When I picture the city and town of the future, I see a denser built environment than what we currently have, especially in suburbia. But it’s not very “green” to raze suburban neighborhoods and build denser habitats. A few things that most suburban neighborhoods have going for them (at least in my 1960s built neighborhood) are big ass yards and lots of street parking.
The house of the future – at least the suburban-infill house of the future – is a House (+) Apartment. There are two primary aspects for the (+) Apartment: the sociological part and the constructibility part.
The sociological aspect involves the reason of why should it be done. Why would anyone want to build an apartment onto their property? One reason is to have someone else pay for your mortgage, thus making home ownership more affordable to a lot more people. An apartment, say somewhere in the order of a few hundred square feet in area, would allow the homeowner to turn their property into something that makes money. And for security reasons this apartment would not have any shared spaces with the house and would have its own sleeping quarters, kitchen, bath, and a small yard that provides a more substantial connection to exterior space than the typical apartment building. And if your house is close to a desirable location that a renter would desire (like a college or mass transit) then the more rent the homeowner could charge.
The other sociological aspect involves family. There are two trends that may not change in the near future: children are living at home longer after high school graduation, and people are living longer after retirement. College is becoming incredibly more expensive, so a method for saving money is to live with parents. Retirement communities are also becoming more expensive, so a method for saving money is to live with children. A young adult attending college or a retired grandparent enjoying the rewards of working a hard life should command more respect than living in a spare bedroom at the end of the hallway. The (+) Apartment affords a level of independence that is deserving of them.
Now, the constructibility. The question of do we have the necessary technology to perform such a task is answered by the fact homes built a hundred years ago sometimes have these structures (whether if it was for carriages, horses, or servants). Of course not every home within suburbia has the necessary land or space of the garage, but as an architect I’m quite confident that if someone wanted a way to have a free mortgage then there is a way. There are other hurdles such as city ordinances allowing freestanding structures for the purpose of habitation, and setbacks from the house and neighboring houses, and setbacks from the street, but if cities want to increase their tax base without constructing more streets and stretching existing services then it can happen. Another bonus for the homeowner is having less grass to water (at least that would be a bonus here in the Front Range).
The House of the Future – free of charge! Who wouldn’t like that?