Disruptive Technology Moves In on the Housing Market

Disruptive Technology Moves In on the Housing Market

Could the disruptive power of Bitcoin be coming to real estate? Fast Company paints a compelling picture of what that might look like. In the future, houses might have digital addresses, not just physical. This could provide potential home-buyers with a transparent history of the home, it’s costs and even trades-people who have worked on it. For sellers, a block-chain based identity and financial history could provide greater certainty, without the many middle-men in real-estate today. This digital approach could enhance trust and authenticity, underlining the continuing advancement of the sharing economy.

Building with Fabric

Building with Fabric

Building with traditional construction materials requires the major exploitation of natural resources. As builders and consumers become more aware of the environmental impacts we have on the world, demand for viable alternatives has increased. In response, durable fabrics like as polyethylene (PE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) have emerged as a popular green building material. Not only are these materials made of at least 85% recycle material, they can also be used to achieve almost any design.

Urban Burbs, the New Millennial Magnet?

Urban Burbs, the New Millennial Magnet?

Cities or suburbs? Car-free or poor? The convenience of online commerce or brick and mortar authenticity? No shortage of ink has been spilled speculating about the preferences and motivations of people born between 1980 and the early 2000s, often called “millennials”. Despite this intense focus, conclusive outcomes have been few and far between. Having recently eclipsed baby boomers as the largest living and working generation in the US and Canada, at a time when mobile digital technology becomes the most significant technological shift since the automobile, the choices they make will be central to shaping 21st century cities. So what do we know about millennial preferences? First, and foremost, it’s not a cohesive group! According to the US Census, it’s, in fact, the most diverse. Size and diversity aside, after extensive research and number crunching, a nuanced perspective is beginning to emerge, with important indications about the environments and lifestyles that millennials will desire as they settle down.

Contrary to many suggestions, millennials, myself included, aren’t moving en masse to expensive big city downtowns. But they aren’t rushing to the suburbs either. Instead, to fulfill their desire for urbanity, city neighbourhoods outside the downtown core are the primary destination. To live affordably near work and/or school, with plenty of spaces and places to meet friends and where car ownership is an option, not a necessity, are key selling points for this generation.

where millennials live

Where millennials live                                                                       Source: Urban Land Institute, 2015

Looking forward, some suggest that, as with so many other aspects of their adult lives, millennials are simply holding off on moving to the suburbs. Traditional suburbs will suffice for some, but for many, a move outward will need to be accompanied by similar extensions of urbanity. What might that look like?

millenial infographic 1millenial infographic 2

Infographics by Dameun Kim, IBI Group

Just as neighbourhood, housing and mobility preferences in post-war suburbs conspired to make the car king, millennial preferences could lead to car-free, or at least car-optional suburbs. Walkable streets with access to quality transit, along with shops to satisfy daily needs and a few places to get a coffee or meal within walking distance could be the foundation for the millennial suburb, or “urban burb”. In terms of housing, space does not trump all else, but it is a key reason that people choose to move beyond the confines of inner-city dwellings, particularly as they start families. With this in mind, a private or neighbour-shared yard or terrace is appealing, but shouldn’t compromise the walkability or affordability of the neighbourhood. In addition to walkable streets and accessible transit, infrastructure that makes bicycling a realistic and comfortable option, along with readily available car-share options will ensure that the mobility preferences of this generation, and their coming children, are well served.

Urban burb

An “urban burb” – Midtown Square in Glenview, Illinois       Source: Midtown Square

So what does this mean for cities and the range of actors working to shape them today? Without trying to predict the effects of the many disruptive technologies on the horizon, a number opportunities can be identified. Walkable neighbourhoods are more conducive to local shops, neighbourhood daycare and even microbreweries. While walking, biking and transit can make car ownership unnecessary, there are still trips that are best suited for cars, increasingly so with children. In those cases, car share is a much more affordable option – and another growth market. Finally, planning, architecture and development firms with a commitment to good city-making have the prospect of extending their work beyond the inner-city into the relatively untapped swaths of suburban sprawl. Economic prosperity, enhanced social cohesion and a big step towards real environmental sustainability. The urban burb presents an opportunity to apply many of the lessons city-makers and city governments have learned since embarking on a post-1950 campaign of dispersion – creating healthier, happier and more lucrative places as they do.

By Mitchell Reardon, IBI TH!NK Blog Curator

 

The Humble Grocery Store: A Community Building Block

The Humble Grocery Store: A Community Building Block

Often viewed simply as a commercial space, a grocery store’s value can extend beyond the sum of its transactions. As Winnipeg’s indigenous-owned and -operated Neechi Commons demonstrates, they can also be a cornerstone of community engagement, pride and revitalization. By harnessing the important role that food plays in culture, Neechi Commons supports renewed growth in the culture of a marginalized community, while creating economic opportunities and improving access to nutritious food. Perhaps it’s time for the humble grocery store to figure more centrally in the inclusive and healthy community?

Treescrapers, Coming to a City Near You?

Treescrapers, Coming to a City Near You?

Urbanists are beginning to recognize the value of green space in the city. With the rise of “treescrapers” – man-made vertical forests – in speculative architecture, it appears that architects are embracing this trend as well. In an age where the value of urban land can prohibit the creation of new parks, with a focus on sustainability, treescrapers have been proposed as a solution. But as City Lab points out, this typology also raises key questions regarding sustainable building and public realm. Compelling as a concept, the treescraper has yet to be put to the test in practice.

 

A Better World Through Design

A Better World Through Design

In an age where new disruptive technologies are emerging on a near-weekly basis, is design the key to a better future? Using the Better World by Design conference as the starting point, Polis argues that design is essential to vastly increasing the benefits of a purely mechanical approach to technological innovation. For cities, this means more than a focus on roads and buildings as corridors and nodes, towards one where community, the environment and culture are designed to thrive. From construction and development to citymaking.

What Would Our Cities Look Like If They Were Designed by Women?

What Would Our Cities Look Like If They Were Designed by Women?

Leading exceptions, like Jane Jacobs and Janette Sadik-Khan aside, citymaking remains a male-dominated profession. Confronting this reality, the Guardian Cities spoke with a number of prominent female urbanists to find out what the alternative could look like. They found more pragmatic, collaborative and empathetic processes, and planning and design solutions that recognized the meed for safe and inclusive places.  While steps are being taken, it’s clear that there is still a long way to go in transforming the gender-equal and inclusive city from vision to reality.