With the power to predict the future held exclusively in the hands of deities and delusionals, for the rest of us, it’s immensely hard to predict how our lives will look in 10 or 20 years’ time. This is especially unfortunate for self-builders as, during the planning stages of a new home, being able to anticipate future lifestyles can play a huge role in designing a home able to evolve with you and remain effective and comfortable throughout changing dynamics of your life.
Here are a few key things to consider when looking to design a future-proof home.
Play Your Older Self
Although most of us spend a lot more time pretending we’re younger than we are, when designing a new home, putting yourself in your own shoes 10, 20 or 30 years from now will pay dividends. A well-designed home will meet both your current desires and future needs.
Pay special attention to the ground floor. Where possible, make sure there is a room (or rooms) that can be adapted to meet your different needs over time. What might start out being the office you’ve always wanted could, down the line, could transform into a ground floor bedroom. In that scenario, adding a bathroom that will ultimately be a useful en-suite, might well be worth it.
When designing a floor plan, considering the changing requirements of living spaces, ensuring doorways and hallways are wide enough for ease of movement, etc, will help your home mature gracefully, whilst limiting additional cost and disruption further down the line.
As well as your interior design, the clever use of certain external materials will also help future-proof your home. Consider longevity and ease of maintenance. For example, wooden window frames may have cachet now, but will inevitably require further maintenance and wood treatment. Keep durability in mind when specifying materials, such as cladding, windows and other costly items that will prove expensive should they need to be replaced. Most architects will be able to advise on the best ways to make exterior features low maintenance, so ask for advice.
Open-plan living has increased in popularity in recent years, offering functional, light and versatile, multi-use spaces. These barrier-free environments can have many uses over time and are easily evolved, depending on what your needs are. Kitchen-diners are greatly celebrated as the perfect family-orientated space, but also offer ease of movement in later years.
Have you considered incorporating smart home technology? It may prove to be a shrewd move in readying your home for the future. Technology is making our lives easier and our homes certainly haven’t escaped the recent trend in connecting every aspect to our lives. New gadgets are hitting the shelves weekly, therefore investing in technology now - whether it be smart thermostats or security systems - will ensure you are ready for what our homes will inevitably look like in the future. Moreover, technology is also making homes more sustainable and cheaper to run.
Stairkraft not only offer made to measure staircase designs they also offer a range of products for outside the home including balconies, canopies and balustrades.
If going for a fully-wired home automation system, precisely which system to go with is the big question - try to pick a service provider which has been on the scene for a while, and make sure you install high data transfer Cat 5 or 6 Ethernet cables to cope with the inevitable increased data requirements.
While open-plan living can come with many benefits, at times, having individual private spaces also can have its place. Semi-open plan design offers more individuality and the option to change functions of any given space. Having the ability to subdivide and reconnect rooms as and when you require them could prove incredibly useful over time. For example, large, communal children’s bedrooms which can be divided as they grow, mean a home can be cleverly adapted to a changing family landscape.
High-efficiency living has come to the fore in recent years and is certainly something to consider when designing a future-proof home. Although building to high-efficiency specifications can increase upfront costs, over the medium and long term, rewards can be considerable both in savings in energy costs and overall property value if you decide to sell.
Making smart choices on construction methods, materials, structure and positioning, as well as incorporating renewable technologies - such as solar panels and heat pumps - can not only lead to a home being more efficient, more comfortable and healthier to live in, it can also be looked at favourably by planners and offer better chances of having a preferred design approved.
Oliver Grimshaw, Head of UK Sales, Hanse Haus GmbH
Oliver Grimshaw is the Head of UK Sales for premium German supplier of pre-manufactured, high-efficiency homes. Founded back in 1929, Hanse Haus now erects some 400 homes annually Europe-wide and has been active in the UK since 2006.
With over 85 years’ experience in the construction industry and boasting more than 30,000 completed homes, the company is also a certified builder of the remarkable Passivhaus; a home that loses almost no heat through its walls, roof and windows, thanks to extremely high levels of thermal insulation.