How Homes Will Change to Endure a Turbulent World

In a recent survey, American architects predicted homes that will incorporate technology, materials and even safe rooms to increase self-sufficiency and shelter against an array of hazards.

How Homes Will Change to Endure a Turbulent World Photo (cc) by gardener41

There’s plenty that’s wonderful about an old home, like the durability of the materials and craftsmanship and a degree of beauty and proportion that can be hard to find in newer assembly line homes. What may be lacking in newer homes, though, often is made up by designs that work much better with how we live today. For example, a trend that has already firmly taken hold in recent years is the open-plan space that combines the kitchen, dining and living areas — replacing the warrens of small single-purpose rooms for dining, television viewing and cooking that were typical in older homes.

In the coming decade, expect many more changes to the way homes are built — especially in the areas of safety and security. That’s according to a survey by the American Institute of Architects, which queried more than 500 of its residential architect members on their predictions for design features of the home of 2026. About half of the AIA members’ predictions reflected a concern for safety and health and a desire to make homes that are exceptionally secure and that seal off the world outside. Here’s what they envision:

1. Smart home security, temperature control and lighting

Cloud-connections and app-controlled devices are putting sophisticated security devices into the hands of smartphone-wielding homeowners. The AIA architects predict the trend will accelerate. This means the adoption of lightbulbs with embedded cameras and 180-degree view fish-eye lenses controlled by a mobile app. We’ll see more products that set off alarms or trigger email, texts or phone calls to homeowners to report a loud noise, movement or change in temperature. We’ll be equipped to unlock the door electronically from inside the car and easily rearm the home’s security as soon as we’re safely inside.

2. Emphasis on environmental health and safety

The survey takes note of consumers’ worries about health, often because of off-gassing from paints, rugs, furniture, mattresses and fabrics. Manufacturers and builders are responding by using safer products made from stable organic materials and low-emission paints. That lines up with the findings of a 2015 survey for the National Association of Homebuilders. In it, 83 percent of homebuilders and remodelers said consumers are willing to pay more for a healthier home. Air purification systems are another feature that AIA members predict will grow in popularity.

3. Safe rooms

The architects predict we’ll see more safe rooms (sometimes called panic rooms), which are areas in a home or even outbuildings equipped with hardened security and communications systems. They can be sealed off from the rest of the home for riding out threats as diverse as a home invasion or a hurricane.

4. Homes built to withstand natural disasters

What makes a home “disaster-ready” depends on where it is built. For some, it means including a new-generation generator that can keep a home running when power lines go down. In storm-surge-prone coastal areas it may mean a home built on stilts or made of concrete, and in an earthquake zone it’s a home that stands up to seismic activity. Whatever it means, wherever you are, the AIA architects predict growing interest in construction tough enough to withstand natural disasters including more extreme weather conditions.

5. Energy independence and energy efficiency

For an example of a modest, energy independent home, see‘s profile of an ultra-efficient home on Oahu, Hawaii. It makes all its own electricity from solar panels and requires less fuel thanks to its design, building materials and construction techniques. Even the “cool” roof and landscaping contribute to the goal.

In homes like this one, a specialized design and solar panels probably add costs initially, although prices for solar installations are dropping and federal government incentives (see 5 Green Home Upgrades That Also Buy You a Tax Break) can ease much of the homeowners’ initial pain.

Over the home’s life, though, the investment is paid back from:

  • Self-sufficiency: If the electricity grid goes down, you’ll be unaffected.
  • Guaranteed cheap fuel: Fuel costs are largely pre-paid, and they stay low. Depending on your usage and utility company policies, you may even make money by selling excess electricity back to the grid.
  • The satisfaction of reducing greenhouse gas: Your energy efficiency helps reduce the demand on dirty power plants — and supports the effort to limit global warming.

More home trends

The architects predicted other trends, too, including:

  • Features that make growing old at home easier: Think grab bars and wheelchair accessibility with lower toilets, counters, appliances and wider doors and halls.
  • Home offices: Out of style for a while, they’re back again because so many of us are working from home.
  • Open kitchens: It’s hard to imagine we’ll ever back away from big eating-living-cooking spaces as the focal point of homes.
  • More and better outdoor living spaces: It’s easy to see why outdoor living keeps increasing in popularity: For a relatively low cost, you can substantially expand your living area. Improved appliances and weather-resistant furniture make cooking and spending time outside easier and more comfortable than ever.
  • Higher-density urban living: The AIA architects predict we’ll embrace smaller homes built on existing vacant or reclaimed lots in order to live closer to city centers.

What features would you look for in a new home? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Marilyn Lewis
Marilyn Lewis
After a career in daily newspapers I moved to the world of online news in 2001. I specialize in writing about personal finance, real estate and retirement. I love how the Internet ... More

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