What will our homes look like in the future? How important will self-sufficiency be? And what role will renewable power play in shaping them?
These are the kind of questions that are taking centre stage as we look towards the future of planning, policy, lifestyle and even suburbia.
And Bernard Salt’s ‘water tank theory’ holds plenty of clues.
According to the renowned Australian demographer, who spoke at a recent RedEarth event, this catchy yet carefully considered theory draws on our past – specifically the turn of the century – to predict the future from an educated perspective.
“At the time of the Millennium drought, there was a dramatic increase in the installation of water tanks in people’s homes,” he explains. “The thinking was that there was a drought on, and that people needed to invest in water tanks to ensure they didn’t run out.
“This gave people a sense of security, and of control over their suburban lifestyles.
“The next iteration in this evolution is power generation and power storage.”
According to Bernard, suburban housing will need to become much more efficient on the energy front to ensure Australia continues to meet its food, energy, resource and commodity requirements.
“Our sense of self-containment is also increasing,” he explains.
This means that we as head through the 2020s and beyond, Australians are embracing the idea of almost drawing in the wagons to become as self-sustainable as possible, effectively creating homes that are more like lifestyle compounds.
This includes not only the installation of water tanks, but also things like fruit trees and vegetable gardens for food, and solar power and batteries to meet our energy needs.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data* released in 2022, solar usage in Australia sits at 22%, up from only 5% back in 2007-2008.
It’s an upward trend set to continue skyrocketing, with a focus on energy optimisation.
“Australians are more predisposed to energy conservation, to generating power themselves, to being more sustainable and environmentally conscious,” says Bernard.
“We’re also very good at conceptualising and delivering suburban housing. And we’re always finessing it. Always looking for the next iteration.
“So I think what we will see going forward is households having lithium battery storage on site, maybe sitting next to water tanks down the blind side of the house.”
There will also be solar panels on the roof, allowing residents to power their own appliances for free, and maybe an electric vehicle as well. This might be delivered via power outlets in the garage or somewhere else.
Evolving technology such as RedEarth’s Private Power Plant – which allows households to engage in wholesale electricity trading will also create the potential for an extra income source.
“The point is that the family home evolves,” says Bernard. “It’s reinventing the suburban home into a lifestyle home.”