According to research from Legal & General, overall consumer spending dropped during the UK lockdown of March 2020, but spending on the “Isolation Economy” – including groceries, alcohol, and entertainment – increased to £247 million per week.
We have all spent more time at home over the last twelve months. What long-term effect could that have on our spending habits, and on how we choose to fill our homes? As domestic technology improves and increases, what legacy will the Covid-19 pandemic have on the houses of ten, twenty, or even thirty years from now?
Read on to find out what the next few decades could bring.
- The end of open-plan living
Over the past few decades, there has been a vogue for open-plan living. It is possible that the coronavirus pandemic and, more specifically, time spent in lockdown, could bring the reign of the open-plan home to an end.
As we’ve all spent more time at home recently, that has meant more time with our family too. As households locked down together, our need for personal space and quiet away from the central hub of the house has grown stronger.
If you are currently juggling homeschooling and work, you’ll understand the benefit of a home office located in a separate space, and the need for a secure area for your children to play.
Despite predictions of a roaring 20s-style need for sociability and fun outside of our homes, on the inside, personal space will be key. Over the next few years expect to see a return to smaller rooms and clearly delineated spaces, even if some of these lines are fluid.
Moveable and semi-transparent walls and barriers could be used to create intimate spaces that can be reintegrated into a central household when needed. Automatically tinting glass and even hidden doorways could become the norm as we seek out innovative ways to match our living spaces to our need for communal and private time.
- Technology use will be ramped up
We can already control our central heating from our mobile phones, as well as see who is at the door. Over the next couple of decades, the use of technology will only increase.
Integrated systems throughout your home will watch over every aspect of your life and interact in real-time. Expect windows to open if air quality is bad, bath water to run at optimum temperature, and your health to be monitored by integrated systems that will recommend, or remind you to take, medication.
As technology increasingly runs our homes, home security will no longer mean a high-tech alarm and security cameras (although they’ll be standard too). Physical intruders will be replaced by cyberhackers. With AI already in our homes in the form of smart speakers from Amazon, Google, and Apple, the need to keep ourselves safe from cyber threats will mean computer security will increase rapidly.
Expect ethical debates around AI to continue over the next decade or so.
John Maeda, of the digital consultancy firm, Publicis Sapient, recently told the Guardian that by 2050, “computational machines will have surpassed the processing power of all the living human brains on Earth. The cloud will also have absorbed the thinking of the many dead brains on Earth, too.”
The single point at which the ability of thinking machines surpasses that of those who created them might not have a direct bearing on the homes of 2030, but what for those of 2050?
Whether the machines ultimately rise or not, an increase in smart technology and AI in our homes over the next few decades is all but assured.
- Our homes will be greener
According to the National House Building Council, two-thirds of UK homes are currently heated from a gas boiler, but that is set to change. With the UK now a net importer of natural gas, we will increasingly need to look to renewable energy to heat our homes.
Within the next decade or so, expect your home’s energy to be produced by a variety of green sources and centralised within a local hub designated to supply your street or cul-de-sac with all its heating, hot water, and vehicle-charging needs. Electric cars, many of them driverless, may also dominate the roads.
Devices will run smartly, heating hot water when the sun is shining or when energy is cheap. Devices will also power down automatically when not in use, either at night or at designated times, such as when the front door is locked. This will keep energy bills down and reduce energy consumption while contributing to our future lifestyles of worry-free relaxation.
Prefabricated homes could also make a comeback. Components designed to highly energy-efficient specifications could be built and put together in a factory. How the individual parts fit together will be the choice of the homebuyer, creating bespoke and individualised homes based on mass-produced and assembled components.
The Future Homes Standard Policy to “radically improve” the energy performance of new homes could be fully introduced by 2025, the government has said. National and international commitment to greener housing will be crucial to combating the effects of climate change over the next few decades.