Contrary to the concocted vision of what a home “should be,” today’s focus should be on durability, frugality, health, resource conservation, and security – especially security.

A cursory review of the news is a reminder that stick built American housing is prone to destruction by fire, wind, falling objects, flying objects, water, insects, vermin, etc, etc. And in many cases, once electrical power is lost, the house is unlivable.

The housing material you should be using is concrete*, specifically concrete sandwich wall (stress skin), superinsulated (R39 or better), with Polytorx (helix fiber) reinforced, titanium dioxide photocatalyst smog eating coated exterior (ease of maintenance and cleaning). Designed to be disaster resistant with respect to rain, wind, tornado, hurricane, flood, storm surge, fire, earthquake, termites, carpenter bees, carpenter ants, vermin, mold, mildew, temperature extremes, precipitation (snow, rain, or ash) and predatory creatures (2 or 4 legged). And to accommodate high snow drifts or flash floods, incorporate external exits on upper levels. [Have windows protected with storm shutters and insulated shutters for weather extremes.]

(*Concrete can be formed into any decorative material the architect wishes – faux stone, faux brick, faux wood, and stained / etched / stamped concrete.)

Floors should be designed for a minimum 45 psi live load – including bedrooms (to allow for waterbeds).

A modern “Dream Home” should be designed to be autonomous, low maintenance, low cost to operate, and an asset instead of a liability. Such a house would remain functional even if there were a loss of power or resupply. Instead of attention to nonfunctional decor and appearances, focus on providing productive value to the homeowner – not higher cost to operate, maintain and repair.

Instead of expensive to maintain decorative landscaping, install an edible permaculture system – utilizing fruit and nut trees, dwarf or semidwarf, berry shrubs, vegetable vines, planters, and garden beds that are a food resource for the owner. Utilize raised beds, keyhole gardening, hypertufa planters, and suspended planters as required. Install water saving drip irrigation on timers. Place seasonal plants in trellises to strategically shade vertical east / west surfaces in summer, but that die down in fall, to allow more light in. But do not plant trees that grow large near to the house! Their roots can disturb foundations and if they fall over, can damage the house. Install bird netting and bird spikes to keep birds from doing damage to crops, where needed.

Luxuries that have a valuable function are welcome. A central vacuum is a useful appliance – especially a kitchen floor vent for quick disposal of sweepings – and the quiet performance is an added plus (won’t wake sleeping babies). Ditto for a vent at the baker’s station (collect that pesky flour dust).

Kitchen appliances should not require extensive bending or stretching to reach or operate, in general. Preferably wall ovens and range top, instead of the usual stove.

Concrete or ferrocement kitchen countertops provide durability and fireproof surface. Since most ‘residential’ kitchens are not rated for ‘commercial’ grade appliances due to fire hazard and overheating, among other things, it might be worthwhile to upgrade the kitchen to be more suitable for such appliances like a high BTU wok burner, a high temperature pizza oven, a deep fryer, and other such items.

Full wiring for video cam(s) and  intercom(s), CAT 6 LAN, OTA / Cable TV coax, fiberoptics, and multi-line telephone is appreciated (wired devices are more secure, more reliable and more private than wireless).

Master bedrooms should be wired with his and hers quad AC outlets, with at least 2 outlets tied to 2 way wall switches (for bed lamps or other electrical appliances).

And the typical code minimum duplex outlet wiring is wholly inadequate and poorly placed, low and in the middle of the wall. Would be far better to place bedroom outlets near each corner, and counter height.

And no bathroom should be without a bidet (or combination toilet / bidet) – and perhaps a urinal, too (end the seat-left-up controversy). Bathrooms should have timed exhaust vent fans, preferably remote and quiet. And let us not forget universal access – for the aged, infirm, and handicapped – or who are wheel chair bound or on crutches : sufficient clearance, ramps and elevator(s), and no “decorative” level changes. At least one designated bathroom suited to their needs – hand rails – comfort height toilet – walk in soak tub or sit down shower – and so on. Make your “dream house” that doesn’t become a nightmare once a person is no longer fit and functional.

For those who wish a “remote controlled” house, install latching relays for AC power legs that can function with or without computer control. Also, place electric service subpanels on each level, to minimize leg length (save on wire) and convenient access for resetting tripped circuits.

For the trendy, a home theater / game room … preferably in a sound isolated room, so that a booming 7.1 sound system will not annoy.

