The design, planning and engineering company Arup have released a thought-leadership paper suggesting a reworking of neighbourhoods so everything is within 15 minutes.
It says survey after survey is showing that, post-pandemic, roughly 40% of people wish to work from home 40% of the time. It calls this great news for both city dwellers and planners, who are “endlessly stressed by the time/distance demands of existing cities: they are about to live and work in something more like the 15-minute village.”
If those preferences lead to a real redistribution of work (and many major employers in tech and professional services around the world have already announced a pivot to home working), that will, in turn, lead to more local service and retail jobs in the communities where people actually live, the paper suggests. “Suddenly, there are above-average-wage knowledge workers at home who need an excuse to get out each day. Services like coffee, food, haircuts, beauty treatments, gyms and other things that concentrate in cities will have an expanded urban market. Commuters, especially those on lower pay, will appreciate greatly not having to travel as far to get to work, saving money into the bargain.”
“On this basis, the 15-minute village (FMV) is likely to boom,” the report continues. “This fundamental reshaping and decentralising of the economy and urban landscape is not just a winding back of the clock to when high streets were the place to be and the local businesses all had a shopfront. It won’t go that far because so many services are now digitally delivered, and those people working from home are the people who used to work in those now half-empty glass and steel tenancies.
“Big cities will try to respond; after all, there are billions in commercial rents that depend on it. But the longer Covid-19 continues, the greater the opportunity to rebalance how our communities will grow.”