The changing face of the spaces we share

Discover the 12 emerging themes that will change the nature of our built environment.

The Blurring of Public/ Private Spaces

A subtle shift in the ownership and management of urban spaces will change forever where we can go - and what we can do - 'in public'.

A subtle shift in the ownership and management of urban spaces that will change forever where we can go – and what we can do – ‘in public’.

As the trend for blurring the boundaries between what is a public and private space increases, it will inevitably shape people's relationship with the 'public realm' within our growing cities.

What we said in 2016

“A Privately Owned Public Space means that, while it may be accessible, any member of the public using or passing through it must adhere to rules of behaviour (public access agreements) set out by the landowner… however, the general public might not appreciate this, and may still think of much of their urban space as publicly owned.”

“For many local authorities, asking the public to adhere to a few rules is a small price to pay for a lovely new or redeveloped area.“

“Even Boris Johnson has admitted that where this type of 'corporatisation' occurs, especially in the larger commercial developments, Londoners can feel themselves excluded from parts of their own city."

Looking back

When we first came across the concept of Privately Owned Public Spaces, it was a fringe topic of concern to urban geography geeks and those for whom the more obscure public access regulations were of niche interest.

Three years on, Privately Owned Public Spaces have become a topic not only related to the conditional access of what people believe should be ‘the public realm’, but also as a restriction of personal freedoms via corporations’ use of private security forces to impose control over individuals’ behaviour and choices.

And as the issue has forced its way into mainstream consciousness, it has gained a new name: Pseudo-Public Spaces.

Where we are now

The influence of Pseudo-Public Spaces on our daily lives has gone largely unnoticed: a silent, secret force at work in the heart of our cities.

Indeed, the ground we walk on could be an unseen trap waiting for us to unwittingly commit what in every other walk of life would be considered perfectly reasonable behaviour - walking your dog, riding your bicycle, wearing a hat, pulling up the hood of your coat or taking a quick selfie with the kids.

Austerity-hit local authorities are increasingly happy to abdicate the costs incurred in creating and maintaining ‘public space’ to private developers, whose own rules for ‘acceptable behaviour’ are open to frequent change and - like access to their land - are not required to be made public.

Beyond attempts to control behaviour, some see the wilful blurring of private land and public realm as an attempt to stifle personal expression, prevent people from gathering peacefully or quash potential protests.

Whilst private investment in - and management of - the spaces we share ensures their aesthetic contribution to the city landscape, an increasing number of commentators see it as too high a price to pay.

What's changing?

In the last couple of years, Pseudo-Public space has gone from being a niche interest to become a key point of political focus, which could herald a significant change in the way Privately Owned Public Spaces are managed.

After several private land owners refused to reveal precisely what the public were allowed to do on their land, Jeremy Corbyn said: "We must reclaim our public spaces from the corporate interests who want to control them. Our country’s laws should govern public space, not secretive private rules."

Similarly, in the Mayor of London’s 2018 ‘London Plan’, Sadiq Khan sets down within the city’s development strategy rules limiting the control of private land-owners over what might reasonably be considered ‘Public Realm’: defined as ‘all the publicly-accessible space between buildings, whether public or privately owned…’. The London Plan also commits to the creation of a ‘Public London Charter’ which will set out the rights and responsibilities of the users, owners and managers of public spaces - irrespective of land ownership

The rules and restrictions on public access and behaviour covering all new or redeveloped public space will be in accordance with this Charter - and this requirement will be secured through legal agreement or planning conditions.

How the story has developed

More People in Smaller Spaces

As we strive to accommodate more urban residents, workers and commuters, the spaces they occupy will have to adapt: becoming smaller, going higher - or both.

Increasing urban populations are having a significant impact on city lifestyles. Ever rising property prices and a shortage of affordable rental housing mean that overcrowding is prevalent.

As we strive to accommodate more urban residents, workers and commuters, the spaces they occupy will have to adapt, becoming smaller, going higher - or both.

What we said in 2016

"There is an increasing number of multiple-occupancy households. More than 500,000 households now contain three generations - that's a 30% increase in the number of multigenerational households in the past decade."

"Many people crave a house with its own garden, the cost of land means that more city dwellers will be living in tower blocks. Some 263 towers of more than 20 storeys have been granted approval, are under construction or are built across London. The vast majority - 81% - are residential."

"While many people may baulk at the idea of shrinking homes, there is an expectation that lifestyles will evolve to better accommodate smaller living spaces."

Looking Back

When we looked at this subject three years ago, multigenerational households seemed to be a logical way for families to own properties.

But we've seen such growth and diversity in multiple occupancy - particularly in rented properties - that the reduction in available living spaces has become a serious challenge.

This has been accelerated by a confluence of two social trends. Affordability: the increasing gap between house-prices and salaries and Availability: the continued shortfall in affordable social and private housing stock to meet growing rental demand.

Where we are now

The lack of available/affordable housing has seen an evolution in the nature of multiple occupancy. From 'mature adult,' house shares to families sharing family homes with other families (often not their own), we are seeing the acceptance of reduced living space as a way of making housing affordable.

Sadiq Khan's 2018 London Housing Strategy has identified the emergence of around 150,000 'Concealed Households,' in London: groups of people living as part of other households because they cannot afford their own place to live. It's estimated that 250,000 homes in London house around 380,000 distinct 'family units'. The impact? 22% of children in our own capital city are growing up in overcrowded homes. And 80% of overcrowded homes are rented.

A key issue facing Local Authorities is the number of properties they need to provide to meet growing rental demand. Hence, any concept that reduces build time and cost is attractive to Local Authorities. Experts suggest that a shift to low-cost prefabricated housing won't only help councils combat the housing crisis, it could also help to bring prices back within reach of first-time buyers.

