What does the phrase "home of the future" mean? Does it indicate a home with more technology? Very energy efficient? Or one that just has that certain je ne sais quoi that screams "futuristic"? It really depends on who you ask. And in the course of looking at many different futuristic homes, both those in the concept stage and ones that have actually been built, it can be tough to find something that manages to fill all three requirements. But there are plenty that meet two out of three.
What it boils down to is this: Would you actually want to call that place home? In architecture, it's not always about building an actual, functioning house but about exploring and playing with the possibilities. For this list, I looked for futuristic homes and designs available today that I'd actually want to live in -- and many of them are for sale.
2260 Sunset Plaza
Designed by architect David Lawrence Gray and recently remodeled, this steel, glass and concrete structure in Los Angeles is also known as The Fortress or King of the Hill -- Sunset Plaza. Originally, it was an art gallery, which makes sense when you see how high the ceilings are. The home was built on a promontory, a big, peninsula-like plot of land high in the Hollywood Hills. The 180-degree view lets you look out over downtown LA and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It's a luxurious property with seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a guest house, a huge spa, a pool, a Koi pond, a gym and a home theater.
The Fortress is also state of the art in terms of technology. Security-wise, there are cameras inside and out and electronic door locks. The house also has touch lighting systems and a professional steel kitchen designed by Porsche Design Group. The best in LCD and plasma screens are all over the house. The home theater has a 130-inch projection screen and built-in THX surround sound. It's a futuristic-looking home with the best of everything, and as of this writing, it could be yours for about $9 million dollars [source: Trulia].
It's almost impossible not to include Dupli Casa in any list of homes of the future, since many publications have been calling it "the most futuristic house design in the world." Designed by J. Mayer H. Architects, the house is located near Ludwigsburg, Germany. The exterior has smooth white curves, with wings protruding from a central core. The house looks as though it were molded into a hill, with the top level on the top of the hill. This level contains the bedrooms, which are each at a different angle and have windows at unusual angles so that each bedroom has a different view. The middle area is the living area, and the bottom contains a kitchen and other rooms. There's also an indoor and outdoor pool.
Is it energy efficient? Is it high tech? No, this house is pure eye candy when it comes to futuristic design. It makes a statement, and for some people, that's all that's necessary.
KB Home is one of the largest home-building companies in the United States. So when it came out with a home design, the ZeroHouse 2.0, which claimed to result in zero electricity bills, people took notice. There have been plenty of concept homes that claimed to be zero-energy consumers, but this is the first time that such a home has been made widely available by such a large company. So, how'd they do it? First, keep in mind that KB Home creates custom-built homes, so it's all about how energy efficient you want to be. If you choose to go all the way, you'll be getting a home that has additional insulation, dual-pane windows, solar panels on the radiant barrier roof and an upgraded, energy-efficient HVAC system. KB Home claims that these homes can be up to 130 percent more efficient than houses that are just 10 years old, and they're up to 85 percent more efficient than the requirements houses must meet to get Energy Star-certified.
In addition to all of these features, the homes are built with recyclable or recycled materials, and you can specify even more environmentally sustainable materials in your home build. KB Home isn't constructing these everywhere yet, but the company plans to add more across the U.S. in their communities throughout 2012.
The Safe House
While many futuristic structures strive to be flashy, the Safe House by Robert Konieczny of KWK Promes, built just outside Warsaw, Poland, takes a different stance. Some publications have called it the perfect house in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Simply put, the Safe House is designed for maximum security. While some might achieve that end with alarms and cameras, it's all in the house itself here.
The concrete, cube-shaped home has moveable walls and thick shutters built with steel frames, insulated with steel wool and clad in cement-bonded wood. When open, two walls slide forward from either side of the house and meet the wall surrounding the property. They create a courtyard in front of the house, in which visitors can wait to be admitted. The backyard, or garden, is walled off from the courtyard and can only be entered from the house. Huge shutters over the windows swing open to allow in light, and the walls reveal inner walls of glass and steel. A drawbridge on the roof flips over to another building housing a swimming pool. Everything within the garden walls constitutes a safe zone.
Closing the house at night means sliding the walls back into place, shuttering the windows, flipping back the drawbridge and rolling down a huge steel door on the backside of the house. It's made of white aluminum and you can project movies on it. Once the house is closed, the safe zone is the house itself. Its windows allow solar energy to build up during the day (or deflect it in the summer), and the sliding walls keep in the warmth or insulate it from the heat at night. It's not just a safe house; it's a smart one.
