Back from the future


Like me you’ve likely been swept up in the celebration of, and homages to, that undisputed classic franchise, Back to the Future this week.

Wednesday marked the day that Marty McFly came skidding into our lives and everyone, even the PM, got in on the act.

The future is something that’s a permanent focus for our industry and as such, it’s important to look for new ways of doing things so we know what will be relevant and how advances in technology will help us realise placemaking.

Thankfully we don’t need a Flux Capacitor to jump forward and see what the world may look like, think tanks and scientists have already given us a glimpse over the last year.

So jump in our DeLorean and take a look.

The NLA’s New Ideas for Housing competition asked individuals and companies to submit ideas that could help solve the London housing shortage. So perhaps in 30 years we’ll see floating homes on “bluefield sites”, or Mega Planning for a MegaCity.

Renewable energy technology is becoming ever more sophisticated, and even sentient. The Italians have designed a wind turbine that can “learn” wind patterns – a sophisticated algorithm predicts periods of low wind and turns the turbine’s blades off. It’s already being sold to homeowners in Italy and this technology could start to combat the inefficiency argument and rejuvenate the industry in the UK.

3D printing in planning and development is, of course, already here – from architects’ design concepts to houses – but the future could see robots doing all the work for us. MX3D are currently setting a robot to work printing and building a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam. All by itself.

Overcoming planning and development issues that are highlighted by the housing shortage or the renewable energy sector, requires an understanding of how advances in technology, big ideas, and utilising current technology to solve problems, can assist – and for that we need a focus on the future.

So don’t get stuck in 2015.