Globalisation, demographic change, urbanisation and digitalisation are having a profound impact on our homes, lives and work. Cities are expanding and becoming denser. Living space is shrinking and becoming more expensive. The population is ageing.
Multifunctional furniture and clever built-in solutions
These changes will result in high demand for multifunctional furniture, clever built-in solutions and smart home solutions that make life easier. Multifunctionality and benefits per square metre will be increasingly important as the growth of conurbations accelerates, but speed of construction and assembly will also be key criteria. 3D and 4D printing is poised to play a major role here.
Clever constructions that use space more efficiently and conserve resources will become more and more important, says Greven. Companies will face logistical challenges – and not just with their products. They must also address industrial waste. Production and processes need to be reconceptualised and redeveloped. The keywords here are recycling and upcycling, the circular economy and eco-effectiveness.
The larger and denser cities become, the more problematic their effects will be – their impact is intensifying due to climate change. Thermal loads will increase in summer, while intense storms and heavy rainfall will become more frequent in spring and autumn. Greven argues that this will influence urban planning and architecture. Integrating green spaces – from green roofs and facades to parks and green tram tracks – will be vital.
Smart home services for the elderly
An ageing population will lead to rapidly accelerating demand for social facilities for senior citizens. According to the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), nearly one in three Germans will be 65 or over by 2060, and one in seven will be 80 or over.
Changes in the world of work and globalisation will mean that their children – if they have any – will live far away or be working full-time and unable to care for them as much as earlier generations did. This means that more old age and elderly care homes will be required, as well as more meeting places and leisure, cultural, service and advice centres.
Smart home services could help older people to live independently in their own homes for longer. But collaborative and collective living is another key concept for architecture, home building and well-functioning cities and communities.
The new smart cities
Alongside climate and demographic change and the transformation of the world of work and mobility, digital infrastructure is set to play a major role. The quality and speed with which responses to these issues are implemented will have an immense influence on our homes, lives and work, says Greven.
Data streams could be used to control traffic better because parking systems, traffic lights and charging stations for electric cars will be networked. It will be easier for car drivers to find parking spaces; traffic flows could be improved, for example using traffic signal control systems, and electric charging points will be able to communicate their power requirements via intelligent measuring systems.
Pioneering smart city projects have already been launched in Scandinavian countries. In the best-case scenario, the other European nations will also succeed in making their cities as eco-friendly, smart and liveable as possible by 2050. Interdisciplinary work on solutions and knowledge exchanges are needed to achieve this goal.
Innovative outdoor furniture is needed
One thing is sure: healthy cities will be greener and offer their residents more outdoor spaces. From green roofs and public or private parks to artificially created urban recreation areas and reclaimed brownfield land, these new possibilities open up new, public areas for urban greening.
Our mobile communication systems, tools and equipment mean we can now work in the open air – in our own gardens, on the balcony, outside a café or on a park bench. This calls for innovative outdoor furniture that provides sun protection or solar-powered charging stations.
What do these developments mean for furniture companies and architects? Julia Greven’s advice: in these accelerating times, companies around the world need to act with greater foresight and must be able to respond with greater flexibility to changes and their challenges. She issues a call to entrepreneurs: take regular timeouts from your nine-to-five, cooperate with other companies and engage in interdisciplinary thinking in workshops to imagine models of the future collaboratively.