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Future-proofing our homes - Zurich reveals a new house design for the future

Zurich Insurance today (Wednesday 6 December 2006) launched a study in association with Arup's award winning architectural practice, Arup Associates, investigating the implications of environment, social and energy-source changes on future house design. The study has been produced by Zurich to help the company better understand the future needs of homeowners and business.

By around 2080 our relationship with our home might have changed beyond all recognition. Working in partnership with Arup Associates, Zurich has identified what the house of the future might look like:

· Modular homes: Homes could become more adaptable, expanding and contracting in response to our domestic needs.  Our homes could even move with us.  Walls, rooms and even floors could be added or taken away to accommodate three generations as we live longer and land becomes an even more premium commodity. 
· The end of the commute: Technology leaps could create a commute-free society as more people work from home. The future may also include echoes from the past; local communities, shops, services and even our relationship with our neighbours could play a far greater part in our daily lives.
· Houses on stilts: In areas particularly at risk of flooding, houses built on stilts could become a common sight.
· Self heating: Solar panels, gas-filled triple-glazed windows and intelligent insulation, which can automatically adjust to the external temperature to control the heat indoors, could all be standard fittings and fixtures. 
· Self cooling: To cope with peak summer temperatures that might regularly reach seven degrees higher than today, energy-hungry air conditioning units will be replaced by pipes carrying cool, recycled water built into, and around, ceilings and beams. Solar shades and houses built with extended overhangs would also help beat the heat.  As temperatures regularly soar to 35oC and above, opening windows could become less effective during the heat of the day and patterns used in Mediterranean climates might become more common.
· Energy self sufficient: The UK might be growing its own energy thanks to greater use of bio-fuels from plants, such as rapeseed.  Renewable energy sources could be a necessity, as energy generation becomes a community activity with smaller, local substations supplied with energy generated by family wind turbines and solar panels.
· Water independent: Today's bathrooms could represent relics of a more indulgent age as water could become a luxury the planet can't afford to waste. The priority will be saving water and our homes will be tailor-made to re-use and recycle water. In the house of the future the entire water used and waste produced could be re-used and recycled.
· Plug in cars: As our homes become power sources in their own right, at night we could find ourselves putting out the cat and plugging in the car to charge up its batteries at the same time.
· Death of DIY: The more hi-tech the house becomes, with solar panels, wind-turbines and geothermal energy systems, the less able we might become in DIY-ing our house repairs. Increased modularity will make it easier for us to adapt to our homes.
· Roof gardens: The vista of pitched roofs spanning suburbia could disappear to be replaced by either flat roofs covered with gardens of gravel or vegetation to aid water gathering and help minimise flood damage, or inverted pitched roofs to maximise rainwater harvesting.
· Flora and fauna: As regular droughts and water shortages grip the nation, our gardens could take on a new look with thirsty, delicate plants such as roses and hydrangeas supplanted by olive trees and cacti.

Zurich commissioned Arup's award winning architectural practice, Arup Associates, to work with them on a house design of the future because by working with experts like Arup Associates they can stay abreast of relevant changes and developments that could affect customers.  As insurers and design consultants, Zurich and Arup Associates have a shared interest in the present and future comfort and protection of home-owners.

'History shows that we can't predict the future with absolute certainty, but we can prepare for it. Through this study we have tried to imagine how changes in our environment and working and social lives may impact the types of homes we'll live in,' said Martin Horsler from Zurich.

'Our houses may not be built on stilts and, sadly, commuting may still be part of daily life, but one thing we can be sure of is that change happens and the world of 2080 will look quite different from today. As insurers our role is to make sure our customers have the protection they need.  We plan ahead to ensure we offer products that are all the more relevant and secure today.  In this study we have tried to anticipate how houses could look in the future so that we are better able to prepare our customers for whatever happens today, next week and even, perhaps, in 2080.

Copies of Zurich and Arup Associates' vision of the house of the future are available.

Notes to Editor
1. Zurich Financial Services Group (Zurich) is an insurance-based financial services provider with a global network of subsidiaries and offices in North America and Europe as well as in Asia Pacific, Latin America and other markets. Founded in 1872, the Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. It employs approximately 55,000 people serving customers in more than 120 countries.
2. Arup is a global firm of designers and business consultants providing a diverse range of professional services to clients around the world.  The firm is the creative force behind many of the world's most innovative and sustainable buildings, transport and civil engineering projects.  Established 60 years ago, the firm exerts a significant influence on the built environment and has more than 7000 employees, based in 75 offices in more than 33 countries, working on up to 10,000 projects at any one time.  Arup has three global business areas - buildings, infrastructure and consulting - and their multi-disciplinary approach means that any given project may involve people from any or all of the sectors or regions in which they operate.  Their fundamental aim is to achieve excellence in all they do by bringing together the best professionals in the world to meet their clients' needs.
3. Arup Associates is Arup's award-winning architectural practice. Arup Associates was established by Arup's founder, Sir Ove Arup, to realise his vision of 'total architecture' through multi-disciplinary design. Since its inception, the goal of Arup Associates has been to deliver buildings that are innovative, efficient, and sustainable and address social and environmental issues.  The success of the practice has been founded on the innovative use of building technologies and construction processes.  Its aim is create technologically-advanced design that is appropriate, economic, and sensitive to environmental and human needs. Its focus on the importance of building performance and the usage of land, materials and energy has resulted in the creation of sustainable systems, examination of the potential of new life for brown field sites and research into workplace performance.

For more information:
Sarah Wright or Marie Ennis
Tel: 020 7462 7766 or email: or


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Zurich Insurance plc, a public limited company incorporated in Ireland. Registration No. 13460.Registered Office: Zurich House, Ballsbridge Park, Dublin 4, Ireland. UK Branch registered in England and Wales Registration No. BR7985. UK Branch Head Office: The Zurich Centre, 3000 Parkway, Whiteley, Fareham, Hampshire PO15 7JZ. Zurich Insurance plc is authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details about the extent of our regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority are available from us on request. These details can be checked on the FCA’s Financial Services Register via their website or by contacting them on 0800 111 6768. Our FCA Firm Reference Number is 203093.

Zurich Assurance Ltd, authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England and Wales under company number 02456671. Registered office: Tri Centre One, New Bridge Square, Swindon, SN1 1HN.