Some people have predicted that in the future, many of us will be living on houseboats or otherwise on the water thanks to phenomena like global warming. Even if that isn't the case, some designers think that living on the water could help solve some of the urban housing issues that many countries face. You could get ahead of the curve and buy a regular houseboat, which are often pretty basic-looking, or live aboard a regular ship of some kind, which usually isn't nearly as comfortable as a house. Or you could opt for a futuristic houseboat design like the one from German design firm Confused Direction called SchwimmHausBoot (or "floating house boat").
The firm has designed a few different models, the most recent of which is called the Silver Beaver. It's designed to blend into a wooded environment and is clad in locally sourced larch wood. The Silver Beaver has a pitched roof and a wall of windows that looks out onto a terrace. It has eco-friendly features that include insulated windows and a Bullerjan oven, which heats the boat via convection. There's even a cat bedroom for your pet. The interior looks like a high-end, minimalist apartment -- there's nothing maritime about it.
Tumbleweed Tiny Houses
Many of the homes of the future we've featured so far are average-sized or on the larger side. Let's look at another potential trend in future homes that exists today: the smaller home. The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company takes the idea of downsizing to a whole new level. The company sells houses and house plans that are less than 100 square feet (9.29 square meters), although it also offers cottage plans as big as 877 square feet (81.4 square meters).
On the bigger end, the Popomo is 172 square feet (15.9 square meters) and can be towed easily by a full-sized truck. In fact, it's built on a flatbed trailer, making it a rolling small house. Despite its tiny size, it has a kitchen with full-sized cabinets, a living room and a bedroom that's a little bit smaller than a queen-sized mattress. There's also a tiny bathroom that's a "wet bath" -- meaning the whole room is sealed off and becomes the shower. A propane fireplace keeps it warm, and there are huge windows on one side.
The homes that are meant to stay in one place, or box bungalows, are so small you don't usually need a building permit. Some of them have space for a sleeping loft, or the company suggests a Murphy bed or fold-up furniture. They're surprisingly cute and stylish for such tiny homes, and if you're worried about your carbon footprint, a tiny house might be the way to go. The founder of the company lives in an 89-square-foot (8.26-square-meter) home himself.
This house was designed by American architect Robert Gurney and sits in Glen Echo, Md., overlooking the Potomac River. Although it's a new house, it was built on the existing footprint of another home. A reflecting pool was constructed above the actual grade to prevent changing the landscape. It's a boxy structure covered with wood siding, stainless steel and huge walls of windows. The colors and shape blend into the hardwood trees surrounding it, and there are beautiful views from every room, looking like works of art when framed by the black-outlined windows. Inside, there's white terrazzo flooring, white cabinets and aluminum flooring.
In addition to blending into the environment, the house is environmentally friendly. It was built with huge concrete planks, which allow the house to be heated by water. The terrazzo flooring and the concrete foundation also provide passive heating, and the tree canopies overhead keep the house cool in the summer. The owner of the house wanted to work from home, so there's another building with a guest suite and a garage. Its walls are made of Kalwall, a translucent composite material that allows it to be lit entirely by daylight on sunny days.
Coop Himmelb(l)au is an internationally acclaimed, Austrian architectural design firm known for its deconstructed, angular buildings that use metal, concrete and glass. It's rare for the firm to design a private residence, so architecture buffs were excited to learn about the Himmelhaus, a Venice, Calif., home built initially as a duplex but reconfigured to work as a single-family dwelling. The realty agency advertising the home for sale stated that the architects "explode the constraints of functionalism into a thousand pieces, in the process creating a complex sculptural form interwoven with the apparatus of living" [source: Deasy/Penner & Partners].
In other words, it's not just a house, it's a sculpture -- but it's a functional sculpture. The kitchen was designed by Bulthaup, a high-end German manufacturer. Bulthaup's kitchens are "so pristine and precisely engineered they resemble NASA gear" [source: New York Times]. The house has 360-degree views that include the Hollywood sign and the Getty Museum.
Monolithic Dome Homes
Unlike the previous entries, this isn't just one home -- it's a home design. How is a dome home futuristic, you may ask, when igloos have been built by the Inuit people of the Central Arctic and Greenland for years? The monolithic dome in its current incarnation -- pioneered by a company called Monolithic -- has been around since the 1970s, but it meets a lot of the requirements for a futuristic home all the same. Its unusual appearance makes you think of both natural forms found on Earth and maybe living structures found on other planets.
