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Futurology - Quality of Place

Futurology 453w

Place and the great choices of life.

In the past, two seemingly simple decisions had momentous impact on your livelihood.

The first is what to do. For most of human existence this was pretty clearly defined, you hunted and gathered. More recently humans farmed, mined, and manufactured.

The second is who to marry. Children, income, happiness –undoubtedly many aspects of life are determined by this profound decision.

Modern citizens of the world face a third choice which may eclipse the importance of the other two: where to live.

Today there are less limitations than ever before to constrain this choice and not only can we physically move places with relative ease, we can also be easily digitally transported. This, in turn, poses both threats and opportunities for the built environment.

Quality of place

Considering the built environment perspective, a human life cycle can be loosely categorised in to 3 stages:

1) The young and the restless – (A) graduates and (B) young professionals

2) Married with children – (C) families

3) When the kids are gone – (D) empty nesters and (E) retirees.

How many of each of these groups exist in a neighbourhood, a suburb, a city? What is the ideal breakdown to create a vibrant community and how is this achieved? The key to designing and integrating communities that are appealing and successful across the life cycle is understanding what is important to each of these groups.

Group (A) is interested in restaurants, bars, arts and cultural activities whilst (B) is also interested in these activities, but is now also focussed on commute times, wage growth and household formation.

The pertinent issues for group (C) are schools and safety, alongside commute times. For group (D) there is an increased interest in arts, culture and recreation whilst group (E) start to become concerned with safety, weather and health care as well.

Each group will also differently prioritise household expenditure in any given community:

Group (A) rent;

Group (B) house prices;

Group (C) and (D) cost of living; and

Group (E) health costs.

In creating, curating and building cities innovators are mindful of life’s great choices across the human life cycle and the evolution of issues that are most important to them.  The built environment needs to reflect these, as at their heart cities are human environments.

It is easy to see examples of a community that is deficient in one or more of these areas; a lack of schools, hospitals or accessibility to workplaces is easily identifiable. What is harder though is to create real value from the built environment and make communities that are attractive across the entire human life cycle. This is best done by putting people first. 

The mixed-use, multi-function city, or a return to the medieval village is a more likely the future than the task-based and dispersed, cities of the past. The office of the future is flexible and location-agnostic, retail is service orientated, boutique, unique and 24/7. Communities will cater for this and include public amenities in the form of parks, gardens, schools, health and other publicly curated spaces for scenes and social gathering. Finally, residential will reflect the life stages and accessibility for all the people in the community.  

Both occupiers and investors of real estate are curators of cities. Therefore, they must understand how their buildings and assets integrate with the key stages of the human lifecycle.  If the space can be more relevant to daily life the symbiotic relationship between people and place will continue to flourish.

To learn how to be what’s next in place-making, click here or contact Tony Crabb, National Director, Research.