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Blog - Welcoming innovation in housing: If not now, when?

We are living in an era where demand for housing is more diversified than ever. In response to this, innovation is burgeoning across a range of areas to help improve the way we build, live, invest, and sustain. However, the traditional housing sector as a whole is slow in responding to or adopting new ideas and innovation. Connected Places Catapult's Built Environment Researcher Bin Guan asks how the sector can embrace this coming disruption?

According to UN-Habitat, housing accounts for over 70% of land use in most cities. In the narrow sense, housing refers to our homes where we spend most of our family and private time. From a broader perspective, housing is a multifaceted industry covering a wide range of activities, from land identification to planning, design, construction, sales/leasing, property management, refurbishment, etc. Playing a pivotal role in our economic development and culture of living, housing has frequently featured at the top of the political agenda, as well as in media and our daily life.

In the face of an ever-growing urban population, we have witnessed different waves of policies and movements to increase housing supply. Although delivering more homes remains a top priority in the 21st century, there is increasing interest among stakeholders in improving other aspects of housing, such as quality of life, building-efficiency, or sustainability. The reasons include demographic and climate change, lifestyle movements, as well as technological advancements. As a result, the demand for housing is getting increasingly diversified, which in turn drives change across the whole housing sector.

Where is innovation coming from in housing?

In house building, modern construction methods like offsite manufacturing and 3D printing will deliver efficiency and environmental gains, whilst low-carbon houses create a new path to help mitigate climate change. Shared living models such as co-living and co-housing will support the changing needs of urban citizens looking for flexibility and more social interactions. Connected home solutions will enable us to manage our homes in a smarter way, while assisted living innovations have the potential to allow vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled to have a happier, healthier and more independent life. Property management tools are already facilitating the communication among occupants, landlords and property managers and helping create a safer and more connected community. In sales and leasing, immersive applications improve the efficiency of property viewing and showcasing, while location intelligence solutions unlock the potential of geospatial data and provide us with better location-based insights. Last but not least, innovative financing models such as crowdfunding have the potential to leverage alternative forms of investment.

While emerging technologies bring incremental disruption to a wide range of housing activities, the traditional housing sector remains slow to embrace innovation or adopt new practices. As innovation and disruption become the norm, there is a growing case for the traditional players to embrace emerging solutions or invest greater amounts in R&D.

To raise industry awareness of emerging products and services, as well as to promote the development and adoption of innovation across the housing sector, Connected Places Catapult (formerly Future Cities Catapult) has been embarking on a whole new programme – Future of Housing. As a key component of our housing programme, we are unveiling a dedicated innovation space on our website, where we have identified emerging solutions across nine areas in the housing industry: connected homes, low-carbon houses, shared and assisted living, modern construction methods, property management tools, immersive applications, location intelligence, and innovative financing.

We will be making further announcements about our Future of Housing programme over the coming weeks. There will be events, newsletters, collaborative challenges and plenty of other opportunities for you to get involved. Details will be announced on our website. For now, explore our Future of Housing Innovation Map to better understand this new piece of work.

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 futureofhousing@cp.catapult.org.uk.

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