October 2018 saw the UK,'s first micro-home estate of 16 modular, single-occupancy 17.25 sq.m 'cabins,' get the green light in Worcester. Developers behind the £1m project believe it could provide a template for solving housing shortfalls across the UK. More importantly, it could provide a glimpse into the future of entry-level housing as, not only will overcrowding in our cities change the way we live, we believe it will change our expectations of what is acceptable in terms of living space.

What's Changing

Three years ago we saw 'building tall/thinking small,' as a design challenge for architects and designers. But it's the innovative minimisation of space that's emerging as a way to overcome the UK's housing crisis.

UK new-builds already have the smallest by floor area in Europe, but we're seeing far smaller homes being created: leading to increased media coverage of trends such as 'Rabbit Hutch Britain,' and 'Shoe-box Homes,'.

The nationally described space standard for single occupancy is 37 sq.m. However, the growth in office-to-residential conversions is slashing the amount of advised living space by up to two-thirds. As the conversion of urban office blocks is not covered by usual planning or space-standard requirements, we're seeing tiny 'studio flats,' of just 13sq.m being shoe-horned in by developers.

We are also seeing the emergence of pre-fabricated starter-homes with just 26 sq.m of living space. In a cross-over with our Super Landlords theme, Insurance giant Legal & General is behind the production of these factory-built units which are located in Richmond - where the average semi-detached costs £1m and the rental of a single single one-bed flat costs over £1,000 a month. The new pre-fabs are aimed at young, single, urban workers earning between £20,000 and £40,000 who don't qualify for social housing and are priced out of buying.

Indeed, as Local Authorities and developers alike seek to solve the Affordability/Availability equation, 'micro-housing,' has the potential become the norm for people striving to gain a foothold on the property ladder.

How the story has developed

Demarcating Multi-use Spaces

As living space becomes a scarce and crowded commodity, it will have to work harder. Both indoors and outdoors, the spaces we share will be designed to serve multiple functions, for different types of user.

As living space becomes a scarce and crowded commodity, it will have to work harder. Both indoors and outdoors, the spaces we share will be designed to serve multiple functions for different types of user.

We looked at shared streets: where traffic, cyclists and pedestrians have equal priority - and where road-markings are replaced by a visual 'map' of textures and colours.

What we said in 2016

"Although it may at first appear counterintuitive, the advantages to this approach are many... multiple use of space is a crucial key to the final re-evaluation of the city in all its diversity!"

"The aim is to change the way that streets are used and to improve quality of life, by making them places for people and not just for traffic."

Well-considered landscaping is vital to Home Zones' effectiveness. These areas need clear gateways to define them, and a tactile and visual language to delineate uses. Shared spaces are complex, particularly in terms of choice of materials.... we're having to reassess the use of materials, to have something that has a visual flow, but is safe."

Looking back

Whilst the principle of shared/multi-use spaces seems like a practical solution to optimising shared spaces, there were early questions around potential clarity, complexity and counterintuitivity of removing established, commonly understood street navigation cues.

With just three years' hindsight we now see how, in the surge to redefine how our shared spaces function, urban landscape practitioners may have overlooked the practicalities of not only changing the way we 'read' our streets, but also how different users rely on commonly understood cues to ensure their safety.

This has raised a great deal of debate between pro- and anti-shared space campaigners.

Where we are now

The debate at the heart of the shared-spaces issue is: 'Does the idea behind making streets more inclusive for all users actually render them less inclusive for some members of society?'

Antipathy towards the concept has become amplified in the last 12 months, following an accident on the UK's multi-award-winning flagship shared-space Exhibition Road in Central London, where a taxi-driver struck a group of people leaving nine hospitalised.

Despite DfT guidance that shared spaces were intended "... to change the way streets operate by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles, through lower speeds and encouraging drivers to behave more accommodatingly towards pedestrians...", campaigners including the Royal National Institute for the Blind say that the lack of kerbs, no specifically indicated crossing points and a reliance on eye contact has turned some city centres into "no go areas2 for vulnerable pedestrians.

Conversely, Cheshire East Councillor Howard Murray says that the shared space scheme in Poynton had been "... almost an unqualified success" since its introduction in 2012. He went on: "I accept some people find the uncertainty disconcerting, but it makes it safer,"

What's changing?

In July 2018, the UK DfT imposed a moratorium on the roll-out of shared-space schemes while they re-evaluate Government advice on the issue. Their 'Inclusive Mobility Strategy' states: "We recommend that Local Authorities pause the development of shared-space schemes which incorporate a level surface while we review and update guidance."

Whilst the future of shared spaced in the UK remains under scrutiny, the USA's parallel 'shared-streets' programme is seen as a positive move in the regeneration of city spaces and continues to '...emerge as a growing trend in the United States'. Meanwhile, in the home of the shared space, Dutch streets saw 40 percent fewer collisions after becoming 'woonerfs' (shared-spaces). Indeed, in the Netherlands two million people live in 6,000 shared-space streets, proving that maybe pedestrians, cars and cyclists can occupy a space on equal - and safe - terms.

Our research tells us that there is a growing number of shared spaces worldwide in countries as diverse as Japan, Canada and Israel - so we think that the principle of sharing a space on equal terms works - as long as every user knows the rules.

Whether the UK becomes the exception remains to be seen, but we think that this remains a growing global theme worthy of continued observation.

How the story has developed

The New Wave of Water Management

Climate change means that water will have a significant impact on the built environment, our daily lives and the economy. If we are to avoid a deluge, innovative thinking and bold changes in behaviour will be needed - sooner rather than later.

Climate change means that water will have a significant impact on the built environment, our daily lives and the economy. 5.2 million properties in England - around one in six - are at risk of flooding.

