Cover Photo: Dorsa Masghati (Unsplash)

In the second part of our guide to future-proofing your home, we explore how to flesh out the architectural canvas to best suits individual needs

With the foundation in place, fleshing out the architectural canvas with elements of future-proofing comes next. The amount of options here starts to get wider and wider, with appropriate solutions being particular to the context. The intent, though, remains the same.

ICYMI: Future-Proofing Your Home, Part 1

PERSONAL REQUIREMENTS

The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed our lives, not least because being confined to a single space for an entrenched period presents a myriad of challenges. There will be future pandemics, and therefore homes need to be ready for a ‘new normal’.

That’s where modularity comes in. Open plans will remain a popular future-proofing concept—accommodating flexible usage over time—but can also be adapted for privacy. Moveable walls can divide a large space into sections or be collapsed into a grand arena for a swinging party. Foldable screens or sliding partitions perform the same function, with the added incentive of controlling acoustic levels.

The acceptance of remote working as viable means that creating a technologically prepared professional cocoon may be necessary. And in a nod to multi-generational communal living, walkways should promote flowing movement to avoid chokepoints and accidents, while lifts in a multi-level home may be an important option.

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ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Designing a home that minimises environmental impact is a far broader topic than expected. Established concepts such as maximising natural light and natural cooling are already entrenched, but more can be done using natural elements for a low-carbon home.

Rain and grey water harvesting is a good example. Smart piping can circulate rainwater to promote natural cooling and be taken even further into a holistic system. Filtration can render that rainwater useful for household applications (gardening, bathrooms) while excess volume can be channelled into underground soakaways, returning to the subsoil to recharge groundwater and avoid soil erosion.

Choice of building materials matters as well. The beautiful Makassar ebony timber is prized for its striped beauty, but overlogging for luxury applications has made it endangered. The more ethical choice is responsibly-managed, sustainably-harvested wood, as certified through international standards including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

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TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES

Rapid technological advances have produced a vast choice of modern building materials, providing more environmentally conscious components beyond just cement and steel. Pre-cast concrete slabs, for example, are less energy-intensive to produce than cement. HempCrete retains concrete’s strength in a lighter form made from renewable hemp fibre instead of destructive sand mining; its quality of being carbon neutral – the HempCrete life cycle absorbs more carbon dioxide than emitted – is a bonus.

Another sustainable concrete alternative is Ferrock, recycled from steel dust or ferrous rock leftovers from industrial processes. If traditional concrete or steel should be used, there are sustainable sources certified by the ResponsibleSteel and the Concrete Sustainability Council standards. And carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology means that any building material could potentially be carbon neutral if the emissions from production are offset through CCS projects.

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MARKET VALUE

While the worth of a property will always be in the land that it occupies, there are ways of making your home pay dividends beyond just value appreciation. A green roof could be a source of kitchen ingredients but future-proofing benefits can also be monetary. Solar panels and (in the right environment) wind turbines are not only easily implementable home renewables technologies, but the energy generated often exceeds usage. That surplus can be sold back to the local electricity grid—called the Net Metering Scheme in Malaysia—allowing the investment to potentially pay for itself.

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