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I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want

August 2019 Issue

In August last year I wrote about the lessons we can learn from the places we spend our holidays. This time around I thought it might be worth writing about the lessons we can learn from the people we’re with when we’re there.

And much as I’d like to think that you’re on a Caribbean island in your own perfect version of the Fyre Festival - I expect it’s more likely you’re with immediate friends and family rather than a bevvie of supermodels.

With luck it’s not raining.

This year, for the first time, I’m facing a holiday with teenagers – so I thought I’d put them to good use. One of them, Marie, is 19 and facing her first year living independently in London as an Architecture Student.

So you’re going to have to deal with her in the future.

She is Generation Z, she is the future we’re all building for, and this, in her own words is what she wants:

“Having finished my first year at university in London, the summer holiday gives me an opportunity to contemplate. With a pretty full on degree, studying architecture gives me more to think about than ‘where will the toilets go in my first ever design for a building that will never be built’, but not much time to think.

Amidst an ongoing housing crisis, I’m living for the first time sans-parents - without all the benefits which come from living at home (which I only now appreciate fully..). And I’ve begun to grow up. Approaching my twentieth birthday, the unnerving but also exciting reality of becoming a proper adult dawns. University provides a safe transition period in which to get used to and understand things like tenancy deposits, referencing etc. Not only do you grow up by balancing doing the weekly shop with your other commitments, your perspective changes and you ponder over life’s potential milestones after education - when you really do have to be an ‘adult’. Your interests and concerns change.

Studying architecture means I am all-the-more inquisitive about how my life will unfold in terms of where I’ll be living and how, after my degree.

Owning your own house is a desire many have and buying your first, is one of life’s major milestones. Young people and students are conscious of the daunting prospect of being able to afford something they want, somewhere they want. Housebuilders need to be thinking of us if they want to provide housing which will be popular and affordable in the coming decades. ‘How?’ is a common question among young people.

‘How will I ever be able to buy my own place?’ my friend asks whilst renting a million pound shared house with three friends in London.

It doesn’t look the way I imagine a million pound house should look.

Buying a house is something young people want to be able to do, and, to buy something which accommodates their lifestyle and priorities. As tailored products and services become more expected as standard, people are perhaps becoming increasingly particular about what they want. So, in my opinion, housebuilders and architects should be looking at ways to build affordable homes without compromising on personality and adaptability.

How can we design to build affordably for young people who want to buy?

Another issue which studying architecture enables me to investigate and one which is extremely prevalent at a time where young people feel forced to give up their time in school to make a point to the seemingly greater powers of this world; developers, politicians, non-renewable polluting energy-producing giants etc., is Climate Change. I know this is being talked about extensively, and I don’t want you, at this point, to stop reading because you’ve read it all before, because I have a point which I believe all architects should be engaging with and everyone in the construction industry should be concerned with. 50% of the UK’s CO2 emissions are associated with the manufacture, transport, construction and maintenance of buildings – that is what I was told during one of my first lectures at architecture school.

Last May, I attended the Youth Climate Strike in London with other university students and school children. I believe a directed message is more powerful so I was marching with fellow students against the emissions from the construction industry. As young prospective architects, showing we are willing to create change is important and we hope those already in the industry will collaborate too. We want to design out concrete as far as possible and to find sustainable greener alternatives, to choose alternative ways of constructing, to design using environmentally sustainable materials, and to use technology to create energy-efficient buildings whose lifetime impact on the environment is minimal through intentional design choices such as Passivhaus as standard for new homes.

Concrete is one of the worst polluters of greenhouse gases intensifying the greenhouse effect and so directly contributing to the warming of our earth. It is our earth. Young people are being told that the consequences of Climate Change will affect our future, yet it is not our generation who can change policies immediately, but many people in this industry can.

Building homes that are economically and environmentally responsible are what young people are after. Making homes personal and building in the right places will fulfil expectations and desires. Designing with thought and consideration will make a home stand out against countless other options that seem like duplicates.

I hope that when I’m eventually in the market for my first home, across the industry we will be building homes that are desirable, affordable and reducing the impact of the construction industry on the environment.”

Thanks Marie

You heard it hear first.

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