What are people talking about? When it comes to trends in architecture, seeing what’s on peoples’ minds requires patience. A house built in 2017 may have been designed in 2016 from discussions started in 2015 from ideas that came to mind in 2014. What are people talking about now that will show up in homes in the next few years? A dive into Google Trends reveals some suggestions.
Your phone is probably smart, or at least a smartphone. Why not your house? Manage security, energy, and entertainment from your phone. If your device can find the internet, you can lock or unlock the house, handle the heat or air conditioning, and make sure each room is playing the right music or video. Make sure at least one door can be opened the old-fashioned way, just in case. In the last five years, the topic has tripled in use, with some interesting spikes in the spring and just before the holidays. Maybe people are researching how to let in guests during holiday parties.
Making an entire home smart can be a lot of work, which is one reason homeowners choose to start with smart appliances. Timers were an innovation decades ago, but now appliances take more care. Making sure the stove is turned off or the refrigerator door is shut can alleviate a lot of anxieties. The appliances may be popular, but they aren’t generating as much commentary. Of course, even 10% growth is a lot of ovens and fridges.
Move it outdoors, at least in the summer. People are moving their living rooms, and especially kitchens, outdoors. For some, it is an extension of the interior spaces enabled by moveable window walls. For others, outdoor living spaces are an opportunity for a change of style; formal inside, casual outside. These are more than porches with awnings. Their construction can be as stout as the rest of the home making them easier to enjoy in in-climate conditions. The kitchen provides the greatest benefit. Smoky cooking no longer lingers inside triggering smoke alarms. Guests can gather around a BBQ and pull drinks from an outdoor fridge. The concept is simple, but better appliances and construction techniques have made it happen. It is a trend that has effectively doubled in five years. Don’t be surprised that it’s mentioned three times more during Memorial Day than during Thanksgiving.
Electric cars are catching on so quickly that about the only person not surprised is Elon Musk. Entire nations are talking about eliminating fossil fuel vehicles within the next few decades. One enabling technology is the home charging station, a place to plug in that is far faster than a conventional wall socket at recharging an all-electric vehicle. That’s fine for one vehicle, but how about if there are two, or guests arrive? Homes with multiple charging stations are being retrofitted or built new to accommodate the new reality. It doesn’t look that way from the numbers, though. The growth is a little less than a double in five years, but look at those spikes around every New Years. Maybe holiday guests are inspirational.
A combination of accelerating technologies has made it much easier to disconnect from the grid, or at least to build a home that only connects to the grid when it wants to, not because it has to. Solar and wind are generating off-grid power without relying on repeated trips from a tanker to supply a generator. Water catchment and grey water systems are making it easier to live more comfortably in arid settings. Boring old septic systems have a long history in rural communities, and technology is expanding the area where they are applicable and work. The result: more land is open for housing. The off-grid trend has been growing for a long time, about sixty percent in the last five years. Don’t be surprised to see it climb as people recover from hurricanes, floods, fires, and quakes. Being able to turn on your own power can be appealing.
Prefab is repeatable – and customizable. There’s an interest in knowing what you’re buying, and not having to wait long for it to be built. Prefab has gone far past mobile homes. Quality is up. Innovative designs incorporate many of the details found in custom homes built on site. The walls of windows that define so many modern homes are a major component that has to be shipped to the site. Why not ship the rest of the room, too? Tiny homes and container homes may fit on one flat bed, but that size constraint is lifted with pop-outs, houses that unfold, and stackable units. Another sixty percent grower, the houses are winning for the reasons above, but also because the process is more sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly.
Prefab too slow? Print a house instead. 3D printed houses are the newest trend, which means fewer folks are talking about them, but that whenever there’s news, there’s a spike. There are very few printed houses. That architectural niche is discovering itself. There’s great design freedom, and the potential for dramatic drops in construction costs; but there are also regulatory hurdles, structural research, and community awareness issues. They’ve only just begun, but the interest has basically doubled in five years. The introduction of ink jet printers was first a novelty, then a nice convenience, and now enables people to print entire books at home – if they wanted. 3D printed houses are currently novel, offer great potential, but we’re only starting to see what people will do with the technology and technique. Within the next five years, some innovator may do more to redefine housing than all the other technologies did in the last hundred years.
There are more than enough trends in architecture. That freshness is one of the reasons modern architecture is attractive. Fresh ideas, thoughtfully and artistically executed, that break convention while providing the eternal basics of a home. We’ve mentioned a few. Undoubtedly, something else will surprise the housing world. That’s why it pays to pay attention to what people are talking about. What are architectural trends are you talking about?