The major take-homes from our Visit Tomorrowland event were perhaps quite unexpected for a day dedicated to imagining the future of buildings.
One of the most important themes to come through was the importance of humans and keeping in mind what they really want and need – community, connection, health and ease.
Technology, we heard, was a tool that could be used to achieve these ends, but we always need to start from those basic desires of humans, rather than using technology for technology’s sake. As the axiom (repeated by Arup’s Alex Sinickas) goes, if technology is the answer, what is the question?
After a long, jam-packed day of learning about the massive technological and sociological shifts facing property and construction, weighing up the pros and cons of a range of materials, and listening to what investors really want (all to be covered in our upcoming ebook), The Fifth Estate asked our 100-plus guests to group together and have a little fun by coming up with their own visions for a “building of the future”.
It’s a testament to the collaborative nature of our industry that in little over 20 minutes we had a dozen outstanding, challenging (though sometimes outright bizarre) ideas for what that next building project would look like, who it would serve and how it would operate.
The winners were judged by our esteemed investor panel:
- Michael Cook, Group Executive, Investa
- Peter Morley, Head of Office Development, Dexus
- Peri MacDonald, Executive General Manager, Retail, Frasers Property Australia
- Michelle McNally, GM Commercial Service, ISPT
- Liam Timms, Fund Manager, International Towers Sydney, Lendlease Investment Management
- Andrew Coutts, Fund Manager, Real Estate, Impact Investment Group
What were they looking for? A project that incorporated the key themes of the day – something that cared for occupants and created community, something that was flexible and adaptable, something that responded to growing needs for ecological sustainability, and, because they’re investors, something that promised to pay off.
In third place was a project called “Floating Mixed Use” – a somewhat bizarre “balloon-suspended world”, according to our MC Howard Parry-Husbands of strategic research consultancy Pollinate.
“The idea was a floating mixed-use development, or a nomadic neighbourhood, which is entirely self-sufficient. It’s surrounded by a floating photovoltaic electricity farm and a floating productive food farm,” Cundall’s Hannah Morton told the crowd.
“It is resilient to rising sea levels [this got a lot of laughter from the audience], and therefore rising insurance costs. It is basically a connected community that is totally self-sufficient. It is constructed out of salvaged materials and can pick up and move at any time.”
In second place was the “Meccano Set/Transformer” team, which utilised a “smart universal grid” and building blocks that could be rearranged and repurposed over the building’s lifetime.
“From an investment proposition point of view you could either buy these materials or you could lease them,” team member (and one of our presenters) Dr Caroline Noller from The Footprint Company said. “And every time you want to change them, because it’s on a universal grid, you can simply unclick the building and make a change to some of the forms. So it adapts to the community. It’s obviously a no-bills building. And it has lifelong adaptability and flexibility.”
Winning the competition, however, was “The Park” team, which conceptualised an adaptive reuse of an existing car park, which promise to become obsolete as autonomous vehicles take over.
“Our concept is that the city is full of carparks… How about we take those shells of car parks in an adaptive reuse context and we furnish them with multiple, adaptive uses, team member Toney Hallahan from Blue Mountains City Council said.
“It’s the natural evolution of car parking. It has a biophilic and productive green shell, a community garden on top, multiple uses including retail and food trucks. It can be used at different times of the day. So we’ve got parking during the week, but on weekends community markets, bars, drive-in movies.
“But also the great thing about it is it accommodates the changes that are happening with autonomous vehicles. So in the future, possibly we won’t need car parks. Cars will be going and parking themselves somewhere else, so we’ll actually start the precedent of using these spaces for something else.”
The winner’s all took home the signature TFE gift of pot plants (succulents because they are most resistant to climate change). It was a bit of fun to end a day of heavy learning regarding the future of our buildings, which we will cover in depth in our not-to-be-missed ebook.
A huge thanks to our major sponsor Arup, without whom this event would not have been possible.
Also thanks to our other sponsors The Footprint Company, Frasers Property Australia, the CRC for Low Carbon Living, Wood Solutions and GECA, our event collaborator Pollinate and our venue host Dexus.