The world is getting wetter - and if we are to avoid a deluge, innovative thinking and bold changes in behaviour will be needed. Sooner rather than later.

"By the middle of this century, the average winter is projected to be 15% wetter - and the wettest winter 33% wetter than the baseline average… there is a 'gap' between what we can cope with today and what we may need to cope with in the future"

"The unchecked 'hardening' of surfaces through development could lead to a higher likelihood of flooding. But there is scope for a better-considered built environment to actively help reduce the impact of severe weather."

"Water management represents a genuine opportunity for innovative thinking. Effectively managing all these risks will only be achieved through bold changes in behaviour"

Looking Back

When we first looked into the issues driving changes in water management, we never imagined that urban flooding would become the 'new normal' within three years.

Recent data from global reinsurance giant Munich Re records 30 major flood events in Europe in 2017 - up from just 12 in 1980 - with flash-flooding out-stripping river floods. EU scientists now believe that at least half a million Europeans will be affected by floods every year by 2050.

But maybe we should have seen it coming. December 2015 - the month that the research-phase of the Future Spaces project was completed - went on to be the wettest month ever recorded.

Where we are now

In a statement in February 2018, The Environment Agency warned people to be prepared for more flooding. The agency said that the recent pattern of severe flooding is linked to an increase in extreme weather events - and these intense bouts of flooding are set to become even more frequent.

At the behest of the National Flood Resilience Review, the Met Office published startling research this year. It found that there is one in three chance of record-breaking rainfall every year in at least one region in England and Wales between October and March - for the next ten years! Report author Nick Dunstone said of the findings "We shouldn't be surprised if events like this occur... models like this aren't perfect, but they give better estimations than observations alone - which are now largely outdated due to the changing climate."

This is a change that's being seen across Europe. A 2018 study of 600 EU cities by climate experts at Newcastle University forecast that - even in the least severe scenario - almost 90% of cities with a river - including London - will face increased flooding. Richard Dawson, professor of earth systems engineering at Newcastle University was forthright in his assessment: "The research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt our cities to cope with these future conditions."

Despite all the evidence, spending by Defra and the Environment Agency on flood prevention and coastal erosion fell by £32M in 2016/17.

What's changing?

Around the world engineers and landscape designers are developing innovative solutions to combat the effects of climate change-driven flooding.

Backed by the Chinese Government, Chicago architectural firm UrbanLab is pioneering the concept of 'Sponge Cities' - piloting a fully integrated flood-proof infrastructure that mitigates freshwater scarcity and flooding in cities struggling with the effects of rapid urbanisation.

UrbanLab's vision sets a dense metropolis within a nature setting that combines permeable surfaces and green infrastructures. This initiative has set an ambitious target that, by 2020, 80% of urban areas should be able to absorb and re-use at least 70% of rainwater. Techniques include green rooftops, scenic wetlands for rainwater storage. 'Eco-Boulevards' with permeable pavements that store excess run-off - and the creation of a network of urban waterways. UrbanLab describe it as: "a new way of thinking about the city of the future."

In an innovative strategy for living with increased flood risk Dutch architects Waterstudio work with nature, rather than treating it as a threat. They are developing 'amphibious architecture' - adapting buildings to cope with the new reality of rising water levels. Amphibious houses look like regular buildings. - except that their foundations are designed to allow the house to float when water levels rise. The UK's first amphibious house sits on an island in the Thames at Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

The site is designated Flood Zone 3b and sits within a Conservation Area.

How the story has developed

Future Concrete

As the world becomes increasingly urban, city designers will look to concrete to solve a plethora of complex problems. Compelled to evolve to meet the challenges facing the built environment, concrete is set to become the material of the future.

As the world becomes increasingly urban, city designers will look to concrete to solve a plethora of complex problems.

Compelled to evolve to meet the challenges facing the built environment - and as extreme weather events necessitate more durable building materials - the natural resilience of concrete makes it a material for the future.

What we said in 2016

"As the built environment's challenges continue to evolve, concrete itself will adapt and improve to meet these challenges. There is increasing research into how concrete can be enhanced to make it more robust, resilient, flexible - 'smarter' - than ever before."

The development of nanotechnology, graphene and the potential for 3D printing in the built environment combine to make it an exciting future for concrete. Concrete wouldn't just be stronger with graphene added to it, its 'smart' properties could tell you when a structure is under stress."

"In the long term, 3D printing is set to have a major impact on construction... the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours."

Looking back

When we initially investigated developments in concrete technology, advanced additives that change its chemical and structural behaviour and the ability to print concrete into viable structures seemed to be the two areas of most exciting potential.

In the three years since we imagined the possibilities of Future Concrete, progress has been rapid.

Not only have we seen Dutch and American teams locked in a race to create the first habitable 3D-printed house - and Spain and the Netherlands competing to claim the first 3D-printed bridge - we've seen graphene-reinforced concrete become a reality.

Where we are now

Increasing global demands on infrastructure are driving the development of high performance construction materials. As the most used material worldwide, the performance of concrete is under constant scrutiny.

The emergence of Ultra High-Performance Nano-engineered Concrete Composites may sound like something from science fiction, but what looks like the next evolutionary 'leap' in concrete technology is already with us.

Additives such as polyester, fiberglass, basalt, steel - and even recycled plastic - add new levels of flexibility, malleability, ductility and durability.

But the most exciting evolution has been the University of Exeter's development of Graphene-reinforced concrete.

Researchers were able to halve the amount of materials used to make concrete dramatically reducing the carbon footprint versus conventional concrete production.

More importantly, it is also twice as strong as and four times more water-resistant than existing concrete - making it more resilient in harsh environments or when exposed to extreme conditions.

