I'm just settling down to reflect on another successful Shoosmiths' partners' conference, and what the discussions coming out of that might mean for the Living Sector. We had a busy day meeting colleagues from around the firm, talking about our business, our clients, and what the future brings - and not just (or maybe even not at all) about Brexit. We also had a really thought provoking session with applied futurologist, Tom Cheesewright, who got us thinking more about the nature of change in society, and how change can be high frequency and isn't always a long-lived 'big bang' (for instance, how many of us still regularly use mini-disk players rather than music streaming services?). High frequency but low amplitude change is increasingly the order of the day, with incremental change brought about by many small changes rather than a few big events - maybe we're living Obama's 'nudge' every day now?
Tom's session really made me think about what my other sector colleagues had been talking about earlier in the day - James Klein, our Tech Sector head, spoke passionately about technology, Smart Cities and how technological changes may affect the shape of what we do and where we live, with ongoing digital transformation and urban environmental changes. James Wood-Robertson and Nick Iliff, our Infrastructure and Energy Sector co-heads, got us excited with their passion for everything in their world, and the work they're doing with clients and sector stakeholders in things as diverse as bio-energy, distributed heating systems, and large scale project funding work. Robin Webb, our Mobility Sector head, told the room about the work he does and the strategic changes coming from developments in transport and transport policy - and how this can drive change in other sectors because, ultimately, everything's connected. And that's not to forget our Financial Services Sector, where head of sector Stephen Dawson spoke about the brilliant work (and excellent clients) his team is involved with, including mainstream infrastructure and project finance.
So what does all of this mean for the Living Sector, my area of work? Well, everything above tells us that times are changing, and will continue to change, in many small and varied ways rather than just a few massive shifts - and even Tom has said (in his blog) that demographics may shift with people starting (again) to live on the high street. 'Property' tends to be a quite long-lived thing - and there's our challenge. Stakeholders in the Living Sector - house builders, funders, PRS operators, Registered Providers, later living organisations, contractors, and even promoters of strategic land - need to be mindful that bricks and mortar property may last 100 years but the fabric of society around that flexes and changes - whether it's shifting to district heating systems to address sustainability and climate change concerns, or requirements for electric vehicles and charging points in houses and offices, or even just accommodating greater connectivity and changing ways of living. We have to be sure that what we do today fits with what the market wants and the customer needs - when those wants and needs might be ever so subtly shifting, ever so quickly. The challenge I have taken away from our partners' conference to discuss with clients and colleagues was this - change is part of what we all do, so what is the Living Sector's next big little thing?
f you want to save the planet, live in a city. Even better, live in a city centre. Here, all the amenities are on your doorstep. For the places that you can’t walk, public transport is easily accessible. The more densely you live – within reason – the lower your carbon footprint. And the better the chance that we arrest the decline, ensuring that the future high street will be a thriving, vibrant place.