They set the pace and give structure to the wide range of products and services on show—the four key themes at BAU 2021. Many exhibitors will align their presentations with these themes and showcase solutions. In the forums at the fair, the key themes will be explored and discussed from a range of aspects. And in the special shows they will be illustrated using examples of products and projects. Below we present the fourth of those key themes: Homes of the future.
The Corona pandemic is raising new questions as regards the homes of the future. One aspect that is being added to the already long list of demands placed on homes is: spatial distancing in public space. This challenges two central pillars in urban development strategies of recent decades: increasing development density in urban areas and urbanizing metropolitan areas are no longer the only solution to the current housing problems. Because health concerns, not just since Corona, are demanding spatial distancing, above all in situations that present a health risk. Metropolitan areas around the globe have long since ceased to provide that space. In parallel, Corona has had a fundamental impact on our homes, on hotels and restaurants. We have new ways of living and working: more and more people are working from home, the hospitality sector is introducing new hygiene concepts, and personal data is being collected about us and our contacts when an infection is suspected. All of us are learning to adapt.
Quality housing that is also affordable has long been a Utopia in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne, Stuttgart and Munich. At the same time many other German cities with an established infrastructure and a robust stock of buildings are struggling with an uncertain future: Empty properties in Halle, Frankfurt an der Oder, Salzgitter, and an exodus of people from regions like the Saarland, the Uckermark and the Ruhr district. How, then, should we react, when in many places there is a shortage of housing while in others perfectly good properties remain unused for a long time and perhaps even deteriorate?
Added to this we have demographic change and an ever increasing life expectancy: People are staying fit longer, they are healthy, agile and have a lust for life. The way they live is having a direct influence on the design of our cities and communities and as a result demand is rising for facilities and services that cater for this “Silver Generation”, and for universal design concepts in public and private space that benefit everybody. Home and work, family and leisure, all of this is very closely interlinked. And, in the even more digitalized world of the future, the borderlines between working and private lives will become ever more indistinct. That will then have a direct impact on every single one of us in the way we live and work.
A Federal Government housing campaign has the aim of creating 1.5 million new apartments and 100,000 social housing units in Germany by the end of 2021. State-funded housing construction programs are without question important factors in helping to ease the currently overheated, indifferent housing market. Yet these must not detract from the fact that social and global developments such as digitalization and the energy revolution are already bringing far-reaching change to our lives and way of working. New concepts are therefore urgently needed – concepts that address the increasing urbanization and also the exodus of people from the countryside, the housing shortage and the empty properties – and that present workable solutions for the future. Ideas such as cluster apartments that take account of the different lifestyles of people nowadays and their different stages in life are already being generated. Models for housing that enable community, participation and privacy, are now well established. And, in terms of the resource-efficient increase in development density in urban areas, where accommodation is being created on top of car parks, on the roofs of supermarkets and in unused office buildings, solutions are already being realized.
In 2018 the average amount of living space available to each person in Germany was almost 47 square meters. That is almost 13 square meters more than in 1990, according to the German Federal Statistical Office. This massive rise, of over 25 percent in the last three decades, prompts new questions: Just how much living space does one person actually need? Does a smaller apartment automatically imply lower quality and a poorer local environment? And: How should we be responding to the rapidly rising number of single households? Because in 2018 there were 46 percent more one-person households than in 1991. In future it will be more important than ever for people to accept the need to reduce their living space and occupy smaller apartments. For our cities cannot carry on expanding for ever, and there are limits to what can be done by increasing the density of urban development.
The challenges we are facing are, however, much greater. Because in parallel with the social changes impacting on the way we live, protection of resources is also becoming more and more important. The building industry accounts for a large proportion of annual consumption of resources worldwide. Changes to the flow of raw materials in the production of building materials, more in the direction of recycling, will gain significance. This is also highlighted in the emergence of an annual “Earth Overshoot Day”, a date calculated each year as the day on which humanity´s demand for ecological resources and services exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in that year. In 2019 that date was as early as July 29. Strategies for the future are therefore strategies for resources. They must above all protect resources and at the same time ensure quality recycling of materials that have already been used. Only then will be able to guarantee that there are sufficient reserves left for mankind to continue technological development in the future.
We must also be prepared for new phenomena which will have an impact that nobody can predict. The social and economic upheaval brought about by the Corona crisis in 2020 is showing very clearly how finely balanced the conditions are in dense metropolitan areas in Germany, and that looks set to remain so in the future. As regards the challenges that are connected with future health and economic crises, we should try to ensure that we are better prepared next time. Solidarity and empathy must be encouraged, there should be more of a sense of togetherness and mindfulness in our day-to-day interaction with each other. For that we need a paradigm change, away from the “I” to the “we”, and that should also have an impact on our homes: Providing support not for the anonymity of living in micro-apartments, but for housing concepts that foster values such as participation, community and relevance for society.
Getting it right as regards work, homes and community in the coming decades requires far more than isolated initiatives from research, politics and industry, however successful they may be. Currently, in the midst of a digital revolution, important steps are being taken that demand new qualities: Cities, towns, villages and regions are becoming more closely connected, new ideas in private transport and mass mobility are being tried out, and work processes are being developed to enable decentralized and location-independent activities. The homes of the future are thus being designed now, and constantly reviewed and adapted to meet emerging challenges and demands.