The future of housing? Enel turns to the masses for ideas

Fri, 2015-01-09 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

There’s no doubt that a developer’s job is harder than ever. Populations are exploding and becoming increasingly urban. Developers have to build enough housing while building a sense of community and minimizing the environmental impact.

Old methods no longer work and incremental change isn’t enough to meet the sizeable challenge. So Council Lead Partner Enel is turning to the wisdom of the masses to uncover truly transformational ideas that will result in the homes of the future today. It's a project that cities around the world will want to watch closely.

Enel Group subsidiary Ampla in Brazil has launched a crowdsourcing platform that will aid the sharing and selection of ideas for building an efficient, smart and sustainable home.

Enel is soliciting ideas for what it’s calling the NO.V.A. house. NO.V.A. is short for a Brazilian Portuguese phrase that means “we are living tomorrow.” And the ideas for the house are coming from all over the world.

The house will be built later this year in Niterói, located across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. How it will be designed and the features it will have will be decided in part by ideas submitted through a special website.

Not just looking for “green” ideas
While environmental impact and energy conservation are important considerations, they aren't the only ones. In addition to green architecture and design ideas, the team behind the house is also looking for suggestions to improve the quality of life of the people who could live in it. Their site is also taking suggestions for improving urban mobility, healthy lifestyles and social connections.

Participants are asked to think about the appliances they actually use each day – and those they rarely use. Where do they watch TV? When friends come over, where in the house do they usually hang out?

The idea is to get people thinking about how a house could fit the way they actually live, rather than simply building homes the way they have always been done.

An online focus group
The project aims to build social connections of its own, funneling the suggestions into its own Facebook group. That’s important because it believes the suggestions can inspire other suggestions. Ideas that are submitted in secret can’t prompt debate and discussion.

In essence, what they’re trying to create is an online focus group. The group is already quite large. In just three months, more than 35,000 people have submitted ideas, joined the Facebook group, or expressed interest in following the progress.

Building the “Home of 2040” this year
The online community will take submissions through June. A wide range of experts, including university researchers and energy and architecture specialists, will evaluate each idea. Those with the most promise will be given to a firm that will ultimately design the home.

No one will ever live in this house, but it could have a dramatic impact on new homes around the world, given the following that the project is already attracting. The finished house will become a research laboratory that will study energy efficiency and the impact of technology on everyday lives.

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Kevin Ebi is a staff writer and social media coordinator for the Council. Follow  @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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