Autumn is fading into Winter and 2014 is beckoning – so what can we expect to see in our homes as eco-design whizzes round the sun once more? Without further ado, here are my key trends in sustainable design to watch out for in 2014.
Thinking Smart- Materials and Technology
The very fabric of our homes are set to get smarter, with floors and walls that can regulate temperature and even generate electricity. Some of this technology is already pointing the way forwards and supports this key trend to connecting us with the space around us.
First up the British Gas Hive smart control unit connects your heating and hot water to the internet so you can control them from your phone or tablet. You can save energy and save money by only heating your home when you need to, so you’re always in control.
DuPont Energain panels line the walls of your home and maintain a even out temperature fluctuations. They use a special type of paraffin which stays solid below 18 degrees C. , but as the space warms to 22 degrees, it melts into a liquid and absorbs heat, preventing a spike in temperature. As the room cools down at night, the material resolidifies, releasing heat in the process. It makes the temperature of the space more stable, bringing extra comfort, while simultaneously saving energy and C02 emissions.
Transparent solar panels are a great innovation allowing you to generate energy while creating beautiful spaces of natural light. The technology allows in natural light, filtering out UV rays and infrared, and has insulating properties so making skylights and conservatory’s be even more functional in the future.
Pavegen harnesses energy from your footsteps and turns it into electricity. These smart paving tiles which can be put in or outdoors generate enough power for lighting and signage, and can send data to your phone to tell you when someone’s treading on them.
Connectivity – Sharing Communities and the Circular Economy
Being digitally connected will provide the opportunity to be more efficient by sharing and pooling resources and further enable communities to support each other and reduce their environmental impact. So who’s doing good stuff ?
Already, Streetclublets you create an online community around your street, so you can organise events, share tools and help each other with a private online noticeboard for you and your neighbours.
FixMyStreet.com connects you with your local council, allowing you to report problems such as broken roads, pavements, signs, flytipping or littering, talk about how to solve them with your community and have the council fix it in a transparent online forum.
When you’re ready to leave the house, BlaBlaCar is a journey sharing website with an easy-to-use interface that lets you offer lifts or hitch rides with other people in exchange for paying a share of the fuel costs. It makes your journeys cheaper, more efficient and more interesting, and is of course cleared with the insurance companies.
Maker’s Mark – Rise of the Fixer Makers Hackers movement
Hacktivism, hackdays, maker faires – cobbled together technology is reviving the British hobbyist tradition for the tech-savvy. The new objects are being made to last, counteracting throwaway culture and making people feel connected with the objects around them. An object you’ve personalised, interacted with and adapted is an object you wont want to get rid of so will last longer.
SUGRU is a fun way to fix things. It’s a self-setting rubber –you can mould it like plasticene and it will set and bond to surfaces. It can be used for all sorts of things from insulating broken cables on chargers, to replacing buttons, grips, patching holes and fixing kitchen appliances. Its waterproof properties and heat resistance make it practical to use around the home. There are plenty of fun ideas on the SUGRU website.
PhoneCube appeared months ago as a radical concept to design a phone based on bits you could stick together. For example, a better camera if you’re a photographer, a bigger battery if you need it, and it would also mean that you could upgrade parts as you need them instead of ditching the whole phone and replacing it. It’s a bold move, but Motorola have picked it up and are hoping to open up the phone hardware market so that we can all start making and buying our own phone parts.
Hackdays and Maker Faires have been springing up over the world and will continue to bring us innovation in 2014. A hackday gets software developers together, often with partners (such as the NHS Hackday for instance) to motivate each other, create solutions and build new projects. Likewise, the Maker Faires, originally organised by a magazine to promote arts, craft and DIY, are going global. Mini-maker faires now happen in UK cities such as Brighton and Bristol, with the official Maker Faire in Newcastle.
Transport – Bikes, Cars and Luxury Cars
Safer cycling is crucial for modern cities. Innovations in cycling have never been more welcome for those looking to save money, live sustainably, get exercise and improve their health. Invisible helmets and smart bike wheels are just the start. Cycle superhighways and regulations to keep bikes and trucks apart could be the future.
16.7 million of us rely on the car to get to work every day in England and Wales – and we’re paying much more for fuel than we were a decade ago. Now is the time then, to switch to electric. You can benefit from a free electric vehicle charging point package which gets you safe and secure charging point installed in or outside your home, plus access to a network of over 1800 charging points across the UK. I’m a big fan and a driver of the Vauxhall Ampera extended range vehicle – freeing me from petrol stations with over 200MPG.
Low carbon transport is one initiative that the government is getting behind with a current offer to fit any house with a driveway with a free electric car charging point ….. for a limited time period only….!
ECO Refurbishment. 70% of today’s buildings will standing in 36 years time, according to EcoBuild, so we need to find ways to make them fit for the future. The Green Deal provides insulation and other energy-saving measures through renovation and reurbishment, and it’s Golden Rule means that these measures will pay for themselves through reduced energy bills. It’s had a slow start but is now starting to pick up with lots of people getting assessments to see where they can improve their house’s efficiency. Check out my blog post about the Green Deal here.
Trend spotters may have been expecting me to talk about the latest soft furnishing, drapes and cushions, so if you’re minded for interior design I feel duty-bound to inform you that the colour of 2014 is set to be, well, split between Radiant Orchid and Teal – depnding on who you decide to trust – the folks at Pantone or ColourFutures . Both lovely colours in their own right, so please do go ahead and use them with my blessing.