Innovative technology could help to match supply with demand for housing
In the housing sector, demand far outpaces supply. As the world’s population expands, finding suitable accommodation is a global problem. According to the World Resources Institute, the global affordable housing gap is estimated at 330 million households… and that’s just in urban environments. By 2025, this number is expected to grow by 30 per cent, leaving 1.6 billion people without secure, affordable housing. Current housing development plans, despite their best efforts, have proved inadequate. Thankfully, the housing sector is undergoing a revolution in terms of both attitude and technology. How is tech being used to respond to the lack of quality homes, and which companies are constructing this change?
1) 3D printed homes
In 2017, Russian company Apis Cor 3D printed a 400 square foot house in 24 hours. Industrial 3D printers aren’t exactly cheap, but over time their price has plummeted. It seems likely that soon, small to medium construction and housing companies will be able to work with additive manufacturing. They may not have the resources to print entire houses, but could begin to work on smaller projects with the aim of making building processes quicker and more robust. 3D printing could streamline the time it takes to build a house, as well as making it cheaper to do to. It also has the potential to offer personalisation and customisation, perhaps giving buyers the opportunity to have an influence on design elements too.
2) Self drive technology
Built Robotics has developed an autonomous track loader that is safer and more efficient than human driven alternatives. The autonomous track loader is fitted with lidar sensors and a computer ‘brain’ that helps it navigate around building sites. Just like other autonomous technologies, the system gets better over time. The company have also avoided some of the major challenges associated with self driving cars by deploying the self driving machine in more controlled environments. Using autonomous technology could create cost savings that should, in theory, make it quicker and easier to construct homes.
3) Smart home systems
With demand for housing comes demand for resources, power and maintenance. This places immense strain on housing associations and housing companies, as well as inconveniencing tenants or homeowners when their needs are not met. Smart home systems, however, reveal when and where resources are needed most through property profiles. Kasita, for example, has created a modular smart home that regulates lighting and climate. By applying home automation systems, housing companies and organisations can target limited resources. This can also help to flag potential problems before they become serious, such as faulty home appliances.
4) Blockchain for real estate
Even if you can afford to buy a house (or at least get a mortgage), the next steps are far from straightforward. Real estate relies on cooperation and communication between lots of different parties, all of whom demand a fee. However, by moving this process onto the blockchain, house sales could take place without the need for brokers and banks. Smart contracts could be set up to build trust in real estate negotiations, showing the full record of agreements and transactions to avoid confusion and streamline the process. Blockchain technology could also be used to make renting more efficient and rewarding. Decentralised rental platform Rentberry is the first company to use blockchain for this application, automating standard rental tasks and bringing transparency to rental agreements.
5) DIY digital tools
For many, owning (let alone building) a house is often an unattainable dream. This is especially the case for younger people, who are often tied into 35 year mortgages. In a TED talk given last month, PLACE Technologies founder Sarah Murray explained how DIY digital tools could be used to transform the current business model that makes it so hard to get on the property ladder. Traditional construction is notoriously complicated, building houses from scratch… But you wouldn’t have your car built on your driveway, or your laptop built in your room. If houses could be designed by prospective owners via a digital platform, the lengthy process of construction could become more efficient. PLACE aims to offer personalised houses that are designed by the owner and constructed in 30 days – from $75,000.
The housing sector faces a monumental challenge in providing suitable accommodation for the seven billion people alive today, as well as preparing for greater demand. Various companies are using disruptive technology to reimagine how we think about building and buying homes. The creation of modular, personalised and smart houses is now entirely possible, and they can be built at a faster and cheaper rate than traditional methods. Many of these innovative ideas are still seeking support from corporations, investors, and official organisations. Once this endorsement is given, perhaps the housing crisis will be locked out for good.
Do housing and construction companies have a responsibility to respond to the housing crisis? Which of the above solutions will be the most effective? What other technologies or techniques could be applied to meet housing demand? Share your thoughts.
To read more about disrupted housing, sign up for our free newsletter.