Monolithic dome homes are very sturdy. They meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) requirements for "near-absolute protection" from F5 tornadoes and Category 5 hurricanes. Dome homes in Florida that were directly hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 survived. They're also resistant to earthquakes and fires. If you live in one of these, you should feel pretty safe. In addition, they're energy efficient. Having a one-piece structure means no seams for air to come in or to leak out. Today's domes are built with a concrete shell inside and insulating polyurethane foam outside, which acts as a heat sink to minimize temperature fluctuations. Monolithic claims that energy consumption can be reduced by up to 75 percent.
Sound good? Monolithic will work directly with you, helping you find a dome builder or selling you plans to build your own dome if you're feeling particularly DIY.
The Lost House
Living in a smaller space (like an apartment) doesn't have to mean sacrificing your futuristic hopes and dreams, urban dweller. This particular one, designed by British architect David Adjaye, is known as the Lost House because it's built onto a loading bay of a former warehouse in a back street. There's a big, brick arch that might give a hint that someone lives there, but otherwise, it's easy to pass by. Because it's tucked between two buildings, there are skylights built over each living area in the apartment to provide natural light. Once you get inside the home, you can see that there are courtyards inside and even a pond. From the outside, however, it just looks like another industrial building. This home is an example of re-purposing and rethinking existing buildings
Some homes of the future are all about demonstrating their cool features, but others keep them contained just for the enjoyment of their residents. They might be tiny or huge, technologically savvy or eco-friendly, or a combination. No matter what you prefer, you could be living in the future -- today.
New York City is chock-full of fake buildings. Check out the infrastructure disguised as normal facades at HowStuffWorks Now.
Author's Note: 10 Homes of the Future ... Today
My favorite homes of the future are the ones that look like somewhere I'd actually want to be. All of these homes are ones that I would like to stay in if not actually live in ... if money were no object, of course. That includes the tiny house; I'd be interested in the challenges of living in such a small space. But not all futuristic homes have to be expensive, and even though some of these designs and concepts are on the pricey side now, many of them contain features that will become more accessible in the future. Meanwhile, I'm going to talk to my spouse about building a dome home.
- BusinessWire. "KB Home Opens First ZeroHouse 2.0 in California During Educational Event with Local School Children." Dec. 16, 2011. (June 25, 2012) http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20111216005131/en/KB-Home-Opens-ZeroHouse-2.0-California-Educational
- Contemporist. "Wissoming Residence by Robert Gurney Architect." Dec. 3. 2011. (June 25, 2012) http://www.contemporist.com/2011/12/03/wissioming-residence-by-robert-gurney-architect/
- Confused Design. "HausBoot Silver Beaver." 2012. (June 29, 2012) http://www.confused-direction.de/hausboot/
- Deasey/Penner & Partners. "Himmelhaus." 2012. (June 25, 2012) http://www.deasypenner.com/property/2530/513-Grand-Boulevard.html
- Design Boom. "Confused Direction Design: Hausboot Silver Beaver." Feb. 2, 2012. (June 29, 2012) http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/18936/confused-direction-design-hausboot-silverbeaver.html
- Ehrens, Emily. "24 Wissomming Court." Trulia. 2012. (June 25, 2012) http://www.trulia.com/property/3008256816-24-Wissioming-Ct-Bethesda-MD-20816
- J. Mayer H. Architects. "Dupli Casa." 2012. (June 25, 2012) http://www.jmayerh.de/17-0-DupliCasa.html
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- KB Home. "Energy-efficient Homes: Built for Saving Cash and Conserving Resources." 2012. (June 25, 2012) http://www.kbhome.com/energy-efficient-homes
- KWK Promes. "Safe House." 2009. (June 26, 2012) http://www.kwkpromes.pl/
- Monolithic. (June 25, 2012) http://www.monolithic.com/
- Partners Trust Real Estate Brokerage. "2260 Sunset Plaza." 2012. (June 25, 2012) http://www.2260sunsetplaza.com/
- Robert M. Gurney, FAIA Architects. (June 25, 2012) http://www.robertgurneyarchitect.com/
- Snider, Bruce D. "Robert M. Gurney, FAIA." Residential Architect. 2012. (June 25, 2012) http://www.residentialarchitect.com/architects/robert-m-gurney-faia.aspx
- Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. (June 25, 2012) http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/products/popomo/
- Ward, Timothy Jack. "Current Showroom: Kitchen Designs Where Nothing is Wasted." The New York Times. Nov. 11, 1999. (June 25, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/11/garden/currents-showroom-kitchen-designs-where-nothing-is-wasted.html