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A future without vacancy

Vast changes are on the cards for residential areas in the Netherlands over the coming years. And semi-permanent building will play a big role. At any given time, on average 10% of people in the Netherlands is looking for temporary accommodation. Among these are students, young professionals, divorcees or residence permit holders. These groups provide a continuous stream of demand for temporary accommodation. And yet, the Netherlands has a vacancy issue. How can we make these two - what seem to be extremes meet in the middle?

Housing

Councils, and therefore, housing corporations, need to offer housing that is suitable for the various target groups. If, at a later date, living space is no longer sought after by one target group, the buildings need to be easily converted to meet the housing demand of the time. Dennis Bol, DEMEEUW Building Systems, comments: "Why would you commit yourself if you don't know what the future will look like? Or if you anticipate that tomorrow's housing market will look totally different from today's? How do you build homes that allow room for innovation on the one hand, and changing numbers of residents and resident groups on the other?"

The terms of use are becoming shorter and shorter as a result of the ever more rapid changes in demand. Nowadays, buildings often become dated after five to ten years. Until now, real estate has only been able to reply to what is a dynamic question with a static answer, with vacancy as a consequence. A solution must be found in new concepts for construction and living.

FUNCTIONAL LIFESPAN - A GUIDING PRINCIPLE

Dennis Bol: "Again and again, the Dutch housing market demonstrates the need for homes that are quick to build, easy to adapt or move, and comfortable and sustainable at the same time. We need homes that, through straightforward interventions, can be adapted to the requirements of their new occupants, making these homes befitting for multiple target groups. This is how a building retains its value. In this sense, we can define a building's lifespan as the amount of time a building is actually usable - i.e., the time for which that space is fulfilling its purpose.

Buildings that can align themselves with the current demand are, in that respect, future-proof in terms of capacity and functionality. The building sector is being challenged to come up with solutions that can be deployed over and over again, as such, supporting the ambition to achieve a sustainable, circular economy."

SEMI-PERMANENT BUILDS

Everlasting buildings are no longer an option. It's now time for a new norm. "Semi-permanent living is a form of building that is easily adaptable in terms of size, comfort and design", comments Bol. Adapting to growth or shrinkage is equally straightforward, by simply adding or removing building elements, changing or moving them, or by giving them a new shell. This type of building retains its economic value thanks to the fact the entire structure is reusable."

"Function can also be adapted if the housing meets the demand of another resident's profile. If a building becomes redundant, parts of it can be sent back to the manufacturer to be recycled. This is fully in-keeping with the international trend, 'access over ownership', whereby products remain property of the manufacturers, and users merely pay to use them. Leading on from this, homes and residences could be rented for shorter and more manageable periods. The associated risk is limited in this case".

From an investor perspective, interest in this concept is growing, as this type of construction requires only a temporary permit. Attractive returns can be yielded in a short, foreseeable time frame.

Dennis Bol: "We don't know what's ahead of us in terms of demographic change. But a static response to such a dynamic phenomenon is not the way forward. Which is why we need to leave the traditional, permanent way of building behind and focus on adaptable builds. That way, supply and demand will be aligned."

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