This is the week we get out our crystal ball and have a look at what homes will be like in the future. We’re not talking about the world of the Jetsons. We’re talking about how home will change in the next five to ten years. Your home is the largest investment you will ever make, and you need to be prepared for coming trends. There are a lot of factors at work that will create huge changes in our homes, and home automation will be a big part of it.
We will be building smaller more compact living environments, but they will be packed with punch. It is no surprise that fast-changing technology is the leading factor driving home design and home automation. With IPhones and touch pads now common place, intuitive user interfaces and touch controls will be used to control HVAC systems, lighting, sound, video and security in our home environments. Enhanced safety features and controls for its occupants will be an important consideration as the internet and social media outlets continue to connect us more and more.
So, what will the home of the near-future be like? The following are some of the ideas the industry is considering.
First and foremost is quality of life. There was a time when home size was a status symbol and people tried to buy the biggest place with the largest yard. Now, with more and more buyers wanting a short commute and a city lifestyle and with less and less serviced land, it isn’t about size. It’s about your day to day experience in the home. The new homes may be smaller, but they will be higher quality in all aspects. Home automation is a big part of that. The enhanced electronic lifestyle, convenience features and improved security are all major parts of a smaller but better home. High quality automated appliances will also be a part of this. The products that we choose will be more intuitive and use advanced technologies as well. Kohler’s Numi™ toilet, DTV Prompt™ digital showering system, and Crevasse® prep sink with Cynchronus™ rinsing technology are just a few of the newest products to offer more convenience for the user and enhanced functionality.
The monster homes we see now will go because of the many drawbacks to owning them. One problem with the old-fashioned “McMansion” is that they tended to be fuel and energy guzzlers. Utility prices continue to climb fast than the rate of inflation. The future home will have to be energy efficient. Home automation can help in many ways, with intelligent window coverings, thermostat control and better and more efficient ways to use and control lighting. A green home is an automated home. There will also be people who will want to leave the power grid and produce their own energy. A basic 230 watt solar panel is now very affordable. However, managing the output from that kind of system efficiently will still be something best left to a home automation system. The touch screen of the future will tell you how many watts your home is generating, what you’re using and how much you have stored, and will be able to switch the entire house to “eco” mode when required.
As real estate hits peak values, the “resale for a profit” mentality will go. Instead, people will look to “buy and hold” in a home that is tailored to their lifestyle. That means more and more “design/build” where the buyer, the designer, the builder and technology provider are all part of the same team from day one. Automating the home exactly the way you want it is a key part of personalizing your living space.
Some designers are now thinking beyond the single family home and looking at the multi-generation “family compound.” This used to be something only the rich could do, but the single family home may soon be a luxury we can’t afford. The compound home is like a mini-resort, with common areas like kitchens, pools, saunas and dining rooms. Home automation will manage the different areas so they are easily reserved by family members. The use of automated moving partitions will allow spaces to be combined or divided to make them more versatile. Automated walls will also allow us to open the home to the outside, bringing in more fresh air and improving our health. An automated modular home is ready to become a living space, a work space or a space to entertain.
Finally, there is the effect of our ageing population. One of the biggest changes that we will see residentially in the next 5-10 years is the permanent implementation of accessible design. As the Baby Boomers age, we will experience a “Senior Tsunami”, and the way we have designed homes in the past will not work for this ageing generation. The independent Boomer generation wants and expects to “age in place”, and the only way they will be able to do that is with new construction or extensive remodelling to make their homes accessible. Home automation will be a huge part of allowing seniors to stay in their homes. Part of this will be the emergence of Universal Design. This is a new set of standards that benefit all users, but especially those with disabilities. If you live long enough, you will develop a disability. With life spans getting longer, designs that assists a variety of disabilities will become standard construction. The changes that we will see will include wider hallways and doors, entrances on grade or ramps incorporated into the landscaping and facade, faucets and door handles controlled by push buttons or touch screens. Stairs will be minimized in new construction, and automated chair lifts, stair lifts, and elevators will be retrofitted in existing homes. Home theatre systems will be equipped with wireless hearing-assist systems for older family members.
Home automation will help make the house more accessible for those confined to wheelchairs. Walk in showers with the water controlled from a touch pad will grow in popularity, and roll in tubs with automated doors will become more commonplace. Kitchen cabinets can be motorized with automated mechanisms that allow them to be lowered to the correct height. Furniture and appliances will continue focusing on ergonomics i.e. washers and dryers will be front loading, and oven doors will hinge from the side, and easy to use touch-screens will become standard in almost every home. A flashing light will be installed throughout the house to help alert a resident with a hearing impairment to the phone or doorbell ringing. Lighting and lighting control will change as eyes age and require more light.
You may think of these ideas as being something we will see far down the road, but it is amazing how fast things change. Where we are (in the Greater Toronto area), the size of the average condo is dropping at the rate of 1% a year. As construction of old fashioned suburban homes declines in Toronto, a hundred new tall condominiums are under construction. Many of these changes we have been looking at are already here.
At OneTouch Automation, we believe you need to anticipate these trends. Don’t invest your money in a home automation system that isn’t ready for what’s about to happen. Talk to us about the versatile, adaptable future friendly systems we supply. OneTouch is there to make your life style better, now and in the future.