The homes that the future built

by Melanie Howard

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4. Ethical concerns

Related to the ‘back to nature’ theme but separate is another value shift influencing a growing proportion of consumer decisions and social behaviour. These can broadly be described as ethical concerns. They include issues such as social justice, human rights, environment and fair trade. Deepening anxiety about climate change has focused attention on the consumer’s impact on the wider world. These are not new issues for a small and growing minority since the 1970s. What has changed with growing affluence, greater consumer sophistication and more education is our ability to apply principles to more and more purchases.

Research suggests that whereas home buying is not a typical purchase decision because of the size, significance and investment value, ethical concerns are increasingly influencing how people weigh up the factors when buying a home. Onethird of all potential purchasers already claim that green features make a home more attractive and 5% would pay “substantially more” for them. Implication 4: Irrespective of government plans for CO2 emissions, every new scheme should now be looking how to connect to sustainable energy suppliers, as well as building in energy-saving devices and storage for recycling. Water saving and reuse features will have increased appeal, not least to the gardener, while environmentally conscious construction should be pursued and marketed as part of the specification.

5. Essential time release

The most inescapable facet of modern life is the growing sense of pressure on time. Two-thirds of us feel that there is never enough time in the day. This is most acute among families with dependent children (dubbed ‘Britain’s hard working families’ by successive politicians) the majority of whom now have two working parents and a time famine in their daily lives as they struggle to balance the demands of work, domestic labour and their desire to participate as fully as possible in the lives of their children. There is renewed debate about improving the work-life balance among both women and men, as women spend more time at work and men are expected to engage emotionally with their children and participate more in family life.

The statistics show that men spend nearly twice as much time with children today compared with the 1960s. For both men and women, the desire to reclaim a sense of control over time and increase ‘personal time’ is a growing aspiration. Implication 5: 9% of the working population now work from home on a part-time basis, growing to 16% in the next 10 years. So there is a need for flexible space to allow for home working. Labour-saving devices will also be popular, along with plans that allow parents to get on with tasks while keeping an eye on children (multitasking carers). Convenience and time-saving are key, along with spaces in which to relax and enjoy any precious time recaptured from busy schedules.

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