Monica Craciun, professor of nanoscience in the University of Exeter's engineering department, said: "Our cities face a growing pressure from global challenges on pollution, sustainable urbanisation and resilience to catastrophic natural events. This new composite material is an absolute game-changer in terms of reinforcing traditional concrete to meet these needs."

What's Changing?

3D concrete printing has taken the step out of the laboratory and into 'real world' of construction.

The world's first 3D-printed bridge was unveiled in Spain in 2017: its eight parts were printed in concrete micro-reinforced with thermoplastic polypropylene for integral strength without the need for internal supports.

With a distinct nod to biophillic design, the bridge features 'natural forms' determined by the algorithms of parametric design which adjusts dimensions and materials to find the optimum shape to fulfil the brief.

In The Netherlands, construction company Van Wijnen have developed the techniques to print a two storey, two bedroom house. The first is expected to be available within a year - and company spokesman Rudy Van Gurp believes that the 3D printing of homes will be 'mainstream' within five years.

Meanwhile, San Francisco 3D printing start-up Apis Cor has already successfully printed a house - in less than a day! The 38sq.m single storey dwelling comes with a hallway, a bathroom, a living room and a kitchen - at a cost of just $10,000. They're up against Texas based ICON, who are refining the technology to print 55sq.m homes to help solve the global housing crisis - for less than half that cost.

Working with international housing charity New Story, ICON's intention is to transform the slums of El Salvador into a functional, sustainable community through the creation of 100 printed houses. All of which edges Future Concrete closer to our 'Smaller Spaces' theme.

How the story has developed

The Blossoming of Biophilic Design

As the world becomes more urbanised, nature will be pushed to the fringes. Biophilic design - the mimicking of natural forms - will sate our deep craving for a connection to nature, and help improve people's quality of life.

As the world becomes more urbanised, nature will be pushed to the fringes.

Biophilic design - the mimicking of natural forms - uses nature as inspiration to create human-friendly environments that satisfy our deep psychological craving for a connection to nature, and help improve people's quality of life.

"Health professionals are increasingly aware of the impact on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing for city-dwellers - Compared to country-dwellers with access to nature."

"Pioneers in this emerging discipline say that good biophilic design draws from nature in a manner that is equally inspirational and restorative without disturbing the functionality of the space to which it is integral."

"Biophilic design is equally applicable to interiors. Environments which are cramped or dark, or in which people spend their daylight hours, are ideal for the application of effective biophilic design."

"The industry has only scratched the surface of this fascinating field of design, and its potential for making a difference to city-dwellers' quality of life is enormous."

Looking Back

Three years ago, Biophilic design was a nascent discipline, with most of the attention it gained focused on a handful of flagship projects. Typically 'biomimicry' was seen as an architectural technique to introduce 'natural forms' into the spaces we share using constructed objects.

It's been interesting to watch biophilic design develop - in both interior and exterior spaces. The emergence of an 'Indoor Generation' trend has seen interior design's use of biophilia drive the search for greater evidence of its benefits.

But the big shift we've seen is towards the use of natural materials and organic-landscaping to recreate, rather than merely mimic, the shapes and patterns of nature in outdoor spaces. Interestingly, it's edging towards Urban Greening as a way of 'naturalising' the built environment.

Where we are now

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson states that: "Humans are hard-wired by our evolutionary biology to be emotionally attracted to the natural world." But our modern behaviour seems to belie that. A 2017 UK survey revealed that the average British Adult spends 92% of their time indoors. This tallies with the 2018 'Indoor Generation Report' which finds that the average US adult spends 21 hours indoors every day (that's about 90%).

Spending a total of 142 hours indoors every week, your average British adult will spend 53 years of their life indoors (according to the Jordans Farm Partnership study in August 2018). 85% of those polled said they would love to spend more time in the open air, but between sleeping, working longer hours shopping and commuting, opportunities to interact with nature are, it seems, increasingly rare. Indeed, 37% of UK adults say they have no connection to wildlife in their everyday life.

Given that living an 'interior life' has been proven to be, literally, depressing, the Building Research Establishment's Biophilic Office project has become the world's first study into the benefits of creating a workplace designed around biophilic principles. By examining lighting, flooring, furniture, green walls, paints, and acoustics, BRE aims to deepen the evidence for the positive impacts of biophilic design. Using its own office refurbishment as a 'living experiment' the two-year study is due to be completed in 2020.

What's changing?

In the Spring of 2018, Jordan Lacey - Research Fellow, Architecture & Design at RMIT University - wrote: "Biophilic design is beginning to boom. Recently theorists have broadened the definition of Biophilia to encompass the benefits of human-nature interaction. Cities everywhere are embracing the change."

Indeed since we were initially intrigued by what was an emerging architectural/design 'fringe' discipline, Biophilic Design has 'blossomed' into a way of rethinking how urban spaces can be landscaped to recreate the look, feel and the random diversity of nature.

Where previously, Biophilic Design relied on 'synthesising' the shapes and textures of nature, the concept of designing a 'second nature' for the urban environment sets landscape designers an interesting challenge: creating what biophilic theorists call 'wildness' - the presence of the unkempt amongst the order of the city: the transformative 'sensory shock' of seeing 'the wildness of nature bursting through the cracks of the urban'.

All of which has seen the emergence of the 'Biophilic Cities' concept. Defined as 'cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites', Biophilic cities meet residents' innate desire to connect with nature by providing opportunities to 'enjoy the multisensory aspects of nature' by protecting and promoting its presence within the city.

How the story has developed

Urban Greening

'Green infrastructure' will become vital to the health of towns and cities - and their inhabitants. From managing air quality and rainfall run-off to providing vital space for people to step away from their daily stresses, planners will see a green strategy as integral to their development process.

'Green infrastructure' will become vital to the health of towns and cities - and their inhabitants.

