Hands up who remembers when we used to play hopscotch and Kerby; play on our bikes in the street. I do.
That is until my friend got a Sega Master System and then we never saw him again. After school he’d play, having to get the next level and forgetting he had pals.
I was driving about and I noticed that you rarely see kids playing in the street, but it’s not just kids, we’re all guilty of it – looking at the screen and not looking up.
Technology has moved on and we all know that there is a good side and a bad side, and I understand that change is inevitable but what we can do is to influence and innovate how we use technology and how we can use our buildings. Intelligent buildings. We wanted to build communities within our buildings and within communities so they can use them too.
There are plenty buzzwords around but what do we mean when we talk about co-living.
We have all been co-living our whole lives. When you are born you co-live with your parents, when you go to uni/college/apprentice you’re co-living with roommates or flatmates, when you’ve got a partner you’re co-living again – some call it co-living but it’s actually just living.
We’ve got a great opportunity to lead the way here. Intelligent lifestyles.
We proudly boast about being the first in Scotland so many times in history; in innovation.
From Alexander Bell to John Logie Baird, to the gaming industry in Dundee and shipbuilding in Glasgow – there’s too much to mention. But we have the opportunity to be the first again – to reinvent how buildings are used. Co-living doesn’t exist in Scotland as yet. It’s starting to evolve in Manchester, in London, and Scotland has the chance to reinvent itself.
So many buildings have been built in the same way – you walk to the front door where you are buzzed in, there’s a lifeless corridor taking you straight to the lift and your flat, and you don’t see anyone in the building and speak to no one. There was never a vision to build a community, it’s just putting people into boxes and keeping the rain off.
With loneliness, isolation, and mental health now so talked about – there is an opportunity to really create, otherwise you are only simply building. We need to create the space for people to meet, to talk, to socialise, to work, to network, to communicate, to co-live, co-work, and co-create.
I am now convinced more than ever that the use-class of properties is more important.
Use classification was set out in 1997 then revised in 1998 and this defines how we use our buildings.
That’s 21 years ago. So, when I compare that to the mobile I was using then (which had more technology than the lunar landing but could only make calls for £1.50pm) to the one I have now (which can almost do anything), times have changed, and red tape needs to follow. I mean, who would have thought that one of the largest taxi companies in the world – Uber – wouldn’t actually own any taxis, but it does. So change has been exponential however within the property landscape, it has not evolved.
People have changed how they live, where they live, and are now global citizens but the legislation has not followed and, if you study the circular economy, at all you will see that we are wasting more than we have on construction as well.
In hotels, for example, we have 75% occupancy in a standard hotel. The hotel is designed and heated and managed as if it is at full capacity but there is a chance to use the other 25%. This could be used as space for co-working, for co-living, for long-term stays, for innovative start-ups, for cafes, for communities and so forth, our buildings could be full all of the time and much less wasted energy and materials. There’s a lack of intelligence.
We have to be at the forefront of changing this as an industry.
There’s a massive opportunity to attract people to live, to work, to study, and to help grow Scotland’s economy – with weekly costs in Scotland 20% lower than in London and 10% cheaper than the UK as a whole.
We have to be brave and not just look about at what other cities are doing but to measure ourselves against only us.
We don’t have as many cranes in the skies as Manchester, Leeds, Dublin. We need to not only attract investors, we need to keep retaining their investment in Scotland and utilising the investment we already have.
In February 2018, we signed a joint venture with investors Harrison Street to bring a sizeable investment to the UK, to Scotland. Being a SME company, we spent two years on the deal and naturally we wanted to invest in our own cities, in where we call home, in transforming places and spaces. We thought that the minute we did this, they would be breaking down the doors asking for us to spend this money in Scotland. We are still waiting on that phone call; not intelligent.
same old, same old…
When we simply do the same thing we end up with the same result and shouldn’t expect anything different. In 2008, it was a tough time for the property industry and when I think about where we were and where we are now heading economically, as a nation, it’s very much like my wife & I in labour (hear me out!).
She said some choice words to me and swore that she would never go near me and what had we been thinking – a year down the line and our son is 1 and she is starts talking about how it wasn’t that bad and wouldn’t it be nice to have another – so she has now forgotten how painful it was and that’s my point here. A lot have already forgotten how painful the crash was, how much many of us lost, there was no private sector development, there were no jobs in construction, the banks weren’t lending but rather collecting. People seem to have forgotten the pain and have gone back out like my wife and I.
When opportunity comes knocking, we need to answer the door, we need to change and grab it will both hands and now is the time to do just that. We need to change conversations, we need to start being honest about the barriers, talk about what is being created. Development isn’t a dirty word, student and co-living are a gift not a race to the bottom. We need construction, we need the jobs that flow, we need young talent from abroad and talented youngsters in our schools, we all talk about working together but we all know the reality is that there are barriers, we need to be brave and we need to start talking about them, and we need to start doing it not just going to conferences and taking notes to forget later.
Simply put there is always another way to do things. I was told recently that America spent something like $100,000 designing a pen that could write in space for their first lunar landing whereas the Russians simply used a pencil. The perfect example of thinking differently, intelligence.
Don’t take the easy options, take the right ones – be brave and do it.
By Craig Inglis, CEO Structured House Group, and Founder of BOHO