Homes of the Future
Home technology experts warn about apartments that do not have the cabling and infrastructure to enable current and future digital services to be installed. They face being left behind in the race towards “Smart living”.
South Africa residential projects, such as Mzuri Estate, already incorporate futuristic technology to enable energy saving, internal communications, promote a sense of community, enhance security and allow residents to control the various functions of their apartment’s functions from any location.
Buying a home means investing in the future. But the house you're in today won't be entirely compatible with your needs tomorrow. Rising costs—and, in some cases, dwindling availability—of energy and water are changing how our homes function. Meanwhile, social trends dictate not only how we build homes, but also how we live in them. The building industry is responding by developing construction methods and materials that outperform anything used in the past, while automated systems help homeowners do more with less.
Here are our favourite trends that we predict will be seen in the not too distant future.
1. Home Automation
Smart homes monitor their own efficiency—and making life easier and safer.
TODAYIn Smart homes, a single device—often a Smartphone—controls lights, appliances, heating, irrigation, and can even lock doors locks to better suit the needs of the occupants at any given time. Smart thermostats, such as the Nest, study how you live and make adjustments to align with this. The more sophisticated the automation, the more efficient and comfortable a home can be.
TOMORROWThe home will be equipped with a central nervous system to sense and analyse all appliances and systems, making adjustments when required. It will send us messages to tell us we're out of milk and could even order it for us. Biometrics will replace the key: We'll unlock doors by means of a handle that validates our thumbprint before activating the circuit.
Cheaper, faster, and more durable prefab systems will replace lumber framing.
TODAYSome stick-framed homes aren't durable enough to survive the life of their mortgage. This is partly due to cost-cutting construction methods that undermine quality. But whenever many parts, each with its inherent flaws, combine to create a single structure, problems arise. One solution is to prefabricate entire exterior walls in a factory. Prefab homes aren't a new idea, though they're often associated with cheap, flimsy, or temporary structures. But high-quality modular systems featuring concrete-based panels, wood composites, or structurally insulated panels are changing that perception. Insulated wall units arrive on-site with window cut-outs and electrical and plumbing conduits in place. "This is cost-effective and reduces building-site errors," says New Mexico builder Ron Jones, a National Association of Home Builders consultant.
TOMORROWMassive parts, including entire walls and roofs, will be poured from autoclaved aerated concrete, a porous, lightweight product with great strength and excellent insulating properties. Cranes will lift these sections into place on-site. The home's window assembly will be prefabricated too. The receiver jamb will arrive pre-installed on a wall, and a sash assembly will be added using a weatherproof lever-lock mechanism. To change window styles or replace a damaged window, homeowners will simply unlock the levers on the interior jamb and put in new panes.
3. Social Trends
TODAYEco boomers—the children of baby boomers—don't want sprawling, suburban homes. Data collected by real estate consultants RCLCO show that two-thirds would prefer to live in a diverse, walkable community, while half would trade a large plot for closer proximity to work and shopping. "We're changing the idea of location, location, location," says urban designer Marianne Cusato.
TOMORROWEco boomers will not only become the largest group of homeowners since their parents but the largest group of homebuilders too. This shift could spell the end of stick-framed houses. "Eco boomers are going to be more open to the efficiencies of modular building," Cusato says. They will also be far more likely to use plumbing and heating systems that help conserve water and energy.
Solar energy now turns roofs into power generators, but future homes will go one better, using less energy overall.
TODAYOur homes consume a quarter of the nation's energy, and heating and cooling alone can guzzle up to 60% of a typical household's $2,200 annual energy bill. Modern temperature-control systems use a fraction of the energy they did a generation ago, and the appliances are downsizing. Some furnaces today are no bigger than a three-drawer cabinet. The number of homes with ultra-low energy demands is also increasing, thanks to tight door seals, high-R insulation, and low-U windows, which can help reduce bills by up to 90%. (High-R and low-U factors indicate better insulation and greater resistance to heat conductivity, respectively.) However, a third of the home's energy is still used to heat water. The roof can provide the solution: It's a gigantic heat sink, absorbing solar energy from above and heat from the rooms below. This energy can be used to heat water and rooms. A roof can also generate electricity by means of photovoltaic peel-and-stick film applied directly to a metal roof or with roofing shingles containing solar arrays.
TOMORROWSophisticated heating and cooling systems will monitor current weather patterns to keep conditions comfortable. Heat-transport fluids developed by the University of Maryland contain heat-absorbing nano-sized particles that move through tubing under the roof deck, transporting waste heat to a heat exchanger. Improved photovoltaic roof panels will become efficient enough to power separate circuits to feed LED lights, computers, and other electronics. Windows will also assist. UCLA researchers have developed a transparent PV film that is applied directly to glass to keep heat in or out as the case may be.
Rising rates and dwindling resources will encourage us to use less of this precious commodity.
TODAYWater rates soar as municipalities grapple with economics, infrastructure upgrades, and droughts. But water usage—and bills—are slashed in half by installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, fixing leaky pipes, and retrofitting toilets with low- or dual-flush devices. Outside, moisture meters and soaker hoses manage irrigation better while rain collectors and drought-resistant plants complete the equation.
TOMORROWLocal governments will relax restrictions on grey-water systems recycling non-sewage waste for non-potable uses. The rising cost of municipal water will lead to sophisticated monitoring devices to track each and every drop—to the dollar. Suddenly, Caltech's vision of a better toilet—a solar-powered unit recycling water and turning waste into fuel—doesn't seem so far-fetched.