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How Do We Create Modern Homes Fit for Future Lifestyles?

Part 1 – Altering Attitudes

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Breaking outside of the norm tends to be controversial and challenging current Architectural styles and thinking has always provoked controversy and plenty of public disapproval.

Without innovative architects and designers our buildings would still be locked in the past. I remember the initial mockery of the now iconic and widely-loved ‘Gherkin’, London’s first ‘ecological’, tall building.  It took time for people to come around and some may still not have made the transition, but over the past decade, cities across the world have seen the evolution of many buildings that similarly address ecological, practical, commercial and artistic aspects in their design.

What needs to happen for our housing to respond to a similar injection of startling innovation?

To a large extent much of the modern volume house-building today is still embedded in the traditional form of architectural style that people feel comfortable and safe with. For many years ‘modern homes’ have been just reinterpretations of homes built in the 1920’s – 1930’s, but today’s home is different in many aspects.

17 Healthy Gate

It needs to be distinctively more liveable to suit today’s modern lifestyle, as well as being adaptable to suit the needs of the future, particularly in coping with our ever increasing, ageing population and younger family members staying at home much longer.   It also needs to be energy efficient, and embrace a natural sustainability ethos and yet be adaptable in accommodating the significant advances being made with modern technology, as well as being able to react with its environment and surroundings in a manner that creates the warmth, comfort, character and fun of a place we can all refer to as home.

A chicken and egg issue….

80% of all homes in Britain get built by the larger house builders, so housing design tends to be centralised and therefore heavily duplicated.  People have a tendency to like what they know and the ‘Georgian’ style, with its many sub-styles has been the most popular design for some time.  So when the marketing departments of these large organisations get results from feedback surveys on preferred housing styles, they largely support building more of the same, or at least broadly similar.  Lo and behold another Georgian style housing estate is born, unfettered by the touch of an Architect.

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You could argue that we are ‘just giving people what they want’.  However, the fact remains that we ‘don’t know what we don’t know’ and most of the technological advances that the majority of us now take for granted would never have happened if designers had not decided to push boundaries and encourage the public to aspire to something new and radically different.

Whilst Britain is behind many of its European neighbours when it comes to building truly ‘modern’ homes, the good news is that there are some signs that we are beginning to accept that evolution in our housing designs is necessary.  So far, this has largely been driven by issues around energy consumption and environmental concerns, but the influence of programmes such as Grand Designs and magazines such as Self Build & Home Building and Renovating, has encouraged people to think more about architecture and design and how it impacts on their lifestyle.

So how do we increase this influence and start to alter attitudes and perceptions so that we can not only design, but commit to build houses that will both support our modern day lifestyles and be fit for future generations and the challenges they will face?

Watch this space for further thoughts…..     Part 2 – Perceptions Create a Flexible Reality

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