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Generation Z - Future Users of Smart Buildings

As KEKO aims to provide more comfortable buildings with better experiences for the users, we first need to know the users’ standpoint of what creates a perfect experience. Therefore, KONE has collaborated with Aalto University in a 6-month research project to understand the future smart building users - Generation Z (Gen Z).

3.7.2020

Gen Z in a Nutshell

KONE wanted to find out how to create the best smart building user experience (UX) for Gen Z in the future. In the project with Aalto University, four Aalto IDBM students have interviewed numerous experts and prospective users of smart buildings around the world. In this text, the students write about their learnings.

In general, Gen Z refers to the generation born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s. What sets them apart from the preceding generations is growing up during the recession and the digital communication boom (Sparks & Honey, 2014). This is why their upbringing is closely associated with technology, especially smartphones and social media. In fact, they have a low tolerance for the downtime of devices and the internet (Goede, 2019). In the future, Gen Z will look for less-intrusive device interfaces and more ways to socialize meaningfully along with well-established digital security. They will also seek after technologies that fulfill individuality, flexibility for work-life balance, and a convenient, on-demand lifestyle (Goede, 2019 & Sherman, 2018). Most importantly, Gen Z expects smart technology to support them in saving time and money, which for them are high-priority. (Goede, 2019).  

 

Gen Z and Smart Building: The Layers of Future UX 

Based on both the expert and Gen Z interviews of the project, convenience is the most crucial layer of a smart building UX. Gen Z is willing to trade off comfort, money, sustainability, and many other things for more convenience. For them, convenience means easiness of life, location of the building, and connectivity. Furthermore, the wants and needs within Gen Z vary greatly, while their expectations towards technologies and services are high. That is why in the future we should abandon all one-size-fits-all solutions. At the same time, we need to balance the level of technologies offered with various desires because Gen Z wants more flexibility and personalization in smart buildings. Lastly, well-being is vital to Gen Z and includes not only physical but also mental health. Smart buildings should, therefore, provide an excellent indoor environment through numerous indicators along with the emphasis on social interaction and a “feeling of their own space” for the users.

 

The need for privacy and space

Being digital natives, Gen Z is used to having their data constantly collected. Most of the interviewees feel comfortable with sharing data, but only when it will not be shared forward or used for other purposes. Still, they are not fully aware of the current level of data collection and privacy. They also express concerns about trust and transparency of data collection in smart buildings because data security is important to them.  

When it comes to privacy, Gen Z wishes for it not only regarding data but also space. Having enough room and a sense of their own space is crucial, whether being at home, school, or a mall. Lacking personal space with high indoor densification worsens their experience inside any kind of building. 

 

Future assumptions and fears 

Gen Z anticipates smart buildings of the future to fulfill all of their above-mentioned needs and wants. They also assume smart buildings to provide more sustainable solutions and be accessible for everybody regardless of their profile. Besides, some of the interviewees expect future smart building solutions to prevent human mistakes and have a level of smartness high enough to provide complete automation or emotional support for the user. Nevertheless, Gen Z expresses their fear of smart buildings becoming very expensive and widening the inequality gap in society. Cyber-crime like identity theft is among the biggest concerns for Gen Z due to the massive amount of personal data collected. 

Overall, Gen Z’s unique characteristics require special attention in designing smart buildings for them. The shift to a more human-centric smart building that holistically caters to all user needs must take place in the future. Only then can Gen Z truly engage with and fully utilize the smart buildings to their maximal potential. 

 

Luyi Chen , Natalia Repokari , Phong Truong, Aino Vaarno 

Writers are master students at the Aalto University’s International Design Business Management programme

 

REFERENCES

Dimock, M. (2019). Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins

Goede, L. (2019). Renters 2029: Is Multifamily Ready for the Generation Z Decade?

Sherman, J. (2018). How Gen-Z is Redefining the Way Brands Approach Tech

Sparks & Honey (2014). Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials [PowerPoint slides]