Anyone who works with young people or is on the hunt for highly qualified young talent needs to understand what Generation Z (or Gen Z for short) is all about. At the same time, their values and visions provide an insight into the things that might shape future consumption and living. Put simply, those born after 2000 do things differently.

Generation Z refers to individuals born between 1995 and 2005, although recent publications also include those born between 1997 and 2012 as well. Sociologists also use the term Gen Z to refer to this age group. Generation Z has been born into a new era characterised by rapid change. Right from the very outset, these individuals have grown up in a digitised and increasingly interconnected world. Their everyday lives and professional activities are shaped by digital factors even more than they are for their slightly older counterparts, the Millennials. They are «digital natives» in the literal sense. They are regarded as technophiles who are well-versed in using apps and smartphones. They are well used to communicating in a different way. Many of them will often get a good education spread over a longer period of time. What sets Generation Z apart from the rest is their values:  

  • Work: They do not work solely for the money and do not necessarily want to embark on a traditional middle-class professional career either.
  • Meaning: They look beyond the meaning of life at work and at home, and they feel jointly responsible for society.
  • Life goals: Self-fulfilment is important to them, both in their professional as well as private life. This is also accompanied by a desire to advance themselves continuously.
  • Social: Family, friends and relationships are very important to Gen Z.
  • Communication: Social media and the Internet are not merely used to find out information or as sources of entertainment. For them, the digital world is an extension of reality.

Digitisation and societal transformation are creating new ways of living. So what about owing property? Or having fixed plans in place for the next 10 years? That’s not necessarily what «Digital Natives» are into. And what about having your own car? Again, not necessarily, as the sharing economy is one of Generation Z’s central ideas.

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Generation Z: a new plan for life

The same also applies to living and all it entails. «Pay, when you need it», as the motto goes. So an outline of how this generation intends to live also becomes clear – flexibly, simply and in an uncomplicated way. Generation Z prefers to live close to hubs, where attractive and dynamic employers are located and there are plenty of opportunities to make contact. The location in question needs to be a place where people have access to a community and like-minded individuals (with a focus on connectivity, networking and a sense of unity).

These factors all point in favour of micro-apartments, preferably located close to the city. Visions like smaller scale living and environmental awareness merge together here. At the same time, there are also clear parallels with the tiny-house movement and the motto «Reduce to the Max», where the size required for an apartment is reduced. Generation Z will rent a small apartment to begin with, at least during or straight after completing their studies. Setting up their own business or buying their own property are more longer-term projects and visions.

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Photo: MOVEment

New living: doing everything differently

In terms of initial conclusions, the fact that land is scarce and expensive in favoured city locations means there is no way of avoiding new designs. A micro-apartment or floor plan needs to satisfy all of the essential needs in the life of a «digital native», and over a small area too. In short, this is the apartment of tomorrow.

There’s nothing wrong with making the residential areas extremely versatile and keeping them somewhat more modest. It goes without saying that «digital natives» do not come with a semi-trailer packed full of furniture and cardboard boxes either. On the contrary, it should be possible to move flexibly and simply each time. After all, crammed DVD racks, bulky bookshelves and wall units measuring several metres in length are nothing more than excess baggage!

Project in Switzerland: flexible modules

One of the very first Swiss providers to get involved in this key niche market is the Halter Group. Back in 2019, this project developer built 41 so-called micro-apartments in Adliswil, near to Zürich, under the «MOVEment» brand. The apartments have between 34 and 61 square metres of space, with the cheapest costing around CHF 1,000.00 rent per calendar month. Alex Valsecchi, Business Development Manager at Halter, said: «There are increasing numbers of singles, divorcees and widows, as well as career nomads and well-educated people who want to start a family when they are older. Indeed, the number of single-person households is growing too.» The project marketing is also well-suited to Generation Z too. First-time tenants include a remarkably large number of individuals renting an apartment here for the first time in their lives. It is also noticeable how many young and well-educated women are living here too. 

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Photo: MOVEment

Halter’s project is based on a prototype by the architect Angelo Roventa, where each individual apartment is made up of different modules. The rooms adapt to an individual’s requirements, or how a particular day is progressing, at the touch of a button – whether for sleeping, living or working. These movable modules are operated using chains and electric motors.

In the meantime, Halter has been able to gain valuable experience from «The Jay» residential complex in Adliswil. The company has recently completed an additional 35 MOVEment properties in the Claraturm in Basel. There are currently around 300 additional units either in the planning stage or being built throughout Switzerland. Halter’s aim in the longer term is to bring a larger number of new micro-apartments onto the market each year, as demand for specific product offerings for Generation Z will undoubtedly continue to grow over time.

Generation Z: living and more

The marketing specialist Michael Blaser, owner of Blaser Gränicher AG in Küsnacht (ZH), expects new challenges to arise:

The difference with regard to Generation Z is already evident in the way they find out information differently. This means marketing measures for them need to be structured differently too.

With regard to the younger generation, the expert noted that the surroundings and local infrastructure are almost more important than the apartment itself.

On the other hand, the wrong approach would be to just build units in specific clusters, i.e. for extremely restrictive target groups, like places for 20 to 30-year-olds in one location, then some «apartments for seniors» in another location, and small apartments for singles too. «Experience shows that most people want a vibrant and mixed environment along with opportunities to make contact», says Michael Blaser. What is also important is the ability to convey a certain self-perception, attitude to life and a certain style with each property. Simply advertising an «80m² heated area» giving you a roof over your head is no longer any good as a marketing concept, not least given the imminent excess capacity in the apartment market over the next few years.

Digital Natives: who chooses the form of living?

Expert Michael Blaser believes the sector still has a lot to learn: «I ask myself time and time again; why is it that only those in their 50s and 60s are most represented in building committees and among decision-makers?», which is itself a rhetorical question. As a result, the service provider Blaser Gränicher has set up its own forum under the title of «Property Workshop (Immobilienwerkstat)». In short, it is a network of experts from the construction and real estate sectors. It stays faithful to the motto of being open to everyone, but with a focus on involving young talent.

FAQ’s Generation Z:

For investors and project developers of investors:

Unlike standard apartment blocks, projects involving co-living or micro-apartments are generally regarded as specialist properties. This creates opportunities, but they are also mostly associated with higher risks too.

Potential clients in this target group are flexible in every respect. In general terms, more frequent tenant changeovers are to be expected here too.

In most cases, Swiss buildings are built to last for 50 or 60 years. Market trends will frequently be subject to change at shorter intervals. Property that can be adapted in a flexible way offer a significant competitive edge.

For apartment seekers:

The costing differs greatly depending on the project idea in question. Compare a specific offer with the standard rents that are otherwise available.

What is offered in terms of additional services or shared infrastructure? Is this to your liking? How much does the «overall package» cost?

Are the architecture, private and communal areas suitable for social exchanges?

What are the rules in terms of notice periods, sub-letting, building rules, etc.?

Can certain things be shared or even rented? (e.g. furniture to fill your first ever apartment)?

You can read more information about tomorrow’s living trends in our articles Rurbanisation: the megatrends following the pandemic and HOffice: Co-working at home.