By Diane Pham
While we may not be living in a Jetsons Age just yet, housing design over the last few decades has quickly evolved from four walls and a roof to incredible abodes that are able to transform and adapt according to our needs. Architects are pushing the boundaries of space, using technology and smart design to build futuristic homes for a new generation of families. From a compact 350-square-foot New York City apartment featuring furniture that folds out of the walls, to a house that can expand to double its size in just a few minutes, these innovative living spaces—like the Chevrolet Spark, with a surprising 31.2 cubic feet* of cargo room—offer a lot more than initially meets the eye.
LifeEdited Apartment in NYC
For the vast majority, moving to New York City means trading in lots of space for compact and cramped homes that are far from comfortable. Treehugger.com founder Graham Hill wanted to develop a space that would allow its inhabitants to live life large—even if it meant packing into a mere 420-square-foot space. At first glance, Hill’s apartment looks like a simple studio, but its white walls hold a bevy of unexpected secrets: Absolutely everything—desk, dining table, bed—can be slid out of the walls to create eight functional spaces in one. Watch a video of Hill demonstrating his ingenious design here.
The Expanding DALE House
If you live in a climate as spectacular as Southern California’s, you’ll want to spend every moment you can basking in the sun. For this year’s 2013 Solar Decathlon, the students at SCI-Arc and Caltech designed a solar-powered home that takes full advantage of outdoor living. Called DALE (which stands for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment), this compact 600-square-foot, high-tech home is set on rails that allow its two living modules to be pulled apart into a sizable 1,800 square feet in just minutes.
You’ve got a smartphone, but what about a smarthome? Students from the Steven’s Institute designed an incredible solar-powered prefab home that uses high-tech to “learn” from its inhabitants. Called Ecohabit, the entire home and all its components are backed up by a smart detection system that gathers info such as temperature, humidity, and motion with respect to its occupants living patterns, from which it will ultimately learn enough to operate the home autonomously based the occupants’ needs. The home also features solar shingles, a roof garden, verdant walls and a water catchment system.
Shotwell Net Zero Residence
Architect David Baker’s ultra-slim, ultra-tall Shotwell Residence is a sustainable home that not only touts a LEED Platinum rating, but also claims fame as San Francisco’s first ever Passive House. It’s also set to achieve net-zero energy certification through the extremely rigorous Living Building Challenge. (Fact: There are only four Living buildings in the world at the moment!) This beautiful modern home is literally a powerhouse, boasting a 3kW photovoltaic solar array that generates net positive 30% more energy than it actually uses. All that excess energy it produces goes back to the local grid for other San Franciscans to use!
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Diane Pham is a senior editor at Inhabitat and a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She tweets @dianepham.
*Cargo and load capacity limited by weight and distribution. Cargo volume with rear seats folded down.