Technology in a Post-Covid World

Our homes have always been our sanctuaries, but this cherished space has become all the more important as a result of the pandemic

From the need for a dedicated workspace, to an emphasis on cleanliness and wellbeing in the home, the virus is shaping new priorities. This is especially true at the top end of the market, where emerging trends pre-Covid 19 are now transforming the way luxury homes are built and finished, with a core focus on thoughtful design.

In the first introductory piece to this three-part series, we explored the impact of the initial lockdown, and how we anticipate a second lockdown will affect the super-prime market. In this next instalment, we speak with Trevor Kearney (@superprimesurrey), Director in Savills‘ Country Department and Instagram influencer, who shares with us his expert predictions on technology in the super-prime market.

Trevor Kearney, Director of Savills' Country Department. Image courtesy of Savills.

‘Lockdown without technology would have been a very different proposition; in short technology has helped Britain to keep moving’.

Technology is now the key feature in the design of any future-proofed home, with a particular emphasis on creating a space that is adaptable to changes in circumstances. During this time, technology has been a source of constant comfort, enabling us to remain connected to our work and our families, to work out and even learn new skills. ‘Lockdown without technology would have been a very different proposition; in short technology has helped Britain to keep moving’, says Trevor.

Virtual property viewing on iPad. Image via Twitter

The importance of technology now begins before the home has even been purchased, due to the rise of virtual viewings. Pre-Covid, our globally mobile clientele would rely on technology to view a listing remotely, and occasionally make an offer without ever physically visiting the property; now this has become the norm. Trevor agrees: ‘in the first lockdown, I sold four properties through virtual viewings. This is unheard of.’  Furthermore, the majority of our overseas clients that have a UK base haven’t been back since lockdown began and are managing their homes remotely.

Smart technology at Walpole Mayfair. Image by Oliver Burns Studio.

This connectivity and use of advanced technology will become an integral part of all future luxury properties. Digital readiness begins before entering the home, with the growing demand for contactless entry. This enables everything to be controlled via a phone, entirely removing the need for keys. ‘The trend for touch-less technology also extends to inside luxury developments, where biometric or QR activated lifts controlled via a smart device are minimising the risk of infection’ says Kearney. Other contactless solutions include the surge in popularity for voice technology. Devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Homes have been widely available for some time, but we predict this will extend further to voice-activated entry systems.

Jumeirah Group Burj Al Arab Butler Service. Image via Jumeirah.

‘Social media has been instrumental in facilitating property transactions during the first lockdown.'

The trend for virtual communication can also be seen in the hospitality sector, whereby luxury hotels such as Dubai’s Jumeirah group offer guests e-butler services via WhatsApp and WeChat, allowing for emotional engagement via socially distanced communication without a compromise on convenience.

We predict this service will be adopted by luxury developers, as a way of offering quick, efficient and safe aftercare to their clients. ‘Social media has been instrumental in facilitating property transactions during the first lockdown. During this time, several buyers contacted me via Instagram alone, which consequently led to off-market business.’ says Trevor. Furthermore, he experienced a surge in his Instagram following, gaining 30,000 new followers in lockdown 1.0, illustrating the growing interest in super-prime property on social media.

Many of our luxury residences already incorporate state-of-the-art technology, such as the roof terrace of our Brummell Penthouse at Beau House, which features an intelligent system that cleverly responds to changing light. In addition, an outdoor rain sensor automatically closes the roof without the need for a manual switch.  We anticipate light technology will develop even further still to synchronise with circadian rhythms; an important requirement as we spend more time in our homes than ever before.

Country Family Residence wardrobe. Image by Oliver Burns Studio.

The home of the future will not just be equipped with touch-free capabilities, but also the next generation of innovative health technology. Our discerning clients are increasingly requesting water and air filtration systems. Italian wardrobe specialist, Lema, have introduced an Air Cleaning System, which minimises the threat of the virus as well as cleaning garments of odours and pollution particles.

Trevor predicts: ‘this may extend further in the form of a dedicated cleaning room featuring antiseptic dispensers as well as extra postal space and lockers for packages and food deliveries, thereby forming the only entry point into the home for deliveries or outside guests’. In addition, this may include UV disinfection lights to sanitise surfaces in seconds, as well as hidden sensors and health tracking devices in mirrors, recessed lighting and wall panels that are able to detect if visitors are running a fever.

Gaggenau handle free refrigerator. Image via Billionaire.

This demand for diagnostic tech represents a new form of intelligent technology that previously wasn’t a high priority in luxury properties. Coronavirus has brought the need for cleanliness into greater focus, and this extends to the materials being selected to build homes. Materials with naturally antimicrobial properties such as copper not only look stylish, but also help to maintain a safe home environment.

One of our favourite designs that meet this new need is Gaggenau’s handle-free refrigerators, which features inherently anti-bacterial surfaces such as stainless steel and copper as well as hands-free automation. Trevor believes that with this new cutting-edge technology available, it will shape the design of future luxury homes: ‘my clients are finding new ways to adapt to living with Coronavirus. Advanced technology is providing safe and secure solutions at the very top end of the market to ensure exposure to the virus is minimised, without the need to compromise on either style or luxury.’

Langham Penthouse Suite. Image by The Langham Hotel.

At Oliver Burns, we work alongside private clients and luxury developers, both of which have different requirements. For private clients, cyber security remains a top concern. We look to best-in-class specialist consultants to provide security solutions that create a safe and secure environment to work from home. Likewise, remote working space is now a key consideration for any luxury development.

We have been working from private members clubs such as Soho House for years, but we envision that the communal workspace will also shift to hotels. Birch community, a grade II listed property that serves as both a hotel, wellness and co-working space is one such example of this hybrid form of accommodation.  

With an increasingly younger Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) demographic looking to luxury hotels such as The Langham and The Shangri-La as the benchmark for the facilities they require to successfully and comfortably work remotely, communal work spaces are only set to grow in popularity. With amenities such as superfast Hyperoptic WiFi, an infinity pool or gym, and even Michelin-star cuisine, high-end hotels are offering a much-needed dedicated workspace that limits the need for travel.

The Brummell Penthouse Beau House Kitchen. Image by Oliver Burns Studio.

With a smart house now also a healthier one, we predict safety-focused technology will continue to evolve, with the focus remaining firmly on wellbeing without compromising on style. As Trevor asserts: ‘as with all innovations, these new forms of technology will be seen first in the luxury end of the market, setting the tone for what is important in our homes in the future.’ In our next instalment in this series on super-prime property in a post-Covid world, we will be exploring the importance of wellbeing in the home.