Cities of the future

It's hard to separate the future of the world from the future of cities. Cities account for more than half of the world's population and about 80% of the world's GDP. As one of the world's largest economic ecosystems, the construction industry plays an important role in achieving global sustainability goals and making cities thrive - now and in the future.

Cities of the future will focus on residents

Smart cities of the future must strive to overcome this obstacle by increasing their own food production. Foodtech comes to the rescue, from vertical plant cultivation to artificial meat production and delivery and service automation.

Given this untapped potential, smart city authorities must learn to harness the power of urban agriculture and scale it to increase the resilience of entire urban centers.

Five consumer trends influence where and how people want to live.

People continue to migrate to cities, increasing urban density and the need for compact living spaces. By 2030, the number of people living in cities with more than 1 million people will rise from 3.1 billion to 3.8 billion, a 22 percent increase. This trend is already evident in large cities, where 80 percent of the housing units built in 2018 were high-rise, up from about 60 percent a decade ago.

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Family sizes are shrinking and the world’s population is aging, increasing interest in living spaces that are smaller or larger than usual today. By 2030, 43% of households worldwide will consist of only one or two people, leading to an increased demand for smaller living spaces. At the same time, an aging population will encourage the construction of larger homes to accommodate multiple generations living under one roof, especially in eastern countries such as China and India.


Consumers value sustainability more and are tightening regulations on energy consumption and green development, spurring the production of greener housing options. By 2018, 88 countries had mandatory or voluntary guidelines for energy use or greenhouse gas emissions in buildings, up from 38 countries in 1994. Such changes were supported by global agreements, including the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which was adopted for 197 countries as of early 2022.


Rising rents, which continue to outpace wages, among other factors, have contributed to the worldwide shortage of affordable housing. To address this problem, cities have adopted measures such as inclusionary zoning, in which a portion of new buildings in a given area are set aside for affordable housing. They have also used infill development, targeting vacant or underutilized urban areas for residential housing.

As the economy becomes more digital, what people look for in the home is also changing. More than half of the world’s population now has access to the Internet, and in developed countries, 65% of millennials and Generation Z interact with each other more digitally than in person. These trends are increasing interest in remote working, home offices, smart homes, and living together, among other things.

Five industry trends on the supply side also influence what types of homes are built and how they are built.

The technology revolution has turned the construction industry upside down. Organizations are beginning to integrate innovations such as robotics, on-site drones and building information modeling into everyday construction practices. In the U.S., a boom in construction startups that create or leverage such innovations has attracted more than $1 billion in venture capital investment in the first half of 2022, a 30% increase over the previous year.

More and more home builders are using prefabricated construction, where sections are built in a factory and then assembled on site to increase productivity and reduce costs. Modularity, a subset of prefabricated construction in which parts of a structure are built as boxes, gives builders more options for customizing what they offer.

Contractors are adopting the Internet of Things and smart and flexible systems to make buildings “smart” and energy efficient. Automated storage based on artificial intelligence doubles or triples usable living space by placing resident’s items in ceiling modules when they are not needed.

New technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and interactive websites are bringing construction industry players closer to the end consumer. New cloud-based financial platforms are also bridging the gap between industry players and consumers.

Productivity stagnation in the construction industry and persistent labor shortages have pushed organizations to find new ways to complete projects with fewer people. In the U.S., 90 percent of contractors, builders and managers cannot find qualified workers. The situation has prompted construction industry players to integrate into their value chains and partner with industry newcomers, including technology companies. For example, Amazon is working with Lennar to install Alexa devices in all new units of the U.S. homebuilding giant, and has invested in a prefabricated construction company to diversify and strengthen its smart home business.


Budget housing usually consists of medium- to high-rise buildings with relatively small units that are built with simple, inexpensive materials and relatively little technology to make construction quick and cost-effective, which lowers prices for buyers. 

 The economy, producing ride-sharing services and co-working spaces, has come to housing. Dormitories have small individual units and large multipurpose spaces that all residents use: imagine university dormitories, but for all ages and with improved amenities. The collective, for example, is one of the largest apartment complexes built to date. Designed as a micro-city and located on the outskirts of London, the complex includes 550 bedrooms, as well as shared kitchens, laundry facilities, outdoor areas, a gym, a restaurant, a spa, and even a movie theater.

Eco-friendliness is the slogan for residential homes built with the utmost care for the environment. The single-family house, which serves as a model for future projects, was built from responsibly assembled and recycled materials. It uses rooftop solar power to generate more energy than it consumes in a year, eliminating 3.7 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, an amount equal to what an average-sized car would produce.

People change, and flexible homes are designed to change with them, with designs and features that can be adapted, added or improved as needed. In some types of flexible homes, builders sell the property unfinished so homeowners are free to design or remodel the interior. The Superloft residences built in Amsterdam by a Dutch developer are examples of such properties. The company uses precast concrete modules, along with other modern construction methods and techniques, to convert buildings into residences, townhouses, or high-rises.

This house of the future has original features that can be built using 3D printing or other modern technology.

Homes designed to improve the health and well-being of residents may have advanced filtration and air purification systems, lighting systems that mimic natural light to improve biorhythms, or public spaces for wellness centers.

Alternatives to traditional housing may seem futuristic. But according to Marrbery research, they already make up between 4% and 6% of existing new residential units. We predict that as the consumer and industry trends described above continue, the proportion of new residential units represented by futuristic forms of housing will continue to grow through 2030.

What will the smart cities of the future look like?

It is impossible to predict exactly how the future will unfold, especially in detail. However, observing current trends such as greening, energy-saving technologies, and sustainable transportation can help to project a rough idea of what the future might hold. In addition, given the growing trend of conscious capitalism, it is hard not to conclude that the coming years will see unprecedented breakthroughs in sustainability and efficiency in cities in particular. The concentration of business leaders and visionary minds that is taking place in urban centers leads to a natural convergence of progressive thinkers. This creates a synergy effect that creates cutting-edge development models, which in turn will lead to sophisticated, efficient, environmentally friendly cities in the not-too-distant future.