There’s a good seven-and-a-half billion people who currently call Planet Earth their home. More than half of them live in cities – with this trend set to increase. Space is becoming scarce in urban environments, which raises the questions of how we want to live, work, commute, shop and spend our leisure time in future? And how can environmental protection and measures to slow climate change be reconciled with the demands of our everyday modern lives? Join us in taking a look into the future.
One of the greatest challenges for homes of the future is our increasing energy consumption, something that cannot be covered by fossil fuels going forward. With the impact of climate change becoming tangible, the need for green and energy-efficient buildings that use renewable energies and significantly improve their carbon footprint is growing.
Low energy houses have already set the benchmark when it comes to climate-friendly construction. It’s perfectly conceivable that the buildings of the future could function as compact, environmentally friendly power plants. Solar collectors and heat storage systems allow what are known as ‘plus-energy buildings’ to produce 100 per cent renewable energy for emission-free operation, while feeding any excess power into the public grid. Pilot projects such as the climate-positive hotel Green Solution House in the Danish town of Rønne and the futuristic Svart building made by Snøhetta in the Norwegian community of Meløy are already showing the direction this could take.
Along with improving the energy footprint, in future sustainable living will also mean using environmentally friendly and recyclable materials for construction. Natural, carbon-neutral materials such as wood and stone are therefore more in demand than ever. At the same time, in order to save resources, a keener focus will need to be directed at recycling and reusing construction materials once buildings reach the end of their useful life. This is equally true of conventional building materials such as steel and concrete.
New opportunities for the construction of environmentally friendly and resource-saving buildings in future are also offered by 3D-printed homes. While the first 3D-printed house made of concrete has already been completed in Germany, internationally active companies are now also researching and working on solutions for printing buildings using natural, renewable resources such as earth and plant waste.
So too is the trend in interior design moving away from a fast-moving throw-away society and towards high-quality and reusable circular solutions. A range of certifications provide information about using renewable raw materials, using resources sparingly, eliminating harmful substances and ensuring fair production conditions.
Smart Home technologies can also help save energy and resources in everyday life. Sensors monitor room temperature and air quality, automate heating control and provide detailed performance indicators that allow an eye to be kept on consumption on central end devices. Smart applications are increasingly becoming an integral component of architecture and will, in future, offer even more opportunities to automate processes in the home.
Living more efficiently not only means improving energy use and reducing one’s own carbon footprint, but also building to save space. What has become known as ‘conceptual living’ will play a key role in this: rooms will be designed to be multifunctional when there’s not a dedicated room available for every potential purpose. Modular and flexible furnishing systems that can be adapted to the individual floor space and room zones will replace fixed structures, ensuring that there’s room for everything even in a small space.
These living and interior design concepts are also used for tiny houses, which already offer an environmentally friendly alternative to rented apartments. Modular, mini self-contained homes such as the Cabin One Minimal House also allow for more mobility, flexibility and independence.
Another advantage of tiny houses is a design that saves both resources and space. Their small dimensions and straightforward installation make them suitable for plots of land that are unsuitable for conventional construction.
The trend towards outdoor living has long made itself noticeable on the furniture market. People’s desire to spend time outside and in nature has seen the boundaries between indoors and outdoors increasingly merge in their own homes. By selecting suitable furnishings and atmospheric lighting, you can turn a garden, balcony or patio into a comfortable open-air living room.
Over the last few months, the office has become a fixed feature in many people’s homes. For a number of years now, the home office has been evolving from an improvised make-do desk into a comfortable long-term solution. This development means we need to ask ourselves how we should configure our living spaces to allow us to concentrate and work productively.
Spaces to retreat that allow us to relax and enable a clear spatial demarcation between our work and leisure time are become more and more important. The interior design industry has already come up with a range of suitable solutions: sound-absorbing acoustic panels and screens can create the calm environment necessary when there’s no room specifically set aside for work. What’s more, smart technology optimises working conditions and makes everyday life easier.
There are also other areas in which the coronavirus pandemic has caused us to question previous attitudes to and expectations of our living environments. This isn’t just a matter of trends such as hygge, lagom and cocooning, but also the fundamental question of what makes us feel comfortable, safe and at ease in our home.
Like so many who had to stay home alone during social distancing, you might have thought about living with others, giving the trend to co-living a new relevance. The isolation experienced during the pandemic has redefined the value of community. In this context, the local neighbourhood has regained significance and will be integrated into future urban planning projects. Community spaces and local meeting points such as creative workshops, co-working spaces and roof gardens encourage people to spend more time together and boost a sense of belonging.
Many people (re)discovered the advantages offered by their local communities during the pandemic. This trend is manifested in the concept of the 15-minute city, which caters to all everyday needs within a 15-minute journey by bicycle or foot. Major cities such as Paris are already working on concepts and projects to create the conditions for this ‘hyperlocal’ way of life.
Danish architectural agency Bjarke Ingels is also pursuing this goal with its design of a Woven City for Toyota. This Japanese city of the future, which is currently being planned at the base of Mount Fuji, will see traffic moved underground to create more space above-ground for people to live together.
Regardless of whether you rent or own your own home in future, what’s clear is that the home of tomorrow will be smarter, more flexible, and more sustainable. It will offer us space to live, sleep and work both indoors and outdoors. And most importantly, it will continue to embody relaxation and security – our own personal place of well-being.
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