the way our homes work, we and the Neolithic residents of Skoba, share many fundamental requirements. The concept of home as a place of security, sanctuary and somewhere to share our life as part of a community remains a constant.
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