July 15 2008 / by Antonio Manfredi
Category: The Home Year: General Rating: 15 Hot
With all the media attention focused on the financial chaos of the housing industry, technology is emerging as an even more powerful force of change. More and more home buyers are placing emphasis on technology, or lack thereof, in the process of buying their new home. This is causing a surge in demand for technologies that are changing the way we have looked at homes for generations, all driven by an increasingly educated home buyer that’s looking toward the future for efficient new products and solutions.
Industry experts, corporations, and consumers are all pointing to the same trend within the housing industry: the home is no longer looked at as mere bricks and mortar, but rather as a technological platform with the capability to adapt. Technology is seen as a means to carry the concept of an affordable and liveable private home into the 21st century, a concept now under attack.
Homes, followed by cars, represent the single biggest investment for the average American. They also consume the most resources, causing the biggest pain to our wallets. They are also a place where we spend a significant amount of time, perhaps our most important resource of all. There is no doubt that the home represents a major part of our lives, both economically and in terms of quality of life.
Despite some advances the home has been slow to change hundreds of years. Studies have shown that the housing industry has been the least innovative of our major industries despite its size. Most people realize this is unsustainable, given the problems facing the world today. In response consumers are creating an insatiable demand for technology within the home. (cont.)
Now more than ever consumers are swarming to technology portals to find out more about technology integration and the home. A growing awareness of technology has produced a dynamic shift in understanding. Consumers are interested in the concept of a networked home, a platform in which many of the homes functions are automated. In recent surveys over 80% of respondents would put a home network system in their home. The benefits of convergence are enormous when discussing the home as a technology platform, especially when discussing energy efficiency. According to JD Power and Associates, over 98% of new home buyers expect builder to incorporate energy saving features. The home is also being looked at as a self sustaining entity, a structure that produces its own energy and is less dependent on the grid. These concepts are all pointing to a period of dramatic and sustained change.
In response to these trends the concept of “future proofing” has emerged as a major focus of home buyers, a way to ensure the viability of the home. It also means avoiding homes with dated systems and design, and the increasing awareness of what is obsolete and no longer acceptable. Starting out as a trend within high-end homes, it has since become a more common trend with the average home buyer as well. The concept basically buying a home that incorporates features that will improve and maintain its value in the future, both in terms of economics and quality of life. Health, safety, connectivity, and efficiency are all powerful drivers that are driving consumer interest. It also means avoiding homes that are lacking key technological advancements. Below are a list of areas of the home where the concept of future proofing and awareness is the most apparent.
1. Home networking and automation- Future proofing a home could not be accomplished without planning for electronic devices and systems in the future. Essentially in the construction phase this means pre-wiring a home to allow for the integration of future components. Structured wiring is a concept coined by building professionals to describe a type of prewiring that allows for the adding of electrical components at a later date. Systems such as data networks, motorized windows, lighting, climate control, and telephone and intercom systems are all subsystems that can be added in a home as it evovles. This also provides the infrastructure for the automated home, one of the most valid types of future proofing. Going beyond a mere platform for lighting, entertainment, and security, the automated home can respond to changes in the environment without intervention by the homeowner. A key example is a home that cleans itself, or automatically communicates with the electrical grid to adjust energy consumption during peak demand. With central control a homeowner could control this automated network from within the home or without. Portals could allow you to tap into your homes network and check on security as an example.
2. Energy efficiency and the use of renewables- With the cost of energy rising, curbing home energy consumption is a key way to future proof the home. Systems that afford not just a higher level of efficiency, but make the home a net producer of power instead of a net consumer will become increasingly popular. According to a recent survey by Sharp Electronics, 8 out of 10 homebuyers want solar power to be an option in the purchase of their new home. Products and innovation from small companies are exploding onto the marketplace and becoming more reliable. Alternative forms of energy such as wind are also becoming more prominent in residential housing, as governments increase subsidies for their implementation.
3. Adaptable home design-Lifestyles are changing, and a home that can accomodate more and more gadgets, as well as generational differences, will serve us well into the future. Space management allows a home to utilize the available space more effectively, and to accomodate multiple uses for rooms throughout the house. Flexible wall spaces can be integrated to pattern after changing uses in the home. Also design must incorporate the fact that many more people are aging in place, and will need a home designed around their infirmity before that comes to pass. Essentially future proof design seeks to be adaptable.
4. Eco-friendly homes that have been built with the future in mind will make sound use of scarce resources and implement recycled materials. They will limit their carbon footprint and be designed to make as little impact on the environment as possible. Many homes of the future may be completely “off the grid” (a term that will become increasinly more prevalent), even storing and filtering their own water supplies for various uses. This perspective of the home as an ecological entity intertwined with the environment will become increasingly prevalent. With the chaotic behavior of world energy markets and the high cost of public infrastructure, future homes will be less dependant on centralized systems to provide them with various needs, striving for self sufficiency.