From managing air quality and rainfall run-off to providing vital space for people to step away from their daily stresses, planners will see a green strategy as integral to their development process.

What we said in 2016

"In the future, urban green infrastructure - comprising parks, public green space, allotments, green corridors, street trees, urban forests, roof and vertical greening, private gardens - will be perceived as vital to the success of towns and cities and the people who live in them."

"The evidence demonstrates that green spaces can offer lasting economic, social, cultural, environmental and health benefits"

"We should all aspire to a future in which urban greening does not just occur in isolated patches but forms a network of linked green areas across an entire metropolis. This will be achieved when practitioners make their urban green strategy an integral part of the entire development process"

Looking back

When we had conversations around 'green infrastructure' three years ago, it seemed more like a concept than a strategic platform for transforming our urban spaces.

Whilst all of our interviewees - and all of our research - agreed that 'greening' our cities was essential, it felt like everyone was looking for a way to bring together lots of diverse thinking.

The shift we've seen appears to be that 'Urban Greening;' has become less about 'green space' and much more about integrating green infrastructure into the design and planning process - and that's a genuine game changer for the design of future cities.

Where we are now

As increasing urban populations put pressure on land availability, simply creating swathes of public green space isn't viable. The challenge, then is for cities to find ways of becoming greener as they become denser. One man with a solution is Stefano Boeri - the architect who gave us the revolutionary 'Vertical Forest' building in Milan. His urban greening vision requires a literal root & branch overhaul of future city design.

Working with Chinese city planners, Boeri's vision is for entire 'forest cities' - hundreds of buildings with trees and cascading shrubs growing on their facades. In a country slowly being choked by air-pollution and urban sprawl, Forest Cities will serve a crucial purpose. The first two blocks in Nanjing alone will capture 25 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide from the air on an annual basis. On the flip-side, they will also produce 60 kilos of oxygen every day!

Boeri sees his thinking as a 'green roadmap' for navigating the needs of rapid urbanisation and anticipates seeing the first Forest City come to fruition as soon as 2020.

As China looks to plan greenery into its urban fabric, German startup Green City Solutions have developed CityTree - a slimline, mobile 'tree substitute' that uses mosses to create a 'living wall' than can be wheeled into busy city centres. Each CityTree performs the same level of air-purification of 275 real trees - but takes up a fraction of the space. Described as the world's first intelligent biological air filter, CityTrees run on solar power and collect rainwater for use in their inbuilt irrigation system. Installed in Spring 2018, the London CityTree sucks in polluted air at the top, releasing purified air through vents on its four sides.

What's Changing

In the future, green infrastructure will be seen as a key economic driver of city planning. More than two-thirds of total investment in infrastructure in the next 15 years will be made in cities. We believe that green infrastructure is as important to any city as its roads, railways and utilities - with the potential to become a planned, designed and managed network that promotes healthier lifestyles, reduces the impacts of climate change, improves air & water quality, captures & stores carbon, encourages biodiversity and supports ecological resilience.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has seen the potential and is keen to not only see the economic value that green infrastructure provides be part of future decision-making on how the city evolves, but also to find new ways to fund projects that recognise this value. The All London Green Grid is a policy framework created to promote the design and delivery of green infrastructure across the capital. The Mayor of London is also leading a project to secure 'National Park City' status in 2019, which will lay down 'green guidelines' for all future development.

Being identified as a 'National Park City' will drive future thinking on investment in green infrastructure and how the natural environment can be integrated into city design.

Indeed, Sadiq Khan has already committed £12m to a 'Green City Fund' to cover the cost of tree planting, green space grants, strategic green infrastructure projects and the growth & management of the city trees which make up London's 'urban forest'. There is also additional funding available to support new approaches to greening the public realm - particularly in areas with little existing green cover.

The end-game is to ensure that more than half of London will be green by 2050. We watch with interest.

How the story has developed

The Rise of the Super-Landlord

The advent of 'generation rent' will see institutional investors buying into the private rental sector. The emergence of homes as an asset class will affect the way architects, designers and landscape professionals approach the design and specification of volume rental stock.

The advent of 'generation rent' will see institutional investors buying into the private rental sector.

The emergence of homes as an asset class will affect the way architects, designers and landscape professionals approach the design and specification of volume rental stock.

What we said in 2016

"The private rental sector is on the cusp of a massive shake-up, thanks to an influx of institutional investors."

"The imbalance between demand and supply makes this sector very attractive to 'super-landlords', who see the potential for increasing rental revenues and long-term capital growth."

"The future of the rental sector will be shaped by professionally managed rented housing, purposefully designed and built with the long-term occupier front of mind. Because these 'super-landlords' are in it for the long run, it is in their interest to build to a good standard."

Looking back

Three years ago, the idea that a financial sector plc would fund the building of apartments in order to take revenue out of every stage of its development and ownership was a novel one.

Since then we've seen the mainstream breakthrough of the term 'build to rent' - as institutional developers seize the opportunity to own the land, grow equity in the property assets - and take the rental revenue too as a long-term income stream.

Since we first looked at the 'super landlord' phenomenon three years ago, the number of build-to-rent properties in the UK has more than doubled from 60,000 to 132,000.

Where we are now

The growth in the construction of apartment blocks by institutional investors, specifically for renting is up by a third compared with a year ago.

In recognition of this growth, in September 2018, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government published guidelines to enable Local Authorities to address their development within their planning systems. 'Build to Rent' is now defined in the National Planning Policy Framework Glossary as: "a distinct asset class within the private rented sector".

As a guide to the category's potential as an 'asset class', in 2017, the UK's build-to-rent market attracted £2.4bn in investment - and it's forecast to grow by a further 180% over the next six years. According to the British Property Foundation, in Q3 2018 there were 25,665 build to rent units completed, 41,870 under construction - and a further 64,320 with planning permission.

