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Cities of the future: Trends driving the vertical cities vision

Cities of the future: Trends driving the vertical cities vision

We recently addressed the Property Council of Australia - WA about the forces set to transform our cities and the way we live, work and play.

As developers and urban planners contemplate what our cities will look like in the decades to come, their ideas are being shaped by mega trends as well as consumer trends and technological developments.

Let’s recap on the trends and what they mean for real estate.

Frameshifting economic and demographic forces

  • Demographic changes under way include the ageing population, higher female workforce participation and mobile employees. By 2030 China and India will account for 37% of the world’s population [1]
  • There is an accompanying shift in economic power from west to east and from north to south. China and India will account for 25% of global GDP by 2030 [2]

Australia’s openness to other cultures will see it change as power – people and economic – shifts towards China and India. According to Bernard Salt, MD, The Demographics Group, 39% of Sydneysiders were born outside Australia, making Sydney one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. 

At our Future of Health Conference on 14 November 2017, Mr Salt also said migrants from China, India and the Middle East would reshape Australia’s culture. He noted the number of Australian Muslim residents rose 27% and the number identifying themselves as Hindus jumped 60% between the 2011 and 2016 censuses. [3]

Urbanisation, technology and climate change

  • The world is also rapidly urbanising. By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities and 60% is predicted to be middle class, with 80% of them living in developed regions called mega cities [4]

Advances in technology are leading us towards a virtual and connected world. Developments in robotics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will enable connected living and digital assistance amid all-pervasive cloud services.

Technology will be integral to the smart management of resources amid climate change and resource scarcity. A 40% gap between water supply and demand has been forecast. [5]

What are the possible implications of these on city form?

As land becomes scarce, some people advocate building upwards as a way to save energy and preserve land for food production, nature and recreation.

One architect has concept plans for a Vertical Tower City embedded in the sea floor. The 180-storey, multi-purpose building’s facade would be made from photovoltaic glass to power the entire tower. [6]

We are likely to see a greater integration of uses – places where people work, live and play. Utilities, transportation and services may shift below the street, while new active zones may develop above street level at mid to high-rise at the interface of living, commercial and work environments.

As the density of cities increases, there will be a greater focus on the quality of public spaces and places for people to come together and interact. There is likely to be a further merging of public and private recreational space and a greater focus on experiential design – places that delight, entertain and provide a range of experiences.

Whatever the shape of the cities, technology will feature prominently. Hamburg has “smart parking” apps that direct drivers to the nearest available parking space (plus accept payment and issue digital receipts). These cut carbon emissions and save time, money, stress and paper. [7]

Some street lights adjust themselves to their surroundings [8] while sensors can measure air quality in real time [9]. Other environmental data could also be captured this way.

Turning vision into reality

Vertical cities would enable people to live and access services and products closer to where they work. Interest may shift upwards, away from the street. Public spaces will become increasingly important as active community hubs.

Our role is to work with clients to bring their visions to reality. That means adapting to the complex forces under way and understanding the changing dynamics of the real estate market.


[2] p11

[3] Presentation by Bernard Salt to the Future of Health Conference on 14 November 2017

[4] p 11

[5] p 24





This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Commonwealth Securities Limited ABN 60 067 254 399 AFSL 238814 (CommSec) is a wholly owned but non-guaranteed subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL 234945 and a Participant of the ASX Group and Chi-X Australia.