Which Covid-19 inspired changes can we expect from the homes of the future?

There has never been a time in modern history where the fragility of our constructed and natural ecosystems has played on collective consciousness on both micro and macro-level.

The global pandemic of 2020 – not seen on a scale since the outbreak of Spanish and Asian flus of 1918 and 1957 – has thrown how we live, work and interact with our surroundings into sharp relief.

Already prompting a sea change to the status quo, Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst to working flexibly and remotely, prompting introspection on how and where we work and, on a more fundamental level, where we see ourselves at our happiest given the uncertainty of times ahead – in the city, the country or abroad, for example.

So what has the global pandemic taught the construction and development sector and which Covid-19 inspired changes can we see woven into the fabric of our future homes? How will technology play a key role in the developments of the future?

Knight Frank’s Global Development Report 2020 surveys those working in the development sector in the UK and abroad, highlighting trends in home building that are here to stay, those which may be of the moment only and those that we can expect in the homes of the future.

Smart Buildings will be even smarter, better connected and flexibility is key

What is already here and what can we expect? Multi-location working, flexibility of design, pervasive WiFi Broadbad, home doctors

Working flexibly will require an even greater need for connectivity and this is one way in which developments can differentiate themselves.

Those who will win the war on faster and better connectivity will move to to Smart Fibre Infrastructure which can deliver efficiency and flexibility.

These essential fixed line Gigabit technologies are complimented by the mobile operators providing 4G and the future 5G provisions.

WiFi broadband will exist in an entire building – from waste disposal and recycling points to electric car charging and software upgrades for vehicles accessed in basement car parks. Connections in all rooms will enable on demand flexible working.

This flexibility will allow for retrofitting Internet of Things (IoT) devices which can tell, for example, if a window is left open.

This is useful for home owners and or building managers to effectively manage running costs and energy efficiency.

With the renewed focus on personal wellbeing, many developers are looking to more air cleaning systems as well as devices such as a home doctor which can conduct basic health checks.

This kind of technology can monitor elderly occupants, and alert the relevant people if they have a fall.

Limiting touchpoints

What is already here and what can we expect: Automation, facial recognition, sensor activation, voice control, antibacterial materials, robotic disinfectants and concierge services

The pandemic will drive automation, facial recognition and the use of antibacterial materials for construction in many areas.

Automatic doors, voice recognition or wave-sensor activation in communal areas and in lifts could could see a system where direct contact with surfaces is limited. For example, you can pre-select a floor without having to physically touch an elevator button or access your home through keyless technology.

In the home these technologies could be used for lights or for video facilities which will enable smarter and more efficient working within different areas.

Antibacterial materials will reduce the risk of transmitting viruses on handles and other touch areas.

Robotics may help to further limit contact and reduce costs. This could be via a concierge service which some hotel operators have trialled, or cleaning

Management, communications and safety standards

What is already here and what can we expect: New health and safety legislation, smart building management, spatial monitoring devices, crowd control

Having smart building management, such as leak detection systems, would limit the amount of site visits and reduce overall cost for owners and occupiers.

New legislation could start altering the design of future homes. For example, could we see new health and safety legislation introduced that influences design in the same way fire standards have?

There are also new ways of managing the flow of people in office, retail and leisure buildings, through spatial monitoring devices.

These can measure footfall within certain areas of the building and can trigger warnings of a crowd to reduce numbers.

Going green and wellbeing

What is already here and what can we expect?: Health and wellness encouraged by weaving in facilities on residents’ doorsteps

Above: The Royal Eden Docks development in London’s borough of Newham incorporates a running track and ‘reflexology walkway’ into its design.

Developers are going big on eco-friendly, health and wellness features with facilities for bicycles, exercise and green spaces woven into urban developments, according to our survey.

The adoption of cycling is only likely to grow. A study released in August estimated that temporary cycleways have, on average, led to a 7% uptick in cycling rates. If these cycle paths are kept in place there will be higher demand for storage facilities to accommodate.

Gardens, rooftop running tracks, cycle highways are some of the wellness features that future residents of urban developments will consider as the norm in future development.

To find out more how the Covid-19 how developers are responding to a shift in behaviours, download the latest Global Development Report 2020.