One interesting thing we've noticed is - beyond good quality accommodation - BTR properties are competing for potential tenants by offering 'hotel-like' lifestyle facilities such as gyms, pools, communal lounges, rooftop gardens and concierge services. All of which could help engender a greater sense of shared space and 'belonging' in our increasingly anonymous cities.

Communities as an asset class, anyone?

What's Changing?

Given its potential rate of growth, you can see why pension giants Legal & General are jumping into the BTR market at both ends: funding tiny prefabricated single occupancy units, to the design and build of 10 major developments offering apartments up to three bedrooms. Indeed, they have ring-fenced £1billion for investment in build-to-rent.

As with any 'boom', though, you have to contemplate where the 'bust' might come from.

BTR investors are focusing on long-term income as greater proportion of their total return. As the sector matures, income will come under greater scrutiny, so a key issue could be the pace at which Institutional Investors can increase rents.

If the potential growth in income that these schemes deliver can't keep pace with their rising costs (and/or cover the risks of building stock from scratch), then it's feasible that the buy-to-rent phenomenon could run out of road.

There is evidence that, where rental control has been imposed, institutional investment in private rental stock has declined. Given that Labour's current manifesto commits to limiting rent rises to inflation, a change of government could change the game entirely.

One to watch, we think.

How the story has developed

The Gender Neutralisation of Society

As the genders become more balanced in society, the way the built environment is created and used will shift. As society redresses a history of male dominance, women will take more influential roles, both as practitioners and as consumers.

We live in cities where nearly 100% of the environment around us has been owned, legislated, designed and implemented by men. As the gender balance shifts in society, the way the built environment is created and used will shift with it.

As society redresses an architectural history of male dominance, women will take more influential roles - both as practitioners and as consumers.

What we said in 2016

"A societal shift in the gender balance is set to have a significant impact on our built environment: not only how it is created, bit how it is used."

"Architecture, design and construction should take note: more projects will be handled - or headed up - by more teams of both men and women, which will have an impact on methodology, ideas generation and decision making. And shifting demographics will mean that women will have an ever-larger role as consumers and users of the built environment."

"Patronising gender stereotyping will increasingly seem outmoded and irrelevant as society's attitudes to gender continue to move away from a predominantly male viewpoint."

Looking Back

When we interviewed Dr Victoria Dawson - women's historian at University College London - three years ago, she compared shifting gender influence to a pendulum that had been 'stuck at the male end' and which had begun to 'swing back' to a more neutral position.

We sensed the acceleration of that swing as we saw an increasing number of female architects coming into the industry.

What we didn't foresee was the passing of Zaha Hadid - the 'international star architect' who blazed a trail for women in what has been a male-dominated field. Having inspired a generation, we look forward to seeing both her architectural and societal legacy shape our Future Spaces.

Where we are now

Whilst the 'gender-pendulum' continues to swing away from male domination, it still has a lot of ground to cover.

In the 60 RIBA-accredited architecture schools, the gender split of students is 50:50, but when we count people entering the architecture profession only 39% are women.

And the higher up the hierarchy you go, the fewer women you find. `A 2017 report by Dezeen revealed that just three of the world's 100 biggest architecture firms are headed by women - and only two have management teams that are more than 50% female. If that's not shocking enough, the survey found women in just 10% of the highest-ranking jobs - while 16 firms have no women at all in senior positions.

In an attempt to redress the imbalance, thinkers at the elite end of the industry are looking to move architecture away from the preserve of "old-white-guys". As part of their 'Move the Needle' initiative, in Spring 2918 Dezeen announced that leading international architecture and design awards programmes are 'striving to improve gender balance among judges'. Five out of eight top industry award programmes have policies in place to ensure an more equitable gender split on their juries - but the remaining three awards surveyed still had juries that were more than three-quarters male.

Progress, it seems, remains slow in some quarters.

What's Changing?

In an increasingly conservative political climate, gender neutrality has become a key issue. What we saw three years ago as a positive, evolutionary societal shift is now increasingly subject to restrictive administrative influence. As such, we are seeing a crescendo of women using architecture as a channel for both protest and progress.

We are seeing the emergence of 'feminist architecture' - designs that prioritise the needs women in the spaces they use. At the forefront of this movement is Architexx - an organisation for women in architecture who research, advocate and design 'feminist spaces'.

When we first looked at this subject, we recognised that there are differences in the the ways that women perceive, occupy and use spaces - and Architexx co-founder Lori Brown has this at the forefront of her thinking, saying that she doesn't want to ... create separate spaces for women, but to think about the intersections between people who use the spaces... and, in doing so, create spaces that work for everyone equally.

With equality, choice and respect issues high on the socio-political agenda at the moment, Brown sees feminist design as a way to push equality further onto the administrative and regulatory agenda: "The role feminist designers can play is to speak out and speak out loudly," she says. "It's going to require us to be far more vocal than we have been in quite a while..."

How the story has developed

Placemaking for the People

Placemaking is a collaborative approach to creating more sociable neighbourhoods - from the bottom up. Involving people in the planning of their own community will put local needs and aspirations at the heart of the built environment - and engender a sense of ownership and belonging.

Placemaking is a collaborative approach to creating more sociable neighbourhoods – from the bottom up. It enables urban communities to initiate influence and input into the design of their own neighbourhoods.

Involving people in the planning of their own community will put local needs and aspirations at the heart of the built environment, and engender a sense of ownership and belonging.

What we said in 2016

Placemaking is emerging as an exciting and highly effective way to create more sociable shared spaces that are appreciated and used by the whole community.

Participatory placemaking means working with communities: engaging residents and allowing them to play a creative role in the processes of regeneration and transformation of neighbourhood.

