Predicting the future is always a flawed exercise, but musing over how homes may look and function in 20, 50 or 100 years seems like a fun topic anyway! Current trends in home design and construction do give us some idea of what will emerge in the next 10 years at least.
And if you are a home builder what you want to know is how people will live in 10 or 20 years so that you can better predict what features, functions and forms new homes will take. So, the key to understanding the future of home design lies in understanding how people’s lifestyles are changing globally, as well as in specific countries and cultures.
Changing Lifestyles in a Smaller World
The Internet, developing economies worldwide and the desire to own a home are changing the demand equation for new housing in almost every nation. Where once it was out of the question for many people to own their own home, people all over the world are finding creative ways to make their dwellings as much an expression of themselves and their lifestyle as about a simple “roof overhead”.
Improved economic activity in countries such as India and China are fueling global demand for home building materials, furniture and accessories. In order to keep pace and meet the growing needs of the home building industry, manufacturers will need to develop ever more efficient supply chains and unique, superior products that customers are demanding.
Looking at social progression, changing lifestyles and new home trends, several things become fairly clear on the horizon:
Smaller Footprint Homes
As the modern family has tended to become smaller in developed nations and the demands on space efficiency have increased, architects and designers have begun to focus on maximizing space in homes and other residential dwellings.
With real estate prices showing little signs of a long term slowdown, maximizing space utilization is a key principle; a 4500 square foot home on three levels uses no more real estate square footage than a 1500 square foot ranch home on one level!
People are also redefining what home means; a high rise condo downtown is just as much home as a large suburban house. Home is where we live and we all want the comforts and style that express our individual tastes and lifestyles.
With limited space available to build new homes, this means we must find ways to live comfortably while optimizing the amount of real estate and square footage required to house the earth’s growing human population. The fact is that overcrowding will force people to find ways to live in smaller dwellings.
Resources such as electricity, water and home heating and cooling fuels will continue to become scarcer, putting a premium on home efficiency. Home appliances such as dishwashers and HVAC systems will also continue to become more efficient with the research and development efforts of manufacturers.
Any architect innovative enough to design a 1500 square foot home that feels comfortable as comfortable and offers all the amenities of a home twice that size will do very well as the 21st century unfolds!
Engineered and Recycled Home Building Materials
Green and Sustainable are no longer just buzz words and industry jargon; the trend toward sustainable building materials is real and will only continue to grow in the future.
Most people will not settle for inferior home building materials and products just because they use recycled and/or more sustainable materials! But the industry has continued to find ways to make products that are not only more environmentally friendly, but often times superior to more traditional materials.
The recent devastating damage of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana proved that building materials can be salvaged and reused, generating profits for salvagers while also providing valuable, recycled building materials such as wood and masonry products.
Concrete, asphalt and composite materials will become more and more popular materials that can be combined and engineered to look like natural stone, metal and other traditional materials, often at a lower cost and with longer service life than the real McCoy!
Fusion of Home Architectural Styles
Another trend we will see in the future is a fusion of different design styles and aesthetics. As with food, art and music, the mobility modern transportation provides, along with online communities will continue to bring people from far-flung cultures together to share ideas.
With technology and more open cross-cultural communication, architects and designers can become inspired by the traditions and styles of many different cultures and find new ways to combine styles to create living spaces that feel totally different than anything previously experienced.
Design movements and styles you might think would clash can often create new aesthetics that suddenly seem in harmony; whether function or form, the results will produce new conveniences and living space dynamics that should delight and comfort homeowners of the future!
Smart Homes Will Get Smarter
The smart home has been predicted for decades; one that makes the bed, sweeps and vacuums during the day while you’re gone and has dinner ready for you when you get home. And while not all of these far-reaching predictions have come to pass, homes are getting smarter all the time.
Today’s lighting and audio video control systems can open and close window shades, set lighting levels and turn on the TV, Stereo and game console. Automated vacuum robots have become popular and more advanced “self cleaning” options will be here soon enough. Look out Jetsons; here we come.
Prefab Homes of the Future
Another trend we expect to see continue gaining merit and popularity is the prefabricated home. The evolution of modular and prefab home design is quickly accelerated. Designs like the Rotor House are showing that small can be unique and convenient, especially for younger people and business people who travel a lot and don’t need the hassle and expense of an apartment or traditional home.
A home built in a factory will be engineered to exacting standards, less prone to oversights and on-the-fly construction site changes. Quality control processes help ensure all components are built to specifications. On site construction time and expense are reduced significantly. And, you will get exactly what you ordered on the showroom floor, much like buying a new car.
Energy Efficiency and Self Reliance
People are also becoming more aware of the possibilities of solar energy these days. Heating one’s own home by harnessing this freely available, endless power supply will become the norm as chip technology continues to revolutionize the solar energy movement worldwide.
Home water filtration systems and collecting rain water from rain gutters into a cistern are popular trends already in many rural areas, but such systems may also gain popularity in more urban settings as people look for new sources of fresh water.
The ecological benefits of reduced reliance on centralized infrastructure may become a more mainstream trend as economic pressures stem from global scarcity of resources. New technologies are being developed to meet the growing demand and new innovations we can not yet imagine will make homes more efficient and less of a drain on overall energy, water, waste water facilities and other key resources.
Increased Focus on Form and Function
Often in retrospect, a fad only becomes a lasting trend when whatever it is proves to be disruptive to previous technologies. A good example of this is the invention of drywall; it didn’t displace lathe and plaster because it looked better, but because it was cheaper and better suited to covering interior walls inside homes (even though it took many years due to union rules).
We know that good design results in things that not only look pleasing, but which make any task or activity more fulfilling, more efficient and/or more effective. In the future, with so much specialization within the many niches that have been spawned from the core of the home building industry, quantum leaps in home design are still possible.
Companies now specialize in everything from ceiling fans to faucets, roofing materials to vinyl floors, window fashions to door locks. One wonders how many specialists we actually need sometimes!
However, don’t expect the trajectory of such changes to be too rapid; it may take longer for consumers and homeowners to adapt than it does for the inventors to come up with new and better home building innovations.
Exploring Home Designs of the Past
Just as the retro style has become increasingly popular in the world of automotive design, home architects and designers continue to explore the roots of home architecture to find new and interesting design combinations.
Many architectural innovations across the span of human civilization’s desire not only to put “a roof over our heads” but evolved for very specific functional as well as aesthetic reasons. The body of architectural and home design knowledge is vast and many proven design concepts and architectural features have little room for improvement; until something significantly better comes along, sticking with the tried and true often makes the most sense!
Computer Aided Design Tools
One of the most far reaching changes in home design over the last several decades has been the rapid evolution and increasingly advanced 3D graphics capabilities afforded by computer-aided design (CAD) software.
These tools make it possible to design and render a realistic image of a home from nearly any angle. Changes in materials or design features can be made and in real time you can see how the home looks with wood instead of stone for the mantelpiece, whether cedar siding or singles will look better for that gable over the front entry way … really anything you want to see before you decide its right for your new home!
Prefabricated cabinets are made by taking the code from those computer drawings and essentially using it to cut all the required panels, face frames and cabinet doors with an automated saw. In one side goes raw plywood and out the other comes all the pieces. This type of fabrication works for roof trusses, walls, floors … apply this thinking to an entire prefabricated home and you can see the efficiency and economic benefits pretty quickly.