COMMENT | Residential’s new reality

Technology is filtering into every area of the residential development model, bringing in new entrants, new designs and new approaches, writes Gemma Leonard of DAC Beachcroft.

The pace of change means that tentative experiments are not bold enough. Definitive action is needed as the boundaries between real estate, construction and maintenance will continue to blur and merge giving rise to new collaborative partnerships.

I have been working in the residential market for 15 years and this is the most exciting time I have experienced; a great time to be taking up my new role as head of residential in Manchester.

Extended reality is an umbrella term for immersive technologies, that combine the physical and digital world. It is emerging throughout the transactional chain.


Virtual reality – the digital version of the physical world – is already helping developers choose and test the configuration of schemes off-site, ironing out problems before construction starts.

Technology is improving communication by bringing together a variety of professionals in real-time to make their contribution, making for more rapid progress. It is supporting community consultation, giving more information to local people in support of their engagement and comment.


New entrants are finding ways to address housing shortages and costs, using technology to create adaptable new home templates. In the USA, Amazon has introduced their own modular home business, Plant Prefab, which can quickly adapt to changes in smart home technology. Facebook is investing in affordable homes in San Francisco. And in the UK, we have Ilke Homes, for example, which has recently seen investment from Homes England to expand their capacity to produce modular homes.


Mixed reality, a world in which the physical and digital worlds co-exist, is increasingly being used in the marketing of new homes, helping capture the imagination of potential buyers as they visualise their new home. Futureproofing and flexibility is the key here. Where previously choice was exercised over carpets and worktops, it will be extended into the placing of internal walls for example. Houses can be re-configured to adapt to change, to accommodate new family members or new owners for example.

Building management

The wait for utility installation will be a thing of the past. Drones will enable wi-fi connection (??). Cableless and switchless will be the norm. Using technology to drive intelligent energy management and predictive maintenance will be good for the supplier, the customer and the planet. In-home sensors will deliver the necessary flow of information that enables a personalised response to a wide variety of services.

Taking advantage of this data generated through Artificial Intelligence is likely to require new arrangements with technology specialists, as established developers may not have the processing and analytical capacity and skills in-house. Data ownership is a new question to be considered; privacy and security will be constant items on the boardroom agenda.

There is a lot to think about, and selecting the most appropriate response to technology should be founded on a digital strategy which will help adopters navigate their way through the new reality of housing in the UK for the next quartile of the twenty first century.

  • Gemma Leonard has been in DAC Beachcroft’s residential team for 15 years and was appointed head of residential in Manchester in January 2020. She advises major national housebuilders and specialist developers on private and affordable housing projects throughout the country.


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