The Energy Efficient Future of Housing

29 Jan

Houses come in different shapes and sizes and it’s hard to imagine what the future will hold when it comes to housing developments. Energy efficiency is really taking hold in the United Kingdom and home owners are adapting their homes for the future. Although, we will never know what the future will hold for housing, it doesn’t mean we can’t imagine.

The Industrial Revolution witnessed a huge growth in the size of British cities. In 1695, the population of Britain was estimated to be 5.5 million. By 1801, the year of the first census, it was 9.3 million and by 1841, 15.9 million. This represents a 60% growth rate in just 40 years. Manchester, as an example, experienced a six-times increase in its population between 1771 and 1831. Bradford grew by 50% every ten years between 1811 and 1851 and by 1851 only 50% of the population of Bradford was actually born there. These cities needed cheap homes as the Industrial Revolution continued to grow. Therefore it was important that houses were adapted to this style of living catering for the larger numbers.


The building material used was the cheapest a builder could find. Cheap slate from Wales was commonly used. The finished homes were damp as none were built with damp courses and those who could only afford cellar dwellings lived in the worst possible conditions as damp and moisture would seep to the lowest part of the house.

At the end of World War II we were ushered in the industrial age of housing. It is then when we first confronted our energy deficiencies. With energy from fossil fuels becoming less popular, the highlighted demand for clean air and water, climate stability and more comfortable living things have started to change.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s when most homes in the UK started to get a central heating system fitted. It might surprise you, but central heating was actually invented long, long ago during Roman times. The Romans invented a rudimentary form of central heating which helped to keep their villas warm, with a concept and format not a million miles away from the central heating systems we have today.  After the end of Roman rule in Britain in the year 410, we seemed to forget about central heating until the nineteenth century. In the intervening fifteen hundred years, most people relied on fires to provide warmth in the home…or perhaps we just got used to the cold!

But enough of the past…what can we expect for the future? With the green premise growing in popularity across the globe, more and more people are turning to shipping container structures for green alternatives. There are copious benefits to the so-called shipping container architecture model. A few of these advantages include: strength, durability, availability, and cost. But there are also a lot of downsides to building with shipping containers. For instance, the coatings used to make the containers durable for ocean transport also happen to contain a number of harmful chemicals, such as chromate, phosphorous, and lead-based paints.


Could we see a boom in green roofs throughout UK cities? A green roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. They offer many advantages to the public and private sectors ranging from waste diversion to energy efficiency. Green roofs offer great aesthetic improvement for local communities. Urban greening has long been promoted as an easy and effective strategy for beautifying the built environment and increasing investment opportunity.

Green roofs have been around for centuries in different corners of the world. We have seen an increase in green roof interest due to growing concerns surrounding climate change, carbon footprints and sustainability. It is not only roof’s that can be covered; walls can also have a green makeover.

Could we see sky scrapers cleaning up the pollution and smog within our cities? A building called ‘Project Blue’ was designed to reduce pollution in urban zones in China following record breaking levels of smog. The plan was to design a building that would help reduce the high levels of particulate pollution that’s becoming a big problem within Chinese cities. The system is complex, but fundamentally their building would brush carbon monoxide from the air and turn it into methane. This methane could then be used to generate electricity or power methane fuel cells in cars.

What do you think will happen in the upcoming years? We will be parking our electric cars on our rooftops to allow more space for the growing population? Will we have the first breathing houses? Will we all create our own energy using solar? Could we bring something forgotten back to life just like we did with the Romans central heating? The answer is we haven’t a clue…but it’s cool to speculate.



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