Designing the home of the future

Posted in: Environment

Posted on: 18.07.2018

Engaging the younger generation in discussions on climate change is a key part of tackling the many issues surrounding our changing environment. At Good Energy, we want to do what we can to involve children in the discussion which is why we launched our A Message From The Future competition in 2017.

The winners were the girls of St Philomena’s School who came up with the clever idea of having a video call with their future selves and filmed it. Their prize was to take a trip to the Eden Project to learn more about climate change, renewable energy, and the environment with our CEO Juliet Davenport.

Whilst they were at the Eden Project, Juliet and Eden staff gave the girls some ideas as to what great renewable and sustainable technology they might start to see more of in their lifetimes. The class was then broken up into groups who were each asked to come up with their vision of ‘A Home of the Future’.

Below we look at some of their ideas, and whether or not they could become a reality.

Renewable generation at home

Many of the designs from the groups featured solar panels and wind turbines, with some innovative stipulations added such as the turbines being silent and solar panels rotating to follow the path of the sun throughout the day. As pioneers of the Feed-in tariff scheme, we’re huge proponents of this idea. One team even suggested the windows of the house could be made of transparent solar panels, which, although you might not have seen it, is actually a technology that currently exists and is being developed further.

Homes for a different environment

In their work, some of the groups considered that the houses they were creating might exist in a world that looks a bit different to what we’re familiar with. Given concerns regarding rising sea levels, one of the teams designed their house so it could float as needed depending on water levels, and could utilise waves and currents to generate energy for the building too.

Whilst not something you see every day in the UK, some architects are already working on ‘amphibious home’ concepts for current and future situations.

Sustainable materials for a sustainable life

The girls clearly took to heart their eco-learnings from their time at the Eden Project as many of their future home designs included sustainable building materials including fast-growing and environmentally friendly bamboo, wood from replanted forests, and plenty of greenery built into the occasionally Tolkein-esque aesthetics. They made sure to include compost heaps and point out that rain water could be collected from the roof and reused in the toilet cistern.

It’s good to see the next generation taking on board such ideas, as sustainable building materials are actively being used and thought about further right now.

Smart technology for energy efficiency

The reach and capability of smart technology grows every day. The ubiquity of smartphones is taken for granted so much that most of us just call them phones these days. Voice activation and artificial intelligence are key components of the drive forward in this area and the girls made sure to utilise the advantages of these technologies to ensure their homes of the future were energy efficient. One design featured an in-home device that could check whether anybody was still in the room by asking ‘Are you still there?’ and, if no answer is given, the device would then turn off any unnecessary devices still running in the room such as the TV.

Novel energy generation

Of course, in a task like this, we expected to see a few fun, out-of-the-box ideas. We weren’t disappointed either, as the girls proposed several unexpected features. One design looked to harness the power of bird poo, collecting droppings on the roof, and another included an in-built travellator that could generate power from people’s footsteps. Another group wanted an attic gym in their home, in which the main exercise device would be a human-sized hamster wheel that could generate electricity when run on!

How feasible are ideas like these?

Well, we already make use of animal manure in the generation of biogas, capturing gas as the materials in the manure break down. Bird droppings, however, are considered too acidic to be of much use though so that idea might not be one you see much of in the future. You might get start to see pavements and floors that can make use of the power of footsteps to generate electricity though, so the travellator and hamster wheel weren’t too far off the mark.

We really enjoyed hearing the ideas from the class and hopefully some of them have been inspired to start making them a reality.

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