Houses are at the very core of society and their importance cannot be overemphasised. They say home is where the heart is probably because across every single society of the world, humans have built houses and homes for themselves and for the people they care about. In our very different ways, we all are home builders and we continually turn our houses into sanctuaries, providing us with all the means to escape the intrusiveness and rowdiness of the rest of the world.
We spend most of our time in our homes and we strive to make them as comfortable as can be because, our homes are some of the best environments where we bloom, discover who we are and are loved unconditionally. Being without shelter is thoroughly devastating in and with the incidence of climate change alongside the alarmingly rising population levels, the issues raised by homelessness has expanded to an unprecedented global level. There can be no successful planning for the survival of humankind without a careful consideration of the issues of housing and so to have a sustainable future, we must get housing right.
One of the most practicable solutions to saving our collective future is creating sustainable house designs. Seeing as charity ought to begin at home; below are a few impressive examples of new sustainable designs that ensure that housing in the future exceeds all of our expectations and leaves our environment the better while at it:
1. Sustainable materials
One of the most popular materials for building houses is concrete. However, the cement industry is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide and has been shown to be harmful to the environment both in its production and use. A veritable design of our future therefore is to build with alternative sustainable materials.
One such alternative is wood. The architectural design firm Perkins & Will spearheads the firm’s River Beech Tower Project; an 800-foot residential skyscraper to be built in Chicago, almost entirely out of wood. CF Möller Architects is incredibly popular for their design of a 34-storey wooden building and the Japanese firm, Sumitomo Forestry only last year, unveiled its designs for what would be upon completion, the tallest wooden building in the world. Its 350 meter (1,148 foot) skyscraper is also referred to as the W350 Project, slated to be completed by 2041 and expected to be made of 90 percent wood and 10 percent steel.
Another alternative to concrete in the housing sector is plastic waste. Non-profit organisations have been been the pioneers in utilising plastic waste to build house in developing cities and countries. Bogota’s Conceptos Plasticos already produces low-cost houses made of plastic while the Mexican startup EcoDom recycles all manner of plastic waste into house building materials. It also turns plastic and cardboard into crucial products for the structuring of houses. JP Composites is a startup that builds hurricane-proof homes from recycled plastic bottles shredded and melted and made into six-inch-thick walls while in Argentina, the Eco-Inclusion Foundation turns plastic bottles into bricks of the same features as regular bricks.
While most of these buildings aren’t exactly popular and have yet to go mainstream, all these point to an exciting circular economy and sustainable future for our houses as well as our environment.
2. Houses that come in boxes
The construction of houses from scratch requires a lot of labour, materials and resources. All of these take a toll on the environment as well as the laborers employed, but the houses of the future are currently being designed to be more efficient and convenient.
Cue in conscious architecture known as the ‘WFH House’, the work of Arcgency. This house is a prefabricated home (meaning that it can be packed up and exported to anywhere in the world) and is a sustainable product fully equipped with solar cells, a green roof and an underground storage water container for housing rain water.
Grillagh River House by Patrick Bradley Architects is the first modern container home built in rural Ireland, cleverly designed to take full advantage of its surrounding pastoral views. The HO4+ designed by Honomobo, the Seven Havens in Indonesia designed by Budi Pradono Architects and the Devil’s Corner in Tasmania created by the design firm Cumulus Studio are a few out of many other examples of these modern homes.
Overall, the idea of building prefabricated houses in line with the specifications provided by a client alone is mind-blowing; but shipping them off upon completion in containers along with the manuals for their assemblage demonstrates that the convenience of the customer is prioritised on a whole new sustainable level.
3. 3D printed houses
For some time now, 3D technology has been described as the technology that will change the future, as it allows you to produce anything anywhere. We have seen clothes and pens and other household items 3D printed, but did you know you can print houses too?
A 3D house is custom designed by architects after which it is programmed into a 3D printer. The printer is then brought to the intended site of the home, and works by printing in layers from the floor upwards. The walls are thick, insulated and fully durable; the doors, roof and windows are fitted in and that’s that– the house is ready to be inhabited.
The world’s first inhabited 3D house was built in Nantes, France and was printed in 54 hours! The Chinese company Winsun was the first to build a 3D printed house and in 2013, it was able to print 10 houses in 24 hours. The San Francisco startup company Apis Cor successfully built a residence of this nature in a single day last year and Dubai has created a plan for a fourth of its new buildings to be 3D printed by the year 2030.
4. Multifunctional buildings
Scientists have figured out a way to grow indoor crops and harness solar energy at the same time. By tweaking the glass roof panels of greenhouses, these researchers enhance red wavelengths (which is really great for photosynthesis) and that’s not all. They also simultaneously send the trapped blue and green wavelengths, which otherwise would have been useless, to embedded strips thereby transforming them to viable energy.
Bright magenta panels cover the tops of the greenhouses, soaking up sunlight and transferring the energy to photovoltaic strips. From there, electricity is produced. So far, these scientists have demonstrated that these greenhouses can capture solar energy for electricity without adversely affecting plant growth and NatureSweet has already outfitted its greenhouses in Arizona with artificial intelligence.
Green roofs are another modern method of growing food in a bid to utilize space and arrest the problem of access to food in urban areas, and in Washington DC, Up Top Acres have already opened up such urban farms as far back as 2015. Green roofs improve stormwater collection, habitat protection and energy preservation, in addition to providing food and changing our mindsets about unused spaces in our homes.
Now obviously, there’s still a ton of work to be done, but these houses seem to offer at least two more paths torward an urban food system that’s better for the planet.
5. Tiny houses
Tiny houses are almost always eco-friendly because a smaller living space directly translates to less consumption (there’s less space to fill!) and less energy usage. We used to think that bigger meant better but now that we see firsthand the large amounts of waste that “going bigger” can generate, smaller and simpler living spaces are coming back into mainstream. Tiny homes also represent an affordable option to those with small budgets.
In July 2018, the United Nations partnered with Yale University to launch its first eco-friendly ‘tiny’ home. With a kitchen, bathroom, dining area, and sleeping space for up to four people, the 22-square-meter abode runs entirely on renewable energy and was designed to demonstrate to the public, how to live in small spaces with minimum environmental impacts.
Fred’s Tiny Houses in Australia is another example of this new approach to living with and consuming less. His designs just won the the 2019 Flourish Prize for business as an agent of world benefit for “Sustainable Cities and Communities”. They are off-the-grid capable, sustainable and movable. Tiny Smart House, Tumbleweed, 84 Tiny Houses and Designer Eco Tiny Homes (to mention but a few) are other business that design tiny houses with a view to decreasing carbon footprint, helping people reduce their own energy and consumption demands while simultaneously reducing waste to the barest minimum.
As awareness of sustainable living increases, eco-friendly houses and buildings will increasingly take the world by storm. Smart houses are becoming the new rave in a time of climate change and sustainable buildings will be a solution to the city’s pressing problems.
That brings us to the end if this week’s edition of Future Designs. We’ll catch you next week to explore more innovative technology and designs in the world of sustainability.
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