Smart Cities

What Would Our Cities Look Like If We Started From Scratch?

What would our cities look like if we started again, from scratch, with everything we know now? Would we create central business districts (CBDs) if we had the chance to redesign our cities? How different would our buildings be from the environments we have created now? These questions about workplaces, the built environment and city landscape are central to the conclusions in a new white paper by commercial real estate firm JLL. To produce the study JLL partnered with TEDx Sydney to tap into the ideas, creativity and diversity of the highly engaged TED community, under the name ‘Urban Canvas’. "Urban Canvas is the name we have given our partnership to reflect our concept of asking the TEDxSydney community what their ideal urban environment would be – how people want to work in the future and what kind of built environment they want to work in,” said JLL Director of Corporate Solutions, Rajiv Nagrath. In […]

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What would our cities look like if we started again, from scratch, with everything we know now? Would we create central business districts (CBDs) if we had the chance to redesign our cities? How different would our buildings be from the environments we have created now?

These questions about workplaces, the built environment and city landscape are central to the conclusions in a new white paper by commercial real estate firm JLL. To produce the study JLL partnered with TEDx Sydney to tap into the ideas, creativity and diversity of the highly engaged TED community, under the name ‘Urban Canvas’.

"Urban Canvas is the name we have given our partnership to reflect our concept of asking the TEDxSydney community what their ideal urban environment would be – how people want to work in the future and what kind of built environment they want to work in,” said JLL Director of Corporate Solutions, Rajiv Nagrath.

In order to hypothesize this “blank canvas” of urban development, JLL posed the following question: If Mars became habitable for humans by 2050, how would you go about urbanizing it to create places for people to work, live and play?

The results were near unanimous in their focus and prioritization on human connections and a desire to be closer to nature. It seems that amongst our condensed and densely populated skylines, the people living and working within them, are craving more open spaces, more air, and with more inspiration from nature.

“The results unanimously focused on human connections and a desire to be closer to nature - 92% of respondents wanted to create a responsive workplace that adapts to enhance the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants. It seems that amongst our condensed and densely populated skylines, the people living and working within them are craving more open spaces, more air, and more natural materials and environments,” said Richard Fennell, JLL’s Australian Head of Property and Asset Management.

The implications for the workplace, according to the JLL Survey, suggested that the office is not dead, but the traditional workplace will change. 59% of respondents still saw the need for a physical workplace in 2050, but they wanted a multi-purpose building rather than just offices. While 81% of the TEDxSydney community envisaged a future of purely multi-purpose buildings, potentially meaning the death of the traditional ‘office building’ as we know it.

By and large, participants sought a lifestyle where home and work were more interconnected in a physical sense, whilst craving to be less connected mentally and emotionally. It was observed that while the corporate world has come a long way in addressing flexible work hours, as a result of technology advancements, this has also resulted in a workforce that doesn’t ‘switch off’.

Workers can no longer leave work behind when heading home, which is already having an impact on mental health amongst office workers. The community saw a future where technology continued to increase productivity and therefore the ability to spend more time with family and friends, as well as enabling physical human connections, as opposed to virtual ones.

The results of the survey also suggested that built structures should be ‘smart’, with 88% of respondents indicating they would capture data to allow adaption based on usage patterns. The white paper only eluding to privacy concerns once, saying they “could be handled via personal firewalls that are activated to shutdown bio-metric readings if the individual so chooses.”

86% of buildings would have environmental indicators including air quality, allergens and UV sunlight, according to the study. 78% of respondents said they would incorporate 4D telepresence to allow seamless virtual collaboration in the workplace. This would allow individuals a fully immersive experience, even though they weren’t physically present to be part of a meeting or collaborative session.

Furthermore, “Buildings in 2050 will respond and adapt to the people within it. For example, when you enter a lobby, the building will receive a biometric reading of your heart rate, general health and even your age. This information will be used to enhance your experience within the building, such as temperature, sound, smell and visual adjustments via implanted devices or wearable technology,” Fennell said.

For those of us in the smart technology and internet of things (IoT) sectors, this all may sound very familiar. So should we understand from the results that if we were given a blank canvas we would design cities and buildings in the same way we are trying to re-design them at the moment, here on earth? Maybe we should consider that our imagination of what we can do might be somewhat limited to what we are already trying to do? Or perhaps we can read into, smart commercial real estate firm, JLL’s agenda… read and decide for yourself.

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