For the survivalist / prepper, incorporate a sunspace / greenhouse / fish pond aquaculture station, with enough room to putter around with the plants and fishes. Think of it as a tropical fish tank on steroids.

Consider power independence via solar hot water heater, solar photovoltaic panels and / or wind turbine, natural illumination where practical, water pressurization tank, rainwater collection system, cistern, hand pump and so on.

For the spiritual or religious, a small chapel or meditation area, for prayer and contemplation, acoustically isolated and serene.

And for those who like air powered tools, compressed air outlets around the house – which are useful during construction, for spray painting – and useful afterwards for dusting, cleaning, and quick drying, too. And the compressed air can drive pneumatic powered pocket doors (a la Star Trek). . . or powered hinged doors, for those in need of assistance.

{Perhaps the air duct system can be enhanced with electrostatic dust precipitators and be used as a “house cleaning” adjunct… stir up the dust with an air gun, and filter the air via the existing ducts.}

Safety features : fire suppression sprinklers throughout house. Security camera coverage of house and property. Security sensors on all windows and doors. Video Intercom and remote door lock control at entrances.

Floor drains in all bathrooms and kitchen – so any accidental spill or overflow doesn’t become a greater flooding disaster. Pressure balancing anti-scald valves on all showers. If solar hot water heater installed, an anti-scald sensor on the tankless water heater to mix cold water in. No low AC outlets where little children can reach ( get a code variance if needed). If a panic room / subterranean shelter is desired, situate it so that has universal access, too.

Frugal features : two way switched overhead fans in all rooms (in hot / humid climates); 4 foot fluorescent fixtures (full spectrum if desired); (indirect cove lighting for bedrooms, too); exterior venting and inlets for appliances that generate waste heat (refrigerator, freezer, range, clothes dryer); install air conditioner (if necessary) on the highest level, so that the cold air will naturally circulate downward – prevent the problem of the “too hot” upstairs issue in multiple story homes (also prevents theft of A/C copper pipe). Instead of a banal wood deck that tends to rot away, install a roof deck belvedere. . . better view, better breezes.

All bedrooms should have customized closets that replace the function of dressers and chest of drawers. And built in desk tops that fold out or down.

Luxury “performance” : extensive sound proofing and acoustic engineering; aroma control (venting of noxious odors; airlock bathrooms); engineered visual appeal (ex: videoscreens portraying dynamic outdoor landscapes, window sill planters and dioramas, terrariums, aquariums, mini-habitats); interior climate control flexibility; enhanced privacy for a four season sunbathing space – essential for Vit. D and anti-fungal treatment; sunlight therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder; balanced spectrum fluorescent light fixtures (i.e. “Ottlite”).
Also reserve space for an Elevator shaft.

Quirky optional features : mobile furniture – swings, gliders, rockers, hammocks; ventilated furniture (for hot humid climates) – mesh back, cane back, slat back chairs; unusual video monitor placement – overhead in bedrooms for supine viewing; and overstuffed furniture (for cold climates).

Can your present house function?
If the power goes out, will the house still function or will it need to be abandoned?
If a cold spell or heat spell arrives, will you need to evacuate?
In a heat wave, without A/C, does the house have a “summer kitchen” to use for cooking?
Can the plumbing survive a freeze? (are the traps easily drained?)
Is there a reliable water supply – a cistern for rainwater collection?
With a hand pump?
Is there an emergency dry composting toilet that requires zero potable water?
Is the window placement and glazing designed to maximize natural lighting?
Are appliances that generate waste heat suitably vented (in hot climates) or recycled (in cold climates) or segregated from conditioned space?
Are there airlocks at entrances to conserve conditioned air? (And do double duty as security access control points)  Are windows designed with “heat mirror” inserts to cut down on unwanted thermal transfer?
Are windows provided with external CAT 5 storm rated shutters, and internal insulated shutters?
Is there a convenient pantry for bulk food storage (24 month supply)?
Food service sized utensils (i.e. No. 10 can openers, bucket opener, can crushers, pot fillers, containers)?
Are there alternative / emergency means to cook (solar oven, wood stove, cook fire, outdoor stove), to store (superinsulated ice box, spring house, root cellar), to process (drying and smoking) and an area to serve for dining al fresco but without annoying insects?
Will the air to air heat exchanger (energy recovery ventilation appliance) function with only wind power (roof turbine) to draw stale air out?
Ditto, for the passive dehumidifier (for hot / humid climates)?

Phew – much to ponder.

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