NHBC plans for 2050

Words:
Stephen Cousins

A future-gazing report anticipates multi-generational living, mini power plants and smart gizmos in homes

Predicting the future is a notoriously tricky business. In 30 years’ time, will we all be driving electric cars and getting our shopping delivered by drone, or will the combined impact of Brexit and climate change have left us adrift in a parched landscape without enough loose change to buy a tube of suncream?

Taking its own stab at decoding the impenetrable future, the NHBC Foundation has produced a report outlining the challenges architects may face when designing homes in the year 2050.

The Futurology report suggests that demographic shifts, such as a rapid increase in the number of elderly people and larger numbers of young people unable to afford to leave home, will drive demand for multi-generational accommodation where the young live into adulthood and older members of the family can be cared for.

Homes are expected to become more flexible and adaptable and, as many offices already do, allow for the simple re-configuration of rooms or shared spaces by using lightweight movable walls organised around fixed service ‘cores’.

The report predicts that a lack of affordable homes in urban centres and a growing trend for people to live alone will increase demand for micro-living apartments that borrow from the ingenuity of caravan and boat designs to overcome storage and space issues. This could put the squeeze on the government’s nationally described space standard of 38m2 for a single-person dwelling.

Neil Smith, head of standards, innovation and research at NHBC, told RIBAJ: ‘Since Lord Foster produced the report Towards an Urban Renaissance, in the late 90s, city centres have become desirable places to live in, particularly for young people, so micro-homes offer a solution. Interestingly, more micro-homes are being built in cities outside London, such as in Liverpool and Leicester, and while the proportion of smaller dwellings is controlled by planning authorities, perhaps in future there will be a more relaxed approach as they become more widespread.’

The continuing march of technology will mean that, by 2050, many homes will function as mini renewable power plants, collecting energy from solar and wind and storing it in a home battery, so it can be used to create electricity, heat and charge electric cars.

Homes will begin to incorporate building management systems, already commonplace in non-domestic buildings, and non-essential equipment will power down – or go off completely – when electricity is at a peak prices.

 

‘Climate change is likely to increase the risk of homes overheating due to sudden spikes in temperature, so they will need to incorporate more effective ventilation, such as a central staircase that allows air to flow up from all rooms through a rooflight,’ says Smith.

Although smart home gizmos are likely to reduce in size, designers will have to find space for larger equipment, such as home batteries and insulated hot water cylinders used for thermal storage. The interaction of heating, heat recovery and ventilation systems will also be more complex, requiring extra servicing.

If all this crystal ball gazing has fired your imagination, download the full report.