How The Recession, Pandemic and Aging AreShaping Our Future
Our home environment has been evolving over the centuries. Yet, sometimes I think we’re going backwards. The central cooking hearth of every 19 th Century home gave way to the cloistered tiny kitchen, and now kitchens are back as the center of the home. We know our home design and planning evolve, but the process has accelerated over the past 10 years. Basic economic and demographic changes are always fundamental, to all change and will continue to challenge both builders and homeowners.
The combination of the 2008 Great Recession, remote working environments and an aging population have made it challenge for both young and old household to navigate. Architects and demographic leaders have tried to identify what are the future trends. It’s easy to see universal design, attention to healthy living, tighter, higher density development will be crucial to better design and layout of homes. I’ve tried to identify some of these important influences:
Changing work patterns and the growth of home offices
The 2020–2023 Pandemic only accelerated the growth of home offices and remote work spaces. Even during the 2008–2005 recession many were working from home on laptops, often part time but now it has become every day. Both technology and telecommunication have allowed workers the option to make their home an office has taken hold universally. We are designing one bedroom apartments with a working office/den space instead of a second bedroom.
Our wet areas – kitchens and baths – will be run by technology.
More equipment in our homes will be controlled by remote technology., Thermostats and window shades can be turned on and off remotely now. Irrigation systems, cooking a whole meal and other human comfort actions will become an app on your iPhone. At the same time better energy and water conservation measures will be improved as these services become more expensive.
Expansion of the indoor/outdoor living experience
Lifestyles have become more informal, and our homes are embracing this. The formal living room and dining room are disappearing, replaced by a great central space, multiple work areas in a very open space layout. Dad doesn’t go to work with a tie and a briefcase anymore. Decks, patios and outdoor kitchens and grills, have become integral of our life styles regardless of the temperature or climate change. Outdoor kitchens and entertainment areas will continue to be important.
Residential living becomes denser and included in mixed-use communities
The Pandemic forced scores of people to move out of our urban centers and yet cities will always be magnets for young people and developing industries. Residential communities will spring up more and more where “see-through” vacant commercial buildings existed. The death of the city is overstated.
Aging-in-place and universal design will become essential for all homes
This is the age of the baby boomers, both economically and politically. The generation is slowly handing over its reins to the GEN Xers. They’ve amassed, wealth, convenience, and political power that will be eclipsed in the next few decades as those between the age of 31 and 55 take over. GEN Xers were hard hit by the Great Recession and have become hostage to market collapses and interest rate volatility. Some say it’s the Millennial Generation that will most likely change our living experience and housing. I am putting my bucks on the GEN Xers. In either case, the lack of housing affordability and availability will be chronic.
The Nuclear Family is history
The Great Recession and the Pandemic put many marriages on hold. Not only has the percentage of marriages as well as the number of newborns declined significantly in the last 10 years, over 50% of all American babies are born out of wedlock. The family unit of one husband, one wife, one boy and one girl belong to “Father Knows Best” reruns. While parental partnerships will exist, multi-generational households will be more dominant. Traditional unions went out with white picket fences and window shutters.
As interest rates and complex processing stifles new home construction, 60% of future residential construction dollars will be spent on improving existing abodes rather than new home construction. The evolving demographic patterns will greatly affect how home design trends continue. New home construction will become bigger, squarer and on smaller lots. More baby boomers and War Babies will retire or make aging -in-place their future by equipping their home with ramps, wide doors, and bigger bathrooms, while they rent out their upper bedrooms to Millennials. Or, to their boomerang children.
What has been largely forgotten since the start of the Pandemic is the increased focus on healthy home environments. We know that ventilation and air exchanging is essential for every home. For years, architects were designing tight, no air-infiltration homes and now we know a better diagnosis is for a home to breathe. Not only indoor air quality is essential but water quality and the potential harmful micro-plastics become a concern of all of us. Greater consumer awareness and growing mistrust of our industries force us to depend more on government awareness, which is slow and sloppy. Making healthy home environments will be one of the most important issues of this Century.
Chris d Craiker AIA/NCARB uses an 8-Ball to predict the future.