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PREDICTION: Homes will be more affordable, portable, climate resilient and energy efficient

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The future of property is moving in a new direction as lifestyle, economic and climate changes call for shake-ups to the traditional homes in which we live.

Pod homes are popping up all over the world, and solving housing crises of varying magnitudes.

In 2017, local futurist Merle O’Brien worked on an award-winning OPod home designed by Hong Kong architect James Law Cybertecture to help solve Cape Town’s housing crisis in Masiphumelele settlement.

The Alpod, by the same designer, is another example of a 21st century approach to designing and building homes that are more affordable, portable, climate resilient and energy efficient, she says. And these houses can be ordered online.

“They will ship and build it all for a price that one might expect: $86000 (about R1.27million).” With land expropriation without compensation on the cards in South Africa, 3D printing provides an investment opportunity for architects, construction and engineering companies. Looking ahead to the years between 2030 and 2050, she says urban policy makers will move away from linear gridlocked cities into circular designs more suitable to authentic African lifestyles, co-sharing, energy saving and access.

“Let’s reimagine Cape Town as a circular city with the unfinished highway in Cape Town connecting across the bay to Blouberg. Let’s imagine Cape Town as a space port leader in the rising space age, and find more inspiring ways to use the Green Point stadium and rapid rail links from suburbs to central hubs.” 

O’Brien says subterranean homes have existed in Africa since time immemorial. One example is an underground village in Tunisia. “The San Bushmen in the Kalahari also speak of a time when they lived underground and in caves due to climate change not unlike the current situation.”

In South Africa specifically, O’Brien foresees the children of elderly luxury homeowners in affluent areas like Constantia, Bishopscourt and Fresnaye being less inclined to remain in these big properties because of the maintenance needed.

“Rather, they’ll rent them to foreigners, or use them as smallholdings for home-based therapy businesses, home -schools, micro-home retail and Airbnb while they opt for luxury compact living in lock-up-and-go security apartments with full amenities, such at the V&A Waterfront.”

The future, she says, will also see township homes embracing “kasi culture” with vibrant heritage, food and business precincts offering new opportunity spaces for first-time buyers in the R800000 to R1.5m market. These cater for people wanting to stay closer to family, new jobs, church communities and transport hubs.

With less need to commute to CBDs – with the inconvenience of dependence on poor Metrorail, taxi and bus services – due to the 4th Industrial Revolution disruption, people will be more inclined to work from home, shop within walking distance and cycle to school.

Globally, says O’Brien, coastal cities are “risky” places to live due to the potential impacts of climate change. “In the long-term (50+ years), South Africa’s coastal properties will be risky because of their proximity to ice melting in Antarctica, change in the temperatures of the Indian and Atlantic ocean currents and changing climate patterns.

“Peri-urban areas about 50km away from coastal suburbs – especially near rivers and mountains – such as Paarl, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Stellenbosch and Vaal farmland regions offer greater land stability for generational asset transfers into the 22nd century.”

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