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    How Millenials will affect the design of our homes, cities, and towns

    Nathan Johnson

    The housing debate is in full swing in Australia, particularly in its biggest urban centres, Sydney and Melbourne, where prices are rising and where populations, according to major government urban reports, are growing at a faster rate than the amount of dwellings being built to house them1,2.

    Solutions to the ‘crisis’ have been varied. Some have called for more development of high-density apartments and residential skyscrapers for our cities, while others say medium-density options like boarding houses and co-housing will be better received by the Australian public. One consortium of architects in Melbourne is even designing apartment blocks will smaller investor returns and no car parking just to keep prices down on their dwellings. They call their apartments ‘Nightingale’.     

    But the housing debate isn’t uniquely Australian, and overseas architects and urban designers are also putting their heads together to come up with solutions to changing population’s housing needs. One study, Tomorrow’s Home Emerging Social Trends and their Impact on the Built Environment, takes a step back and looks at which generation of the population is likely to have the most significant impact on housing design and how to accommodate them.

    The report was authored by Lily Bernheimer of Space Works Consulting with aid from UK architects Robert Adam and Hugh Petter of ADAM Urbanism. It seeks to paint a picture of emerging social trends in England and Wales and identify the influences that will be most significant for the future of the built environment. The research focuses on the Millennial generation—today’s 18-34 year- olds—and what their changing lifestyles will mean for our homes, cities, and towns. It forecasts how these trends will shape the built environment, and presents practical implications for how architects, developers, and planners can build for the needs of the next generation.


    Download a summary of the report here.


    Robert Adam, journalist for the UK’s RIBA Journal, spoke with Bernheimer to look into research information, academic studies and other publications and to come up with some key trends that will affect how architects and building designers create the houses of the future.

    Here are Bernheimer’s discoveries (courtesy of RIBA Journal):

    DECLINING COMMUTING AND END OF DORMITORY SUBURBS 

    The daily commute is in decline, so the dormitory suburbs built for previous generations of commuters will soon be a thing of the past. Homeworking employees are the fastest growing workforce segment. Millennials will spend more time where they live, leading to stronger local communities grouped around local services like cafés, crèches and shared office facilities. Suburbs will be places of work and play as well as sleep.

    MEGA-COMMUTING IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE ECONOMY

    Millennials moving from major work centres as a result of flexible digitalized labour will live further out and make longer, less frequent commutes. This new pattern of ‘mega-commuting’ and ‘micro-commuting’ (working from home or a local work hub) has brought about a decrease in miles travelled to work. Transport network congestion is threatening future British economic development, which mega/micro-commuting will help alleviate.

    STRONG, VIBRANT AND INCREASINGLY POPULAR SECOND AND THIRD TIER CITIES

    This transition will be reinforced as both major cities and first-tier suburbs become too expensive. There will be an exodus to second and third tier cities, resulting in a further boost for regional towns. Public-transport-loving Millennials will prefer cities and town centres because they are well-connected and walkable as well as affordable. This will reshape our geography with a more even spread of population and wealth across the regions.

    PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN: CARS OUT 

    Millennials are giving up cars, which should prompt more investment in public transport. Transport hubs with facilities and landscaping will become places where people will be happy to spend time, and public transport itself will provide ample space for working and socialising.

    THE SHARING ECONOMY TAKES SOCIALISING OUT OF THE HOME 

    Homes will become places of rest and work rather than socialising. Communal facilities will play a larger role and the shared urban environment will be increasingly important. Extending the success of the ‘sharing economy’ model from the transport and workspace sectors to the residential and leisure sectors will be an innovative area of growth. We can expect to see individual dining rooms, gardens, and leisure equipment replaced by shared facilities attached to residential developments, leisure centres, and parks.

    SOLO-LIVING STAGNATED; SHARED HOUSING IS ON THE RISE 

    Living alone is no longer on the rise as more Millennials opt to live with friends and family. Reports that over 30 per cent of people now live alone have been exaggerated from misunderstood data. Only 10 per cent of 25-44 year-olds and four per cent of 16-24 year-olds now live alone. Shared households of unrelated adults will grow and we will see a growing demand for housing to accommodate this sector. House builders may build in flexible units that can be up-sized into a house for an extended family or down-sized into individual apartments.

    THE COUNTRYSIDE COLONISED BY THE OVER 50S 

    Millennials are living and renting in cities for longer, but may move into the countryside in later life, where they will home-work and ‘mega’ commute less frequently. This will ageing rural population will need transport, healthcare and other services. 

    ADAM Urbanism’s Tomorrow’s Home: Emerging social trends and their impact on the built environment has been shortlisted for the RIBA President’s Awards for Outstanding Practice-located Research

    1. http://www.rdasydney.org.au/A-Plan-For-Growing-Sydney-WEB.pdf
    2. https://theaustralianpopulationresearchinstitute.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/birrell-healy-rapson-smith-housing-2012.pdf
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