Architecture is constantly evolving to match the changing needs and desires of our society. In the last 50 years, there have been huge changes in the way buildings are designed including more heavy use of synthetic materials, greater health and safety standards and a greater focus on energy-efficiency. In the next 50 years, buildings are likely to transform further – most likely continuing to become more environmentally-friendly while also becoming more tech-heavy. Below are just some of the design features that may become the norm in the near future. 

Less plastic

Synthetic materials may have many advantages such as cost and the ability to mold them into any shape/texture. However, they are generally not good for the planet – and in some cases our health. Growing studies have found that plastics tend to pollute the air with VOCs, which can be harmful to our lungs over time. They also create a lot of pollution during manufacture and can be hard to recycle, often ending up in landfill sites where they do not degrade.

Consequently, we could see less usage of materials like PVC and acrylic for cladding, roofing, flooring and windows/doors. Instead, plastic is only likely to be used where it is vital (such as within electrics).

More timber

What will take the place of plastics in the future? Timber is likely to be the best option in many cases. A rise in sustainable forestry has made it easier to harvest wood in an eco-friendly way. Timber has remained a reliable material throughout history for its strength, insulation and calming natural look. It remains a popular choice today, however it could see increased heavy usage in newer homes in the future.

An example of a past trend that is already coming back in a big way is timber panelling and cladding. New offices are moving away from plastic interior panelling in favor of warm and inviting timber options like western red cedar panelling. The likes of blackbut cladding and spotted gum cladding are meanwhile already starting to be favored over exterior vinyl cladding. This could be a continued trend in the future. 

Up and up

The demand for houses is constantly rising, but urban planners are running out of space. It is no longer becoming practical to keep expanding cities outward, which means trying to maximize available space within cities. 

This is likely to lead to greater use of vertical space. We could see a continued increase in the construction of apartment blocks in cities. Townhouses with more floors but less space per floor could also become more common.

Going underground

Another idea that is gaining traction is the idea of building downwards instead of up. Entire levels of buildings can be built underground to add extra space without having to expand outwards. 

Underground buildings have advantages such as providing insulation against heat loss and urban noise. The challenge will be making sure that these underground buildings are well protected against flooding and that they still have adequate access to natural light.

Smart ideas

Smart technology involves linking appliances and utilities to the internet so that they can be monitored and operated remotely. Examples include smart HVAC, smart lighting, smart locks and smart shutters on windows.

In the future, many new homes could already have these technologies integrated. Such technologies are likely to be particularly useful for the increasing ageing population, providing more control over their home without having to move around as much. 

Solar as standard

To help combat climate change, more buildings are switching to sustainable energy sources. Solar power is one of the most conveniently accessible forms of sustainable energy and is likely to be the most popular solution in the future. 

Solar panels on the roofs of new homes could become a standard feature. Many buildings will likely still be linked up to mains electricity as a supplementary source of power, however most of our electricity will likely be harvested from on-site solar panels.

Swiss-army Rooms

As space becomes harder to come by, we could start to see more homes being built with multi-purpose spaces within them. This could include kitchen appliances, beds and furniture built into walls that can be pulled or folded out. 

Already, there are multi-functional studio apartments being built using this concept. These types of homes allow more amenities to be incorporated into less space. 

Green Roofs

Green roofs (or living roofs as they’re sometimes known) are roofs covered in green vegetation. This typically includes a layer of grass on soil, however some green roofs may include other shallow rooted plants. 

These roofs have many benefits. They can support local wildlife and help tackle air pollution. They can also help rural buildings to blend more seamlessly into the landscape. In urban areas, they could meanwhile serve as private rooftop gardens in areas where a private ground level yard is not possible. On top of this, they are great forms of insulation. Such roofs are slowly gaining more popularity, but could become a lot more popular in the near future due to all of these benefits.

EV parking

Many countries will be bringing in future laws and targets to help increase electric car usage. We can therefore expect more future architectural projects to be built around electric cars.

This could include homes being built with EV stations as standard. It could also include public and private car parks being produced with more EV stations. Fast charging EV stations are currently expensive to install, but are likely to become cheaper in the future as the technology becomes easier to mass produce and the demand increases. 

3D printed homes

3D printers can be used to easily and cheaply produce complicated components. They are already starting to see usage when creating parts for homes. In fact, there have already been instances of fully 3D printed homes

As 3D printing becomes cheaper, we could start to see more elaborately designed homes being produced at a more affordable price. Wood, metal and concrete are likely to be the materials of choice.