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The home of the future is already here to stay, today

Grab the keys and get set to unpack your boxes; we are moving into the future. But before you cross the threshold and command your robo-butler to stick the kettle on –  pause and take a moment to stand back and admire this feat of engineering.

20 December 2017

Some of the most exciting developments in house building were on display at the recent five-day Mondial du Bâtiment event in Paris.

Companies are looking decades into the future to redesign where and how we live.

Among them is Multipod Studios in Marseille, which has developed a modular pop-up house concept that is quick to build and easy to adapt; uses low-cost, recycled materials and is so energy efficient that the firm says it requires no additional heating.

Gironde-based ICG has also developed a prototype ‘house of 2050’, built with self-cleaning ‘eco-friendly’ concrete and windows that allow people to adapt the light and heating according to their needs in each area of the property.

The idea is to combine energy-efficient design with comfort to fit with a future where water and energy may be more restricted.

If all this sounds far-fetched, it is not. ICG president Jacques Dufort said: “We created this house with technologies that all exist today.”

Aix-en-Provence company Sunpartner Technologies and Vinci Construction have joined forces on Horizon double- glazed fenêtres solaires, in which photovoltaic cells are sandwiched between the panes of glass allowing them to generate electricity from the sun.

“I’m convinced that in the future, all buildings will become ‘energy hubs’,” said Vinci CEO Jérôme Stubler.

“We have a product that promotes energy saving, energy autonomy and is connected.”

Yet more businesses are working on ‘plug and play’ devices that bring the future into the present.

But for anyone who fears that life will become increasingly complex, parallels can be drawn with the development of the car. Modern vehicles are more complex than ever but have never been easier to drive.

Likewise, ‘smart homes’ are more connected but the idea is to make them simple to use.

Devices on the market today, such as the Google Home Smart Assistant or Amazon Echo, which allow users to operate a range of electrical appliances by voice command, are just the start.

There are gadgets such as the fridge that can order food directly from the supermarket for you, or the smart mirror that displays a range of information from the latest news to the local weather while giving you a morale-boosting ‘you look great’ message as you head out for the day.

But there is equal focus on practical, eco-friendly innovations that offset the increased electricity these gadgets need.

French start-up Sense has created a device to help homeowners choose which devices to direct electricity use to, allowing people to target power use and save money.

Smart buildings provide greater comfort, productivity, security, accessibility, efficiency, and adaptability.

This is why an increasing number of developers, housing associations, local authorities and businesses have been quick to get on the ‘smart’ bandwagon when it comes to new-build or renovation projects.

The emergence of digital technologies and what is known as the ‘Internet of Things’ have opened up endless possibilities and forward- thinking businesses are creating products that are easy to install, operate and use.

Another challenge is creating a home that can adapt and evolve with your needs. A 20-something couple, for example, will not have the same habits as a family with three children, a person in a wheelchair or an elderly person living alone. This means each home needs to be equipped differently. Hence the interest in plug and play technology; which allows people to adapt rooms and even the entire home according to their needs.

By 2050, one in three people in France will be aged 60 or more. So, homes will need to be capable of changing to meet evolving needs.

However, the quality of a smart home is not determined by the number of connected objects it has. Coherence is key.

This means incorporating equipment from a dozen industries, including automation, security, electricity, heating, telecoms, IT, audio-visual, and the building sector.

For home automation to work, it must simplify day-to-day life and give peace-of-mind and services both during and after  installation.

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