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Improving wellbeing with future homes

The next generation of residential buildings will have a goal of improving our physical, mental and social health. “Home is a place you feel most secure and at ease,” says design strategist Minna Takala. “It is attaching a feeling to a place.” The very definition of home is changing, particularly for some generations. Those born in 1960 may still consider their brick suburban stand-alone dwelling as home, but Millennials are happy to work from beds in their apartments or sleep on futons in their offices. The digital nomad takes it a step forward: he may have no fixed dwelling, work remotely and call home a state of mind. Simultaneously, there is a decisive shift occurring through much of the world. Once people have reached a certain level of material comfort they begin to prioritize other things, like physical and mental health, comfort, social interactions and security. This is already occurring not only in the developed world, but even in countries which are traditionally seen as developing, such as China. People increasingly expect their expanded definition of “home” to contribute to their wellbeing, from their apartment to their building, from their neighborhood to their city. How homes can improve our wellbeing will be a significant trend in the coming years.

Better use of space = better wellbeing

A building can contribute to wellbeing in a variety of ways, like limiting indoor air pollution and increasing natural lighting. Improved soundproofing or even noise dampening technology can help you sleep better, while properly designed dining rooms encourage mindful eating and family interactions.

Public and communal areas are also important. Aesthetically pleasing architecture can make residents and passersby happier. Fitness centers encourage exercise as well as talking to your neighbors. But you don’t need to be in your apartment or even your building to improve your home wellbeing.

“Because of increasing urbanization, we will have smaller apartments and less private space,” Takala continues. “But we can still attach that feeling of home to other places. For instance, here in London many private development blocks are opening their courtyards to the public. Research has shown that nature makes you feel better, and these green, public courtyards are actually a selling point.”

Another popular London development is the rise in service apartments, fully furnished suites where people can buy different sets of lifestyle services attached to the apartment. These services can be access to a gym, food delivery, housekeeping, laundry, or technical solutions, for example. They can even be purchased by corporations for their staff, in a further blurring of the old home and work divide. It will become more common for service add-ons to be available in our future cities.

Improved access and mobility

“Our cities are becoming bigger, and this brings up a question about access,” says Jonathan Woetzel, Senior Partner at McKinsey. “How will all these people have access to healthcare, culture and education? We can improve public transport and some people can work remotely, but we can also bring the services to them.”

Improving transportation and access can be a huge boost to wellbeing: just think of people in Los Angeles, who spend 104 hours each year stuck in traffic. The movement of people in urban environments will be crucial to their mental health, from the city level down to moving inside one’s own apartment. While efficiency is important, so is enjoyability. Even riding in an elevator will be a more pleasant experience: the lights, sounds, smells and sensations all have our wellbeing in mind.

“Life in cities today is better than what it was ten years ago,” Woetzel says. “My dream city enriches every aspect of life. We will have no traffic jams, better quality water, affordable housing, constant learning throughout our lifetimes and a ten-minute walk to the countryside. It will be a diverse city filled with rich experiences.”

This is one of a series of KONE Urban Insights articles, describing how we view the future of living and the future of working in urban environments.

Published on 6 April, 2018.

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