The Future of Living
One of the greatest causes of human suffering is our resistance to adapt to change. In the face of uncertainty, we gravitate to comfort and satisfying our basic human needs while simultaneously suppressing undesirable emotions. This keeps us stuck as the world continues to evolve around us, which ultimately leads to the collapse of those very systems we created to keep us safe and comfortable.
In this wildly auspicious time, the importance of home, a sense of belonging and our search for meaning have become the center of our attention. The COVID 19 pandemic has brought to the forefront a growing loneliness epidemic as we are confined to our homes and/or general isolation among humans. Not only are we craving connection and community, we desire nurturing homes that provide safe refuge while accommodating a diversity of needs.
These past months have stretched our capacity to live remotely. This shift is monumental. As social creatures, we have expanded our imagination to the limits to gather remotely to work, play, learn and even date in ways that create safety and comfort. And if anything is missing, it is simply delivered to our door or device. There is no turning back from here.
From an economic perspective, the entire landscape of how we live is being transformed before our very own eyes. Let’s break this down category by category.
We will not go back to work as we did before. Sure, some of us might go back to the office in some fashion, but in the grand perspective, companies will no longer be able to remain competitive while maintaining office space as they did in the past. The future of office space will be on-demand services, which will lead to an evolution and expansion of the coworking template for offering dynamic workspace solutions. However, the biggest shift we’re experiencing is the massive surge of a global remote workforce. Accelerated by an increasing ‘gig’ economy of project based independent freelancers that are replacing jobs of employees, a company’s need for dedicated workspace is dwindling rapidly. Quite simply, this is revealing that we can work from virtually anywhere we desire. And with global high-speed wifi soon to blanket every inch of the planet, not to mention innovation in AI and robotics, this is a not so distant reality. We’re just scratching the surface of where this is leading us.
Retail was already getting demolished by our shift to online purchases, but with the heavy investments into a global delivery infrastructure that stretches across every vertical why would anyone pay more to eat out or go shopping. Sure people might enjoy the social aspects, but when retailers can sell online for less by cutting lease expenses, they’ll close their doors in a heartbeat to attract new customers online. And with accelerated innovation in virtual reality and 3D-printing, shopping will become the pastime of couch potatoes.
Why go to school when you can stay home and learn in your pajamas; often times for free. Private universities and traditional learning institutes cannot compete in this climate, not to mention that more and more today obtaining a degree means little in securing a job. Innovation in online learning models will continue to massively disrupt the education landscape and schools of all shapes and sizes will be forced to evolve their models. While we will certainly still need spaces to gather and learn together in some fashion, how we use these spaces is already changing to be more dynamic and versatile.
There’s nothing better than watching a movie from bed, especially when your loved ones are cuddled up next to you. Despite cinema’s attempts to transform, they can’t seem to compete with food delivery plus Netflix. In general, the hospitality sector as a whole is experiencing a shake down. If experience is the draw to leave the comfort of your own home, it’s all about creating ‘magic in the box’, whether that’s a restaurant, cinema, club, sports arena or any other entertainment-based venue. In most cases, experience doesn’t scale well and thus, cannot be franchised as in the past. The experience economy is super hot right now. The sophistication of those at the forefront are reshaping how we think about entertainment is ways that will leave traditional establishments empty if they don’t evolve.
And then there’s the travel, tourism and hotel sector…it doesn’t look good folks! Sure, things will eventually rebound a bit, but how much? If we look at what happened to airline travel post-9/11, it seems fairly certain that post-pandemic airline travel will be far less desirable for the foreseeable future. With mobility constricted, remote meetings replacing business travel and a skyrocketing remote workforce brewing, the travel, tourism & hotel sectors will need to re-imagine their business models…and fast.
This leads to the final piece of the puzzle…the home as the centerpiece to a lifestyle that demands integration.
For many in these past years, home was becoming more and more defined as a place to sleep and life happened outside. Not anymore. Home is now the place where we do everything. And many of us are beginning to go insane with cabin fever; having visions of new ways of living that don’t entirely exist yet. We love our privacy and the safety of our home, yet we crave human connection, community and the sense of belonging. And as many of us work from home in these pandemic times, those with over-priced rents in chaotic cities devoid of culture are increasingly desiring ease of access to nature and a more integrated lifestyle.
All of this points in one direction…a massive price correction in property value and a general migration towards mixed-use across all property sectors. On a practical level, this looks like a re-imagining of the entire built environment; from the house, to the building, neighborhood, village, town and city as the pinnacle of governance in the face of nation’s inability to preserve order and promote a common good for its citizens. This will provoke both collaboration and competition as businesses and municipalities seek to attract customers, residents and talent. We are headed towards hyper-localization in a rapidly interconnected world. The home will become the central node in this reshaping of how we live more integrated lifestyles.
The rise of coliving as one of the fastest growing sectors in real estate sheds light on where we’re likely heading. A largely entrepreneurial approach to modern communal living, coliving seeks to address our changing lifestyles with a housing product that fosters community and collaboration while offering amenities and services for working, learning, wellbeing, entertaining, and relaxing. While still largely ineffective due to proper regulatory support from government, the coliving template for an integrated lifestyle also promises accessibility, affordability and thus, diversity.
The future of living will largely be defined by housing templates that ensure privacy and security while offering ease of access to community and on-demand access to services and multi-use spaces. All this may be centralized in buildings under one roof or within hyper-connected villages, neighborhoods and cities. In the years to come, we will experience massive advances and applications of smart-grid technology, sensors, the internet of things, robotics and automations into these dynamic living environments.
While all this is a fairly easy prediction based upon what’s already happening today and speeding up due to this pandemic, this all falls flat if we continue to ignore the fundamental importance of community facilitation and the training required for these individuals to develop the skills required to foster nurturing communities. Understanding that a quality product and service are essential, community facilitators are the core value proposition in creating and preserving nurturing communities where individuals desire to live, work, play and grow together.
Without them, people will not live together for long. Snazzy marketing campaigns may entice them, but it is the community facilitator that closes the deal. They are the sales force. And like any great sales person, they require training. Especially when successful community management is one of the most challenging jobs that exists today.
It’s no mystery that humans are wildly complex. Layer in the fact that humans at large are going through an existential crises (whether they are aware of it or not) and it becomes abundantly clear that in order to play nicely there must be proper boundaries, rules and facilitation in place to preserve peace and order.
We’re just scratching the surface here. These living communities of the future will take on myriads of expressions and will experience loads of false starts along the way to learning how to live in harmony in times of accelerated change.
As property owners, developers and investors, this will be a wildly exciting ride that will require us to throw out the rule books and start anew. We will need to work together in ways that might feel uncomfortable, yet the result will be a much more prosperous for all involved.
Let’s get started!
About the author : Ryan Fix built his career as an ambitions NYC real estate broker, climbing up the ranks to build and sell his own property marketing agency in 2004 at 26 years old. He is considered a pioneer of the coworking and coliving movements; developing precursors in each sector. In 2017, he co-founded Co-Liv as the industry association for coliving. Since then, he has been advising investors, entrepreneurs, property developers, asset managers and municipalities in developing mixed-use properties that promote a more integrated lifestyle.
To work with Ryan & his curated team of experts, contact email@example.com.
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