The best results come about when the client-creative relationship focuses on genuine collaboration. We’d encourage all professionals - whether they're landscape architects, architects, urban planners or traffic engineers - to reconsider their role in future scheme design.

Looking back

Placemaking as a cohesive concept has been circulating in urban design and regeneration since the mid 90's, but when we looked at it three years ago, enlightened planners and disenfranchised communities had begun to see it as a way of residents reclaiming their streets' through consultation and collaboration.

Historically, communities had seen 'urban planning' as something that was imposed upon them by people who didn't have to live with the daily consequences. Including neighbours in the process seemed like a radical idea of giving people what they really wanted from the areas they lived in: and in having 'ownership', they felt a greater sense of responsibility, belonging and pride.

Where we are now

Residents have their rights relating to occupancy protected in law - but what happens beyond their doorsteps is still often in the hands of others. In terms of creating a true sense of 'ownership' and 'belonging', the next logical step would be to have participation in developing the neighbourhoods in which they live also covered by legislation.

We have seen a great example of this emerging in Berlin, where ‘Citizen Participation’ has now been enshrined in planning law. The three parties involved in the coalition government elected in September 2016 signed an agreement of cooperation for the period 2016-2021. One of the provisions in the Contract is for citizen participation as one of the guiding principles of urban development.

Consultation has long been recognised as part of Berlin's planning culture, but new building law stipulates that owners, leaseholders and tenants, alike now have a right of participation in all development measures. Policed by the Senate Department for Urban Development, the new law dictates that those affected must be given extensive opportunities to participate in the process.

In becoming part of the regulatory framework, placemaking is able to step out of its role as somehow a 'nice thing to do' and become an enabling force that gives everyone the opportunity for self-determined participation in the development of their city, their community and of society as a whole.

What's Changing?

The Berlin Coalition agreement states that 'everybody should have the possibility to participate equally in the success of the city'. Similarly, in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan sees transparency and the application of democracy as twin drivers of regeneration for the city's social housing stock.

Private developers’ ‘wipe the board and start again’ approach changes neighbourhoods beyond recognition and decimates community bonds.

As such, democratically elected London Borough councils are wresting control of unaffordable, impractical and insensitive schemes back from detached developers in increasing numbers - in the belief that the same residents who elect their councillors should be given a vote on the regeneration plans that will affect their lives.

In early 2018, Khan said: "I want to make sure people living on social housing estates, who have the greatest interest in their future, are at the heart of any decisions from the outset, by involving residents... we can make sure plans for estate regeneration help build a city for all Londoners."

The introduction of ‘democratic development’ signals a major shift in the way future regeneration projects will be planned and delivered. Rather than insensitive schemes imposed top-down, with disenfranchised residents kicking back, this helps ensure that scheme designers create places that have both relevance and resonance with residents.

How the story has developed

Building-in Resilience

As global urbanisation accelerates, cities need to be able to continue to function properly under increasing multiple stresses. To do that, cities must be consciously designed to resist the impacts of natural, social, political and economic events.

As global urbanisation accelerates, cities need to be able to continue to function properly under increasing, multiple stresses. To do that, cities must be consciously designed to resist the impacts of natural, social, political and economic events.

It requires us to shift from a situation where we design for the present, to a situation where we have to design for the future in a much more conscious way.

What we said in 2016

"Cities which build-in resilience will be better able to anticipate, manage or avoid a diverse range of natural and socioeconomic risks: everything from cyber-attacks, endemic crime and social deprivation to earthquakes, power outages and disorder"

"It's a complex field that demands holistic design thinking, active management and stewardship - and a willingness to cooperate for the common good"

"This change in behaviour will mean a host of different disciplines and sectors speaking to each other and - more importantly - listening to each other for the sake of the city."

Llooking Back

Three years ago, 'Resilience' was a fast-emerging discipline, given momentum by a bow-wave of interest from forward thinking planners, architects, engineers and academics - and boosted by the involvement of some generous and committed benefactors.

Since then we have seen the advent of two key projects that should change the way resilience is integrated into future city design. One is a way to assess a city's current level of 'resilience readiness', the other is an ambitious project to help cities implement the very best of global 'resilience thinking' faster and more effectively.

Looking forward, though, one thing is obvious: cities have no choice. The future is resilient.

Where we are now

During our research into Future Spaces, we spoke to Josef Hargrave, Associate Director in Arup's Foresight, Research and Innovation team. He told us that the key to building-in resilience is "... shifting from a situation where we design for the present, to a situation where we have to design for the future in a much more conscious way."

It's fitting, then, that we now see Arup at the forefront of helping cities assess their 'resilience profile'. Their recently developed City Resilience Index (CRI) enables cities to 'measure' their resilience. Answering 156 questions across four key dimensions - 'Health & Wellbeing', 'Economy and Society', 'Infrastructure & Environment' and 'Leadership & Strategy' - cities arrive at what Arup think of as a 'representation of the city's immune system'.

Developed as a diagnostic tool in conjunction with the Rockerfeller Foundation, the CRI was designed to help city leaders measure, manage and mitigate the scale of the risks they face. The Foundation's Sundaa Bridget-Jones explains how: "The complex world of resilience doesn't lend itself to aggregation into a single score or ranking - and there is much of value which cannot be quantified as a sum of money or a percentage."

Based on five years of research and testing, the CRI is a powerful tool that helps cities understand and respond to their resilience challenges in a systematic way, providing a clear baseline to plan from - and a benchmark to measure progress against.

What's changing?

When we began our Future Spaces journey, the global '100 Resilient Cities' project (100RC) was a work in progress. Founded in 2013, its aim was to establish a 'test-bed' of 100 cities in which they could establish centres of resilience excellence - appointing, funding and training Chief Resilience Officers within city government bodies, with a remit of integrating resilience into the city's daily activities. In return they had to develop a resilience strategy and share their learnings with fellow CROs worldwide as well as with a diverse range of partner NGOs.

