Futureproofing our Homes

Zurich Insurance and Arup Associates just completed an interesting study about what the house of the future migh look like. They suggest that "By around 2080 our relationship with our home might have changed beyond all recognition" Although this rendering of a fairly traditional streetform with two cars in the driveway is pretty recognizable.

Some of the ideas are obvious; some are interesting and others are wacky- "Our homes could even move with us. Walls, rooms and even floors could be added or taken away to accommodate three generations as we live longer and land becomes an even more premium commodity." The others are listed below the fold. I suspect that the vision of life in the suburbs in 74 years will be not nearly so bucolic. You can download the whole PDF from ::Arup

•The end of the commute: Technology leaps could create a commute-free society as more people work from home. The future may also include echoes from the past; local communities, shops, services and even our relationship with our neighbours could play a far greater part in our daily lives.

•Houses on stilts: In areas particularly at risk of flooding, houses built on stilts could become a common sight.

•Self heating: Solar panels, gas-filled triple-glazed windows and intelligent insulation, which can automatically adjust to the external temperature to control the heat indoors, could all be standard fittings and fixtures.

•Self cooling: To cope with peak summer temperatures that might regularly reach seven degrees higher than today, energy-hungry air conditioning units will be replaced by pipes carrying cool, recycled water built into, and around, ceilings and beams. Solar shades and houses built with extended overhangs would also help beat the heat. As temperatures regularly soar to 35oC and above, opening windows could become less effective during the heat of the day and patterns used in Mediterranean climates might become more common.

•Energy self sufficient: The UK might be growing its own energy thanks to greater use of bio-fuels from plants, such as rapeseed. Renewable energy sources could be a necessity, as energy generation becomes a community activity with smaller, local substations supplied with energy generated by family wind turbines and solar panels.

•Water independent: Today’s bathrooms could represent relics of a more indulgent age as water could become a luxury the planet can’t afford to waste. The priority will be saving water and our homes will be tailor-made to re-use and recycle water. In the house of the future the entire water used and waste produced could be re-used and recycled.

•Plug in cars: As our homes become power sources in their own right, at night we could find ourselves putting out the cat and plugging in the car to charge up its batteries at the same time.

•Death of DIY: The more hi-tech the house becomes, with solar panels, wind-turbines and geothermal energy systems, the less able we might become in DIY-ing our house repairs. Increased modularity will make it easier for us to adapt to our homes.

•Roof gardens: The vista of pitched roofs spanning suburbia could disappear to be replaced by either flat roofs covered with gardens of gravel or vegetation to aid water gathering and help minimise flood damage, or inverted pitched roofs to maximise rainwater harvesting.

•Flora and fauna: As regular droughts and water shortages grip the nation, our gardens could take on a new look with thirsty, delicate plants such as roses and hydrangeas supplanted by olive trees and cacti.

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