Is coliving the future for all of us?
Originating in the US, over the past decade coliving has rooted itself in the France’s urban landscape. This community living concept is contrary to the popular French proverb that says you’re better off with a tiny place of your own than with a big place that belongs to someone else.
French people’s ideas about housing are constantly changing. In 2022, those ideas naturally continue to shift, and at an accelerated rate as a result of the health, financial and ecological crises we experience. Some believe that the notion of living well emerged with coliving, a concept in which people can share a home without necessarily being from the same family. But what should we learn from this shared housing trend we’re seeing? How is coliving going to change the habits that are a part of our individual lives? How will it impact construction?
A move towards comfort, space and even freedom
There are countless reasons for why French people choose coliving, such as loneliness, practicality, lack of space or available lodging, etc. According to the latest Elabe poll, led by the French Federation of Real Estate Developers (FPI), 70% of French people believe that there is not enough housing in the country, and more than half think that the quality of buildings falls short. In 2022, housing seems to be increasingly linked to a social function. Here’s proof: nearly nine out of ten French people believe that access to housing is a key factor in integration and social cohesion. But what marks the difference between sharing an outside space such as a vegetable patch or garden and sharing one’s living room and cuisine? Privacy. So, just how far can the desire for community living go?
Making the shift towards serviced housing
Until now, “coliving has mainly involved projects designed to transform existing building, explains Julien Schmid, Strategic Marketing Director at Bouygues Construction. It’s a form of institutionalised flat-sharing, which has always been done, though informally and in traditional housing shared by youth. In concrete terms, the coliving concept is nothing more than flat-sharing boosted with complementary services. And it’s that notion of serviced housing that might just be a turning point for the construction industry of tomorrow.”
Beyond offering the possibility to share more affordable common areas, coliving meets the needs of functionality. Current solutions offer more than just increased common areas, they also help housing take a huge step towards serviced buildings. In other words, the services we find in hotels and youth hostels are made available in coliving spaces. So is this really a deep-rooted trend or just a passing fad that lets people create a space that meets their needs in an attempt to compensate for the lack of adequate solutions available on the market? Only the future will tell us! Nevertheless, all the hype around coliving inevitably affects the perspective of construction industry players who aim to create housing adapted to the needs of users and to environmental and demographic challenges. This trend is an eye-opener – if one was needed – to the fact that common areas and practical services are not just for office buildings. Shared laundry rooms, patios and gardens, digital services, etc. are potential advantages for private individuals too, at any age.
“Coliving brings together two worlds: the one of office buildings and the one of housing, explains Julien Schmid. The coliving concept is beginning to introduce the way we use office buildings and their associated services into the world of housing. And this simultaneously sheds light on all the potential of digital, which is much more present in shared spaces than in traditional housing. There are various reasons for this, such as security, connections, community living, optimised use and technical management, use of shared spaces, etc.”
Coliving: indicative of a need for social ties
“It’s undeniable, the health crisis we have just experienced has made social ties a major expectation on the part of French people, says the Strategic Marketing Director for Bouygues Construction. And for now, that desire has materialised through the development of coliving, among other things. However, the major challenge for construction industry players is to create social ties through projects other than those of shared housing. With good reason, because not everyone wants to share their home, quite the opposite. But a large majority of French people would like more social ties, more space and more access to outside areas. In short, users want higher quality housing with complementary services for a better life. Sharing is one solution to meet these expectations all while considering the financial constraints of each individual. The advantage is two-fold as it is also a way to tackle the environmental challenge of reducing carbon emissions. Because let’s admit it, though we must build better if we want to address climate issues, we also have to make better use of our buildings. In practical terms, an intensified, optimised use of a building means that we can construct less m2.” In other words, a shift in housing goes hand in hand with a shift in how the building is used.
Residents as actors in construction projects: one of the keys to social ties
And what if coliving actually revealed a desire to really exist in the eyes of our neighbours, to be someone more than just the name on the doorbell? And what if through coliving, French people were looking to introduce a community spirit into their home, their building and even their neighbourhood? “Beyond shared housing, we could create social ties between residents by allowing them to become actors in their neighbourhood. And that comes into to play before the project has even begun! To build housing that meets the expectations of citizens, we have to listen to them and include them in construction projects as they are being developed.” That’s the goal of the CityPlay initiative created a few years ago by Bouygues Construction. How does it work? It’s a mix of fun but serious solutions to turn urban planning into something collaborative. “The Group pinpointed 13 actions designed to make citizens a part of project development.
- A serious game that gets all the stakeholders of a construction project involved in its design.
- Transitional urbanism as a prelude to future uses of a site.
- The creation of a neighbourhood association.
- The creation of neighbourhood applications to exchange, lend belongings…”
Great solutions for a more active and participatory approach to property development!