Back in 1962, “The Jetsons” portrayed the future of urban homes as glass domes raised on stilts extended high into the sky. Although flying cars and mansions on stilts haven’t been a part of the our architectural landscape — yet — the Hanna-Barbera company did have one thing right: many future city-dwellers would be living in the sky.
Except these homes are less on stilts and more stacked on top of each other in impressively tall skyscrapers … But the idea isn’t far from the truth.
Each decade can be defined by a predominant home style. The ‘60s and ‘70s saw the creation of the mid-century modern (MCM) home, while the ‘80s gave way to neo-eclectic mansions, and the ‘90s and early 2000s started the “McMansion” explosion in the United States.
Now, as we enter into a new economic age — rife with student debt, rapidly growing populations in urban areas, and a technological boom — housing styles are changing yet again. What does the future of home design look like? It might be small, minimalist, and packed to the gills with modern conveniences.
The Future Is … Tiny?
As more and more people move into the city in an effort to find high-paying jobs, there is an increased need for housing to accommodate them. Housing and rental prices skyrocket, and people find themselves sharing one-bedroom apartments with upwards of three people (or more) in an effort to cut costs. Developers see the potential in these urban cities to build massive, sky-high apartment complexes — downtown Seattle in particular has seen a major residential building project boom alongside the growth of technology businesses such as Amazon, Zillow, and Redfin.
Many of the biggest urban cities — including San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver (BC), and more — are struggling to find additional space for the influx of people moving in. Especially in cities that are surrounded by suburbs — there’s simply not a lot of room left to develop.
Yet some creative people are finding solutions. With the minimal land that is available to build, construction companies and low-income individuals eager to own a home are finding ways to make their dream a reality.
Whether built to be mobile or stationary, one of the biggest housing trends in 2018 is the explosion of the tiny home market. Intended for small plots of land and minimalist living, the typical tiny home is anywhere from 100 to 400 square feet — much smaller than the typical 2,000 sq ft North American home, and either smaller than or similar in size to the typical high-rise apartment. They also cost a lot less, making mortgage payments more manageable, and are much more energy efficient than larger homes.
Millennials, especially, are drawn to these small spaces, as many of the options available are far more affordable than traditional homes. Plus, as millennials put off having children in an effort to pay off their student debt and build up their career, they find that the small space provided by tiny homes is perfect for converting to a minimalist lifestyle, without skimping on the necessities.
However, at least two out of five tiny homes currently on the market are owned by people over the age of 50. Not only are millennials able to capitalize off these small spaces, but those who have minimal retirement savings and need to downsize can easily make it work by purchasing tiny homes for themselves.
Yet tiny homes are becoming increasingly expensive (especially in urban markets) due to oversaturation on the market, housing inflation, and their “trendy” nature. Builders are not being transparent about the building process of these homes and can often tack on ridiculous prices in an effort to make the home seem more desirable. In places like San Francisco or Seattle, you may be able to find a tiny home squeezed onto a small lot selling for upwards of $400,000. Prices like that in neighboring towns (with less inflated markets) can afford home buyers a much larger house.
When tiny homes were first making a big impact on the market, they were anywhere from $23,000-$50,000 dollars, and tiny home owners were able to pay off their mortgages much faster. However, as the market for tiny homes has grown, the story has changed, and the tiny home boom may not last much longer. Some people are hopeful that a recession in 2020 will help slow down the housing market, cooling down housing prices into a more reasonable range.
Seamless Integration of Technology in the Home
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that smart homes are turning from a futuristic dream into a modern reality. Smart home technology is creating anything from AI-powered home assistants to tracking technology for energy expenditure. The internet of things (IoT) is having a powerful effect on the housing market, but how are these devices being integrated into home design?
While some futuristic homes are built to be focused on eco-friendly designs and modern architecture, other developers are revamping old homes in order to cut down on energy expenditure and recycle older homes for modern living.
For many of the same reasons that tiny homes are becoming a new trend in housing, smart homes are also seeing a revolution due to increased demand for modern conveniences. Luckily, smart homes don’t have to be built from the ground up, which offers conveniences for home buyers and developers — they can make adjustments to old homes without having to demolish them and start from scratch, and all they need to rely on is simply installing new devices and ensuring they have strong internet access. Smart homes aren’t so much a particular design as a new way of living that can be adapted to almost any home on the market.
Even renters can make use of smart home technology, without necessarily needing the approval of landlords. There are plenty of devices that can easily be installed, connected via the internet, and moved without damaging the structure of a home, and they are all controlled or managed by smartphones. Newly built and older homes alike can be retrofitted with devices like home batteries that can provide backup power in the case of power outages. Other devices can be used to track power consumption — offering ways to cut back on energy bills and help conserve water or electricity.
Of course, with the increase of IoT smart devices comes the potential for increased security risks, and many developers are working on closing those gaps in security. However, those risks are not slowing down the production or integration of IoT smart devices, and Google, Amazon, and Apple are paving the way to make IoT an essential addition to every North American home.
Designing the Next Evolution of Homes
As the world’s population continues to grow, there will always be a need for new homes. In Canada and the United States, we’ve seen many different phases of home development, but the latest may be the most challenging.
Many urban populations are booming, requiring increased need for residential housing that is affordable, efficient, and modern. Tiny homes are helping some people afford homes that normally wouldn’t be able to, but is this trend going to last as tiny home prices skyrocket? And as developers run out of room in these large cities, they may have to turn to new alternatives — whether it’s the creation of more tiny homes or the revamping of old homes into modernized smart homes.
Home design will continue to adapt to popular demand, but these latest trends are certainly interesting to follow. The future may be tiny and techy, but will it remain affordable and reasonable? Only time will tell!
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