The information revolution is transforming products, services and markets the world over. Ready access to digital information on a mass scale now drives everything from restaurant reviews to political uprisings. Housing cannot and should not be immune to these changes. Our view is that consumers should be much better informed about the implications of their choices before making purchasing decisions and technology is already available that can provide and make information more consumer friendly. For example, a smartphone App would enable consumers to calculate whole home, whole life costs when they purchase a house.
Google Street View, ubiquitous the world over, can be combined with 3D design tools to turn place making and community engagement into a truly inclusive process; while neighbourhood intranets could help promote high quality local governance and management.
Home builders must catch up with motor car manufacturers in the use of web- based pre and post sales service. Mass customisation of housing, Building Information Modelling and CAD visualisation will enable customers to mix and match options in the design, specification, fit out and decoration of homes – with on screen representation of the appearance, capital and running costs of options available. In essence, they should be able to customise their home very much in the same way that they currently choose a new kitchen.
So much more is possible even with the technology we have. But as yet the impact of Apps, computer aided design, building information modelling and other new technologies is passing the industry by and with it go many potential benefits to consumers in terms of increasing competition and thus driving improved choice and quality.
Instead we have a dysfunctional market in which too few homes are built, where more consumers than ever are being priced out and where today's buyer has limited options in terms of design. The purpose of this Housing Forum paper is to set out and explore the opportunities for innovation, how the industry can bring this about, and aligned to this, what the Government needs to do to in terms of changing policy and introducing fiscal incentives that will help consumers make better informed decisions to drive this transformation.
At the heart of our proposals is the recommendation of a new consumer- friendly labelling system for both new and second-hand homes that enables buyers to understand the size and energy consumption of the home. An overwhelming nine out of ten housing members are in favour of it as you can see from our survey here.