IN my last column I argued that housing in the future will trend towards being smaller and more efficient as the forces of population growth and rising costs dictate a more humble dwelling.
Smaller homes are an economically and environmentally sound solution for growing communities and are a trend we'll see in the future, but what other trends are we to expect? What might the house of tomorrow look like?
Here are my top eight design trends that you can expect to see in the house of the future: ? Small is smart: As I argued in my last column, the oversized "Hummer" house is driving on a dead-end road. We will see a trend towards smaller, more efficiently designed homes to meet the increasing pressures of affordability and space. The "small house" movement, professing the concept of quality over quantity, has been around for more than a decade and it's a trend that's here to stay.
- Prefab-ulous: Prefabricated homes are gaining increased popularity these days. I'm not talking about the standard trailer park variety but rather cutting-edge architecturally designed modular homes that are factory-made and come in a range of bold, contemporary styles. Flip through the pages of the modern home design magazine Dwell and you'll see that prefabricated modern homes are a trend for the future.
- Green living: It was once called the "Green" movement but a more environmentally responsible approach to living is now a regular part of daily life and is here to stay. And it's none too soon. More environmentally sensitive means, methods and materials will become the standard for the construction industry. As our general environmental consciousness grows, so too will our demand for greener alternatives. We will see a forgoing of plastics, laminates and off-gassing materials in favor of natural, healthier alternatives for building materials and finishes.
- Energy efficiency: Homes will become increasingly more energy efficient as we move into the future. The general layout and design of homes will become more sensitive to the climatic and environmental characteristics of a given region. The promotion of cost-effective, energy-efficient building practices and technologies will invariably become entrenched in our national building codes.
- The flexible, efficient floor plan: As homes become smaller and more efficient, the flexibility of a floor plan will become increasingly more important. For centuries, the Japanese have been the masters of flexible living through the use screens, sliding doors and folding partitions. Expect to see new homes incorporating these concepts as well.
- Working from home: Advances in technology are allowing many of us to work effectively from home and, as a result, we'll see a growing trend to incorporate well-designed office space into our households. The home office is a definite trend of the future. - Accessible Living: People are living longer and more and more elderly people are still living independently at home. Homes will need to adapt to the Age Wave and we will see a trend to more accessible design in our homes. Main floor master bedrooms, wheelchair accessibility, residential elevators and single level living will become increasingly popular in coming years. In 1900 the life expectancy in the United states was 47 years. Today it's 78. We're living longer and our homes will need to adapt.
- Risk mitigation: Earthquakes, landslides, floods and storms are always on the minds of planners and building code authorities. As environmental risk assessment becomes more and more sophisticated, so to will our ways to mitigate those risks. Homes of the future will adhere to ever-stricter national building code and regional zoning provisions to ensure the health and safety of the occupants.
Kevin Vallely is a residential designer in North Vancouver. Follow along Kevin's "small house" design at cliffhangerhouse.com.