For the last 30 years, cities have sucked everything in. Now they are breathing out and seeding particles wherever they land

Yolande Barnes

PHOTO: Home office pod courtesy of Archipod

(Houses) will become places that fulfil home, workplace and social needs

Yolande Barnes


For some, the almost universal experiment in full time working from home will have been a liberating experience that has enabled them to take more control over their working day and eradicate lost time spent journeying to and from the office. For others the experience will have caught them unawares and the challenge of making the domestic environment function as a fulltime place of work will have been exhausting. What is certain is that people are already voting with their feet and the markets have seen a surge in interest in property outside of the main cities and commuter belts.

Homes are taking on a new level of importance. Our respondents anticipate that people will expect their homes to deliver much more because they will no longer serve a purely domestic purpose - they will become places that fulfil home, workplace and social needs. And as more time is spent at home, for one purpose or another, the immediate locality will have to satisfy needs that were previously met elsewhere. Wherever people live, they will expect amenities, variety and infrastructure to be provided locally.

Suburbia too offers potential returns for investors, as our respondents think that it will need to reinvent itself as a destination that people spend time in, rather than simply travel to or from. Ultimately this is about creating a sense of community where perhaps it had been lacking, for which you need the businesses, shops, services and amenities that make community possible.

The developers of our new settlements will also have to embrace these themes and our respondents think that, consistent with the call for community and all that involves, new home buyers will also drive demand for sustainability in new homes and settlements. Developers may have to deliver on sustainability and environmental promises as never before.

There’s a third space between the office and the home and the need it meets is getting together with people like yourself

Yolande Barnes

People have more control over their work time, so they can work harder and then switch off earlier. You can get all your work done then you've got the evening free

Mark Williams, Reader in Human Resource Management at Queen Mary University's School of Business and Management


Who could help but feel liberated by the realisation that work which was traditionally only carried out in the office could be done from home? In many cases this has given people back useable hours within their day not spent on public transport in an effort to reach the office. People feel more in control of how their time is spent and as a result are re-assessing their home needs.

Of course this liberation isn’t universal, and there are those whose homes are not conducive to remote working, for whom this period has been extremely difficult both in terms of efficiency and wellbeing.

Moving out of the city

Our respondents point to a trend which is seeing an increase in the number of people moving from city centres to locations that are further afield than people had traditionally considered. These locations are not rural, but offer a feeling of being outside of the central metropolises while still being well served by the kind of amenities and resources they are used to. We have seen spikes in demand for well served villages, market towns and coastal areas within an hour and a half journey to the cities.

For the last 30 years, cities have sucked everything in. Now they are breathing out and seeding particles wherever they land

Yolande Barnes

The reinvention of suburban living

'The suburbs are knackered. They aren’t community hubs because they were built to be driven out of, so there’s nothing there'

Robbie Kerr

People's expectations and requirements might have moved on, but suburbia has been slow to adapt. A theme from our respondents was that the suburbs feel tired and lacklustre and in their current configuration are ill equipped to accommodate the resurgence in demand for community that the increasing amount of time spent at home has brought about.

Designing new living spaces and places

'The norm is a nod to placemaking with a duck pond in the middle of a housing estate, but new settlements need long term management and curation not build it and bugger off'

Yolande Barnes

As people spend more time at home than in the office, so designers and architects in our sample are adamant that homes are no longer just homes.

Environmental and sustainability concerns

'Placemaking is going to become much more important alongside those environmental things, and housebuilders will want to develop and build a reputation based on both their eco credentials and also their placemaking credentials'

Lucian Cook

By taking cars off the roads and grounding the package tour aircraft fleet, the pandemic has offered a moment for more intense reflection on environmental and sustainability needs. Philip Harvey is excited by Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) approaches to development and has seen a spike in interest in developers who incorporate sustainable development within their schemes. Lucian Cook, head of UK residential research at Savills, and Mat Oakley think that the ESG agenda has come into greater focus with Covid-19. They believe people are thinking about sustainability credentials in a way that they haven’t before.

Local services will proliferate, supply chains are changing, people will go more local. Trade wars and Brexit were already making self-reliance a big thing. The international supply chains will be dismantled

Nectar Efkarpidis

The renaissance of community

More people are 'choosing local' and they are doing that out of a heightened sense of community spawned by spending more time around the areas where they live.

The third space close to home

Working from home leads to the risk of the two concepts blending into one. There is a definite sense that home workers need to get away from their home – even if it is just to separate aspects of work from domestic life.

There’s a third space between the office and the home and the need it meets is getting together with people like yourself

Yolande Barnes

Repurposing cities

'Offices will be repurposed. Since the war the trend has been for single purpose buildings but I envisage lots of office blocks being turned into mixed use 'vertical villages' with apartments and work spaces, a deck and food growing all in one building, with management curating and promoting what the building offers and does… cities won’t expand out but up'

Jonathan Harbottle

The pandemic has seen a whole range of repurposing and diversification within businesses. What was perhaps unexpected was the extent to which these businesses plan to continue to adopt and adapt those ideas as part of their mainstream business model. Restaurants have started selling home cook kits and groceries as well as takeaway food. Because of the success enjoyed by some restaurants during lockdown, some of our respondents even think there is investment potential for high end restaurants to offer delivery – something which would have been unthinkable a few months ago. For our respondents the end of the single-use, single-occupier office building is in sight.


'In future, if we say income streams are going to be the main driver and with low and stable interest rates, there can be no capital growth without rental growth, then suddenly you are going to start concentrating a lot more on what your occupiers want and what they are prepared to pay for and what is going to give you the growth.'

Yolande Barnes

Placemaking is a buzzword that has come to define a lot of the debate around the future of real estate after the pandemic and is perhaps best characterised as the creation of a space with a unique community which enhances quality of life. So far as investors or developers are concerned, it represents a shift from value in property, to value in income from property.

Our respondents think that the days of huge capital growth in property without a corresponding level of innovation or investment are in the past. With the current era defined by low inflation and very low interest rates, investment yields in what have been the historically prime locations are at an all-time low. Fine you might say for long term institutional investors, but others will be eager to drive greater returns through innovation.

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