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The Future Is Now

Published: 23/11/2022

Across the county, the landscape is changing with a growing number of contemporary, efficient and sustainable homes, built with an eye to the future…

Innovation is everywhere. Technological advances are rapid, providing consumers with an array of exciting opportunities to incorporate efficient, contemporary designs, systems and products into their lives. This is evident across all aspects of life, and increasingly in construction and housing. Property developers are building stylish, modern homes with efficiency and sustainability at the forefront of their thinking, and these factors will continue to shape the evolution of new-builds and the way we adapt existing housing to reduce emissions and running costs.

As concerns over our planet’s future rise, industries, businesses and individuals across the globe are making changes to reduce negative environmental impacts. Advances in technology are helping humankind to discover and invent processes and practices which are not only more sustainable, but which can also improve lifestyles. Earlier this year, England’s building regulations were updated. The Government implemented interim changes in June, driven by the Government’s commitment to its 2050 net zero target. These attempt to improve the efficiency of new buildings and developments, targeting a 31 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions for housing. Further changes in regulations are expected in the Government’s Future Homes Standard, planned for 2025.

While global concerns and regulatory changes are effecting change, there is also increased demand from house buyers looking for homes which are more efficient to run and appealing to live in. Sowerbys’ land & new homes manager Richard Cheal believes, “There is a strong audience for future-facing homes which incorporate sustainable design and eco-friendly features to improve running costs.” It’s clear that the next decade will bring plenty of change within the new homes landscape.

GROUND UP

One example of this is an increase in the number of Passivhaus-style homes, considered the gold standard in energy efficiency, being built in the UK. Such housing, as the project completed by local builder Grocott & Murfit in Swaffham, rely on well-constructed, highquality materials combined with rigorous energy efficient design standards, enabling the buildings to maintain an almost consistent temperature, year-round.

Passive houses utilise innovative technologies, including mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems, as well as high standards of insulation, triple glazing and improved airtightness levels. Solar heating and air source heat pumps warm water ready for showers and baths, but otherwise very little is needed in terms of heating or cooling. The result? Residential homes which are 20 times more energy efficient than existing housing stock, and ten times better than most new-builds, often developed in tandem with beautiful, contemporary design with a real ‘wow’ factor.  

The benefits to this style of housing is so evident that even cost-conscious local authorities have been charmed. For its award winning Goldsmith Street development, Norwich Council adopted this approach to create the country’s largest Passivhaus scheme for social rent. Creative, modern and eco-efficient, Goldsmith Street residents are reportedly seeing up to 70 per cent reductions in their energy bills.

The requirement for home builders to construct sustainable, energy efficient homes that comply with the new regulatory framework will undoubtedly shape the future of new-build properties over the coming decades, but even existing stock can benefit from adopting technologies such as solar thermal panels. With rising energy bills and supply volatility putting many household budgets under pressure, many homeowners are once again examining the option of a solar PV and battery system to generate renewable energy. Community-led initiatives such as Solar Together Norfolk (solartogether.co.uk) are enabling county residents to register with the opportunity to join group-buying schemes from pre-approved installers.

GETTING SMARTER

Inside our homes too, technological innovations are seeing interactive and automated features which improve living standards become more commonplace. A new generation of ‘smart homes’ rely on artificial intelligence, wifi and Bluetooth® to give homeowners a wealth of control, without necessarily being anywhere near the building. These systems can provide improved security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency, and help to automate everyday actions to make homes more accessible.

Innovations include interactive and automated lighting systems which detect when occupants are in a room, and lights or appliances which can be controlled via mobile phones remotely. Smart bulbs can regulate themselves based on daylight availability, so there’s no need to panic about security or lights being left on. Similarly, smart thermostats can learn occupants’ behaviours and modify settings to improve comfort and efficiency automatically.

In the kitchen, smart refrigerators can help track expiration dates and even create recipes or shopping lists – no more running out of milk. And, if you rely on a morning dose of caffeine to get up and go, smart coffee makers can brew a fresh cup at a programmed time, allowing you to literally ‘wake up and smell the coffee,’ as your automatic curtains open.

Widely used in the USA, built-in artificial intelligence (AI) such as smart locks and garage door openers are likely to become more commonplace in UK homes in the coming years. Increasingly, homeowners are installing doorbells with camera features, but smart locks provide the ability to automatically open as we arrive home, or to grant or deny access to others too. Garage doors can also be opened from afar, ideal for when deliveries arrive on a wet day and you’re out. Security is further boosted with the addition of smart cameras which allow residents to monitor their homes at a distance. Advanced technology enables a system’s sensors to identify between residents, pets, visitors and burglars, and can automatically notify authorities if suspicious behaviour is detected.

Many of these technologies can be added to any home with the right equipment, but new developments provide a blank canvas to build in a full spectrum of AI and automated systems to create a truly future-now property from day one of moving in. Living in a digitally-friendly, energy efficient home undoubtedly appeals to most house buyers, and the promise of ease and comfort will tailor the new-build landscape during this decade. With both convenience and sustainability becoming far greater priorities than they have ever been, we are entering an exciting era of development, with efficiency of both energy and processes providing the underlying foundations for the future of development.