Helping to build the home of the future

Posted by Rob Enderle

Back in 1957, Disney and Monsanto built a model home of the future.

What amazes me is that over 50 years later most houses really don’t look all that different from the homes of the 1930s - and certainly nothing like the amazing residence Disney ultimately envisioned.

Remember,  this house was built to withstand the storms that leveled homes in New York and New Orleans, all while using space far more efficiently. It was also equipped with anticipated microwave ovens, flat screen TVs, and even robotic vacuums which wouldn’t show up for decades.   

Now I actually have a chance to update Disney's original theme while building two houses in Belize - but I could use some ideas. One structure - which we'll live in - is actually very contemporary, although the other is likely to be more of a showcase to be sold or rented out. Still, I'm definitely up for something more experimental in terms of the second house.  

Houses of the Future Past

To get a sense for what we can do today you can see a 3D walkthrough video of the house we are building in Belize (after the YouTube ad) to live in here. You’ll note it is very contemporary, but not nearly as advanced as the Disney concept, which  you can peruse in two old videos here. Note the really cool stuff like the retractable kitchen shelves or the dishwasher design which appears more convenient than current technology. Clearly they didn’t anticipate PCs or smartphones. I particularly like the adjustable sinks which would be great for kids, folks that are disabled, or either taller or shorter than average.

In 2008, Brussels designed a house of the future, although unlike Disney this model clearly understood that computers and other electronic devices would be thoroughly integrated into the house. To me, it seems like there is a lot of Star Trek influence, yet actually feels less like a home than the old Disney concept to me. 

Design Guidelines

We are clearly experiencing harsh weather cycles, with no sign of a let up in the near future. As such, the house has to be designed to handle high winds and high water, which is actually one of the interesting design elements of the Disney home. It is probably worth noting that the wrecking ball to demolish the structure just bounced off the house, and they ended up having to cut it to pieces.

In addition, energy is becoming more and more expensive, so a house of the future has to be energy efficient, as well as maintaining the capability of going off-grid.   

Currently we are looking at a combination of IFC building materials (a mashup of foam and cement) to achieve both strength and energy efficiency, and then adding solar panels (efficiency rank here) as well as lithium ion battery racks to go off grid. 

Now because you can’t depend on the police to show up for burglaries anymore, some level integrated self-defense is a necessity . You’ll note that in our initial design, which is based on the Disney plan, the height of the house above grade protects it to a degree. Still,  you’d need some type of a highly integrated solution to both identify an intruder and, hopefully scare them off.  Currently I’m using ADT Pulse but I'm sure there is something more advanced out there I haven’t located yet.  Then again, ADT Pulse boasts integrated fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide alarms, offers perimeter and zone sensors, all while supporting up to 9 security cameras, tablets and smartphones. 

The kitchens we are looking at follow a very modern angle, but I don’t think we are planning far enough into the future. Plus, I’m still researching designs for the other rooms. One feature I’d really like to take advantage of is LCD based privacy glass, but there are few who know how to install it.  This video showcases why it would be really cool, though. 

Wrapping Up:  Looking for A Little Help and Some Ideas

So, over the holidays, or if you have some ideas anytime, about what you think a really cool but affordable house of the future would look like; comment below with your ideas and thoughts and I’ll take them into consideration. You may even see them built into one of the houses I’m working on. In any case, it is kind of fun to dream about what a house of the future should look like.  I think it is a shame Walt Disney’s vision didn’t go farther and, maybe, just maybe, we can help fix that.