The final 37 cities have been added to the project since Future Spaces began - and there are now 100 cities worldwide developing, comparing, sharing and applying best-practice in designing and implementing future-proof infrastructure. It's resilience planning on a global scale.

Using the information gathered (and in partnership with New York's Columbia University), the 100 Resilient Cities project has launched the Resilience Accelerator - a programme that connects urban leaders working on resilience projects with academics, experts and strategists to fine-tune and fast-track the implementation of their plans. The end game? A universally applicable approach to ensuring resilience.

The immediate goal is for Columbia's new 'Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes' to use the Resilience Accelerator to expedite eight projects in just two years. Selection of the participating cities will begin in Spring 2019. Seems the future is closer than we think.

How the story has developed

Circular Economy

As an ambitious alternative to a traditional linear 'make, use, dispose' model, the circular economy's aim is to eradicate needless waste and build in reuse wherever possible. There is exciting potential for the creative industries and the construction sector to make this work on a city scale.

As an ambitious alternative to the traditional, linear ‘make, use, dispose’ model, the circular economy’s aim is to eradicate needless waste and build-in re-use wherever possible.

A circular economy has the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in how we live and do business - with exciting potential for the creative industries and the construction sector to make this work on a city - and global - scale.

What we said in 2016

"It's a model that disregards the outmoded thinking that access to cheap resources can maintain economic growth. Rather than accepting waste as a way of life, materials are recovered wherever possible, and disassembly is built in to products to aid that."

"The business case for a circular economy is compelling. Analysis published by McKinsey estimates shifting towards circularity could add $1 trillion to the global economy in the next ten years and create 100,000 new jobs."

"We view the circular economy as a key component to a better future: better for people, businesses, the environment - and for the spaces we must all share."

Looking Back

When we spotted the nascent Circular Economy three years ago, we referred to it as a 'fledgling movement'. Since then the issues that drove its development have exploded into the public consciousness - particularly through the increased attention on the damage caused by single-use plastics.

Leading the charge into a reusable, recyclable, future is former round the world sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur. Months at sea brought her face to face with a quite literal tide of plastic pollution - and led to the launch of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2010.

Her Foundation continues to forge relationships with global brands and drive change in multiple industries.

Where we are now

In the quest for a more sustainable use of the world's resources, Dame Ellen MacArthur says: “We are trying to change a system, not one business. We need to change the way people think, the way things are designed, the materials that are put into them…”

But changing the way industries think remains a challenge.

Whilst the mood music around manufacturers' intentions to move away from the 'take, make, dispose' model is generally positive, it appears to remain anecdotal. Indeed, a report from early 2018 suggests that growth of the Circular Economy is held back by a lack of finance brought about via a catch-22 situation. Simply, large-scale commercial finance for Circular Economy-based businesses remains negligible, but because few businesses have a circular business model there are few opportunities for institutions to invest. Not quite the circularity the situation needs.

One solution could be the European Commission's 2018 plan to pilot its 'Innovation Deals' concept on up to five Circular Economy projects. Innovation Deals are designed to help waive any regulations found to be an obstacle to innovation. So if a business wanted to invest in a Circular Economy project, but felt restricted by the current EU rules, they could make a case to the EU Commission, who would analyse the regulation and - if it were found to be restrictive - lift that barrier.

Evaluation of that pilot is due before the end of 2018. Just in time for Brexit.

What's Changing?

Given the amount of media coverage around plastics, in the last couple of years, the danger is that the Circular Economy concept gets anchored in people's perceptions as simply 'solving the plastics problem'.

Hence, changing the focus of circularity away from just reducing waste is key. Everyone knows that 'waste is bad', but the challenge facing advocates of the Circular Economy is how to land the 'reuse/recycle' message upstream in the design and manufacturing of products - innovating inputs rather than managing outputs.

A 2018 World Economic Forum report questions how quickly that transition can be made. It says: "The rub with the circular economy is that it does not exist today. It needs to be invented and grown. Fast: over the next few decades."

It also recognises that changing the way global economic and commercial systems behave will require 'enormous disruption' - but it does offer a radical source of optimism.

The WEF says that the transformations required will be accelerated in "... places where our systems of production and consumption most strongly overlap, where the density of complex innovations is fastest, where resources are most limited and where living with the consequences of waste and pollution are direst."

And the location of these hot-houses for change? "Cities - especially large cities." Maybe there's hope in those crowded Future Spaces after all.

How the story has developed
  1. About the Project

    Marshalls believes in creating better spaces - and as the UK's leading landscape materials brand, we believe that it's important to think ahead.

    Launched in 2016, Future Spaces was our ambitious attempt to foresee how the commercial, public and domestic spaces we help design, build and share might adapt and evolve over the next ten years.

    We set out to predict how changing lifestyles, technology and economic conditions might dictate the look, feel, colour, shape, textures and materials used to create those spaces.

    But once we dug below the surface we found much more.

    Four unstoppable global mega-trends driving 12 emerging themes: pervasive forces that will change the nature of our built environment, both subtly and dramatically.

    In 2019 we revisited all 12 themes, comparing our predictions with what has happened, looking at where we are now and where we are heading. We have updated each of the themes with our most recent findings, although you can still read the original report too.

    Launched in 2016, Future Spaces was the result of our own intensive research, including interviews with academics, industry commentators, journalists, architects, landscape designers, materials technologists, engineers, futurologists - as broad a spectrum of opinions, ideas and experience as we could find.

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Marshalls Design Space,
Unit 4 Compton Courtyard,
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London EC1V 08D