The House of the Future — How Will It Function, Look and Feel?
Picture the house of the future, and you’ll likely call up an image of the Jetsons’ space pad. But is that really where we’re headed?
Well, decades ago, people were certain we’d be much closer to a space-age-like existence than we actually are today. But what about 40 or 50 years from now? What will our homes look, feel and function like then? Hint: We won’t be thinking of them as “smart homes” … technology will be much less a novelty and simply a natural part of how we live in our homes.
Here’s a peek at what some experts say we can expect:
Materials and Design
Surprise — we’re not going to be living in glass-domed or spaceship-like structures a generation or two from now. While our dwellings will likely be embedded with much more technology, home design won’t change drastically from what it is now, says Jennifer Goodman, senior editor of Builder magazine. The bottom line will still be comfort and aesthetics, she says.
Take solar technology, for instance. “[It’s] come a long way in being integrated into the traditional look of a home,” Goodman says, “instead of making the house look different and futuristic.”
But while the architecture may not see striking changes, the materials used inside and around our homes will likely be dramatically different. “There will be a move to more sustainable materials that curb greenhouse gasses and slow global warming,” says Goodman. We’ll also see building materials that can help absorb indoor pollutants and help “clean” the air inside the house, she says, along with more durable materials that can “help combat extreme weather conditions.”
There are also material innovations in the pipeline today that, in 40 years’ time, can go a long way to helping us minimize upkeep, like self-healing concrete that can repair its own cracks, and self-cleaning finishes on windows and building façades that can help keep most surfaces looking pristine.
When it comes to energy, we can expect big changes, too. “The impact of 50 years of innovation on solar and battery storage will be dramatic,” says Tom Kerber, director of research at the emerging-technology consulting firm Parks Associates.
That means many homes will likely be off the grid, generating their own energy on-site, he says.
But you can forget the idea of giant solar panels awkwardly mounted onto roofs. In the future, we’ll be coating windows and roofs with transparent solar films that can help block excess heat, help reduce air conditioning needs and even produce energy at the same time.
Though, traditional heating and cooling systems will likely be a thing of the past: According to HGTV, both cooling and heating can be provided by the walls themselves, which can also be embedded with electronic devices that “simply warm or cool on demand.”
And while today it’s seen as progressive if a home is net-zero, where the building generates as much energy as it consumes in a given year, Builder’s Jennifer Goodman says the future may give way to net-positive homes, where there is a surplus of energy produced.
“It’s not a far cry now from the ultimate vision of homes that give back,” she says.
Technology can also dramatically change the way we live in our homes. Today, the typical “smart home” device lets us power one or two appliances from our phone. But, in 40 or 50 years’ time, it will likely be economically viable to connect everything, says Parks Associates’ Kerber.
Every item in our pantry, every piece of furniture, and every knickknack can be connected and operated from a central system that runs invisibly in the background, he says.
The sensory aspects of our homes — the lighting, music, temperatures — may be equally seamless, adapting to weather conditions, our own comfort preferences, and even to specific individuals, as we move from room to room.
The only time the control system could require our attention, says Popular Mechanics, is when it sends out an alert (letting us know that we’ve run out of milk, for instance, but that a new gallon has been ordered and is on the way), or when it provides a prompt or nudge that helps us better manage our lives: displaying our weight and vital signs in the bathroom mirror, for instance, or, in the case of an elderly homeowner, passively monitoring breathing, heart and activity rates to help make sure all is well.
Advances in audio and video analytics may also boost artificial intelligence, Kerber says, allowing robots to operate as personal assistants inside our homes — as cleaners, caregivers and even companions. Which means that we may ultimately have something in common with the Jetsons in 50 years’ time: our own personal Rosie.