Nearly two centuries ago, American author and environmentalist, Henry David Thoreau, borrowed a friend’s axe, high-tailed it out to the banks of Walden Pond, Massachusetts, and built himself a one-room log cabin by the water. But building the homes of the future has gotten quite a bit more complicated in the last 200 years. Yet, with today’s technology, the homes of tomorrow promise to be every bit as environmentally friendly as Thoreau’s modest little homestead in the woods.
A Fungus Among Us
When you think about building the home of the future, fungi probably aren’t the first things that leap to mind. But, in fact, researchers are increasingly beginning to recognize the potential of certain fungi to bring construction engineering to next-level sustainability.
For example, studies are underway to explore the use of fungi-based materials for building construction. Not only would this technology provide carbon-free construction materials options, but it would also optimize the energy efficiency of the new construction. So-called “smart fungus” possess biosensing capabilities that allow them to respond to changes in the external environment, including variations in temperature and light.
When used in construction materials, researchers suggest, these smart fungi can be used to facilitate climate control and support energy efficiency in the built environment. Building blocks comprised of these fungi can be integrated with other systems in the home or building, automatically regulating the light and temperature in the building. The result is a carbon-free, maximally energy-efficient home.
New Home Construction
There are lots of forms that “new home construction” may take. This might involve adding on to or renovating an existing home, or it might pertain to the erection of a manufactured or prefabricated home on a plot of land. On the other hand, it might be precisely what the name suggests: the building of a whole new home on cleared land.
However it’s done, homeowners are increasingly eschewing traditional, pre-owned homes for new construction. In addition to the cost savings that might be found in manufactured or pre-fab homes, a principal draw of new home construction is the ability for home buyers or builders to customize their home sweet home to their exact specifications.
This is particularly appealing for homeowners seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. Residential building materials, for example, are notorious for their deleterious environmental impacts. From lumber to brick to stone, traditional building materials almost always deplete natural resources, denuding and scarring the environment.
But it’s not only in the sourcing of building materials that traditional homes negatively affect the environment. Whether you’re dealing with new construction or an existing dwelling, homes built of traditional materials and outfitted with energy-inefficient systems can leave an immense carbon footprint. Studies show, for instance, that buildings account for more than one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to the prevalence of concrete and steel in these structures.
With new home construction, however, homeowners can select only responsibly sourced materials and can outfit their new digs with energy-efficient windows and eco-friendly appliances. They can also opt for materials that make it easier to heat and cool your home, such as earthen brick as opposed to concrete block.
Building the home of the future isn’t just going to be about building technologically advanced, energy-efficient homes alone, however. Instead, the future of home construction appears to be in the construction of “smart neighborhoods”, Such neighborhoods would be based on the premise of developing communities predicated on efficiency, sustainability, and waste reduction.
For example, in the Reynolds Landing development in Birmingham, Alabama, engineers focused on a community-based energy generation approach. Al homes within the community were equipped not only with interior smart technologies and energy-efficient systems, but also with solar panels which could be used to generate power for the community’s “microgrid”.
The integration of the homes at Reynolds Landing isn’t just an important harbinger for the future of smart neighborhoods, but it speaks to the increasingly communal nature of residential developments. This can be seen most tellingly, for instance, in the increasing popularity of community gardens for cities and suburbs alike.
Now, more than ever, building the homes of the future isn’t just building for one family, but for an entire community.
It doesn’t take a Nostradamus to see that the future is now, that tomorrow is today. To understand what the homes of the future will look like, we only need to look around us. Now more than ever, homeowners are looking to new home construction to create the home that meets their needs, fulfills their dreams, and manifests their values, including their commitment to environmental sustainability. From the exciting research into the use of “smart fungi” to provide carbon-free, energy-efficient building materials to the development of smart neighborhoods to promote renewable energy generation on the local level, the future of home construction is technology-driven, customized, clean, and green.
The Smart Home: A Homeowner’s Guide to Eco Technology and Green Energy
Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.