The NextGen International Taskforce is a collaboration between IE School of Architecture & Design and CPA NextGen, bringing together international talent to exchange ideas on the real-estate industry and built environment. This group of NextGen professionals typically gathers on a bi-monthly basis to address topics such as sustainability, inclusivity, technology, cities and wellbeing.
These conversations look at the future of cities and how to build a better future for people and businesses. In this edition, held on January 25th, 2022, a group of 12 professionals came together to discuss the topic of sustainable mobility, also touching on the future of remote work and its impact on housing.
The Micromobility Boom
The multidisciplinary individuals in the taskforce hail from cities across the globe, including London, Madrid, Paris, Montreal and Capetown. To address the first question on the docket for this session—micromobility—the team shared their insights on their own cities’ efforts to implement a micromobility infrastructure in recent years.
Discussion emphasized that although the implementation of micromobility solutions represents a new world of potential, it also comes with difficulties.
Among the issues that arose most frequently was the challenge of introducing sustainable mobility solutions that complement public transportation systems. Ollie Bolderson of Momentum Transport mentioned that although Transport for London (TfL) encourages people to walk and cycle, this is at odds with their business model as it doesn’t provide them any revenue. As a solution, he suggests that transportation authorities regulate micromobility and charge operators a licensing fee, giving them cohesive oversight and journey-planning powers for public and private modes of transportation.
Another key issue discussed were the limitations imposed on those living on the outskirts of larger cities. Many urban e-scooter operators don’t let users travel outside city limits, which also poses a socioeconomic question. Housing prices in central areas are often unaffordable, a fact that keeps suburban dwellers dependent on cars.
Spain-based Paula González (Gloval) and France-based Hamish Crockett (RSHP) commented that in both Madrid and Paris, micromobility solutions seemed to be introduced “overnight” and in a way that felt “messy,” with very few regulations or regard for health and safety. Now that a few years have passed, micromobility has grown safer and more regulated, with parking bays and limited use in congested streets.
The success of micromobility in city centers has varied greatly from city to city. Amélie Cossé from Momentum Transport commented on Montreal’s failed trial in offering micromobility to residents, despite the relative success of such programs in other parts of Canada. Ollie Bolderson, with Momentum Transport’s London office, remarked that London’s borough-by-borough policy doesn’t allow for a united approach, and that scooters have even been banned on London public transport due to a risk of battery fires.
Shifts in Macromobility
The taskforce also touched on the question of macromobility, sharing their theories about the future of highways. As shifts in transportation occur—trending away from personally owned vehicles and toward micro solutions, shared vehicles and self-driving cars—large stretches of highway are likely to become underused, freeing significant road space that could be put to use in other ways.
Participants touched on potential ideas for “retrofitting” existing highway and railway infrastructure, such as converting them into spaces dedicated to biodiversity, or outfitting them for bicycles, autonomous vehicles and even the possibility of vertical take-off and landing devices, which the team agreed are likely to gain popularity in the future.
The Future of Remote Work
The session closed with a conversation about the massive shift towards working from home and the ripples it may cause in city centers and suburbs, as well as in the design of homes themselves.
Ollie Bolderson speculated that ancillary services in city centers—such as dry cleaners, key cutters and coffee shops—may struggle to remain viable if they don’t have the same footfall as pre-COVID. However, their loss may be the gain of these same services in smaller town centers, closer to where people actually live.
The taskforce also noted that companies and workers alike are showing interest in designing better and healthier homes that facilitate remote work—with technology that ranges from apps that can control lighting and ventilation to home-safety measures like face recognition for entry. There’s even a trend in robotic furniture designed to optimize storage space, making the work-from-home experience more seamless.
If you’d like to join the International Talent Taskforce, organized in collaboration by IE School of Architecture & Design, please get in touch with Paula Gonzalez (email@example.com) or María Prieto-Moreno (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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