If someone had told us 20 years ago that our entire lives would have been conducted through something called "apps" on our "smart phones", that the entire world's knowledge could be "googled", we'd have snorted "yea, and what about all those flying cars?"
We've rounded up what local and world experts are predicting for what our homes and towns will look like in 20 years:
1. All homes are rated Homestar 10
The Green Building Council says the built environment is responsible for 20 per cent of our carbon footprint – same as one million cars on the road, every year. Under a new improved Building Code houses are certified zero energy by 2030: energy efficient, well insulated and generating their own energy. New buildings will use renewables like solar or wind for energy, eliminating fossil fuels. Homestar 10 rating will be standard (today's code is around Homestar 4).
2. Building materials will have low embedded carbon
Buildings will be made using methods and materials with low embedded energy through their lifecycle. Construction waste is minimised and components are re-cycled when the building is demolished.
3. Smart tech will run our homes for us
Even though many tech products are huge carbon emitters (silicon production and waste) houses connected to smart grids will reduce carbon emissions and optimise energy use by managing demand, onsite storage and energy- and water-efficient appliances. Your house will power your electric vehicle (there will be no fossil fuel vehicles by 2040).
4. Homes will be more than self-sufficient, they'll be energy producing
Houses and apartments will generate their own energy (through solar or wind), storing it and returning surplus to the grid. They'll be designed for passive heating, natural cooling and ventilation. They'll have their own water collection and recycle grey or even waste water. Some will also produce their own food even growing meat alternatives.
5. Our homes - and towns - will be close to zero waste
Households will no longer be sending 160kg of rubbish to landfill every year. We'll reduce our food waste and compost what's left in efficient systems that can work in even the tiniest flat; products will no longer be sold in plastic packaging. The tiny amounts of waste left will be thermo-chemically processed, so no untreated waste going to contaminated landfills.
6. Density will be around transport lines
Large standalone houses on big sections will be only for the wealthy. Even small towns will have denser housing, three or four storeys high, grouped around town centres or transport hubs, no longer spread over food-producing rural or sensitive ecological areas.
7. Homes will be affordable, again
In 20 years, supply of houses to own and rent will have caught up with demand and match population growth, with the right sorts of homes to suit smaller or single households, mixed generations or people who don't want long-term homes. Innovative community finance, not banks, will raise bonds to fund community or not-for-profit housing foundations. More affordable building materials, fast and cheap pre-fab and modular building methods and clever designs will reduce the cost of new builds or renovating old housing stock.
8. Prefab and modular flat pack homes will be standard
After a rocky start this decade, pre-fab house builders will gain traction and be producing most of our new housing stock for multi-level apartments as well as terraces and single family homes. They'll be modular, so can be adapted as a household changes, they'll be energy efficient and built from sustainable materials.
9. 3D printed houses are next up
Forget traditional manufacturing, or even single 3D printing. By 2040 your house, and much of its contents, will be produced by swarm robotics - teams of robots that produce products quickly in designs that are too complicated for an individual machine to produce. Or robots will come to your site to build your house.
10. Hidden density will fit more people into old neighbourhoods
Medium or high-rise apartment blocks are too scary for some neighbourhoods, so hidden density doubles the number of households without being visible from the street. As in London, and Portland, Oregon, big houses are converted by partitioning into flats, converting a garage to an apartment or adding a smaller granny flat on to the site. Legal today, by 2040 councils will longer charge lethal development contribution fees realising this is cheaper than funding new infrastructure for sprawl. The Centre for Research, Evaluation and Social Assessment reckons in Auckland alone nearly 46,000 homes could be partitioned this way.
11. Climate change will force some of us to retreat
Some neighbourhoods will be gone as climate change effects become real. Rising sea levels and more severe weather, uninhabitable flood zones or places at risk from land-slides mean councils will enforce planned climate retreat. In cities, instead of curbs and storm water drains, homes will have water-managing swale gardens and retention ponds, concrete ditches or covered stream beds will be opened up and replanted to help manage water flow from more frequent big storms.
12. Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga merge into the Golden Triangle
Already connected by large chunks of motorway, by 2040 Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty – already home to over half the population, that'll be 70 per cent by 2040 – will be linked by a Japan-style fast rail. People can live in one area, work in the other but skip the traffic hassles as small towns spring to life again within easy reach big city jobs. The growth will protect fertile soils of the best horticultural and dairy land.
13. Co-housing and other ownership models will be common
People who never started – or fell off – the property ladder will band together to buy a house, using the Danish co-housing model, where people own shares in a housing community. Some will look like adult versions of university residence halls, others will be eco villages on the edge of town, others, like in Grey Lynn and Dunedin's High St, a cluster of town houses in the city.
14. Homes will suit multi generation living
Elderly parents moving in with their grown-up kids, grown-up kids (with or without partners and their own kids) moving back to Mum and Dad – multi-generation living will be common. Demand is already growing for existing houses that have a self-contained flat, but new house builds will include dual key (two houses in one) or a cluster of private bedroom dwellings with meet-in-the-middle living and gardens.
15. More people renting purpose build-to-rent homes
More and more people will rent for their entire lives, so rental homes in 2040 will be purpose build-to-rent units with long-term tenure. The best ones will be like Melbourne's Nightingale project where the apartments include community spaces and social support. Rental providers will shift from mum and dad investors to professional build to rent developments for long term, even lifetime, tenancies, professionally managed.
16. High rise apartments will dominate the centre of towns
The most desirable parts of cities and towns will have high-rise apartments – from six storeys to multi-rise blocks. The poshest ones will have luxury amenities like wine or dinner party rooms, cinemas, high-end gyms, spas and pools. Other geared at starters replace carparks with shared work spaces, shared gardens, roof top play areas for kids.
17. Bio-design will move from fiction to fact
Bio-design, the mix of science and architecture (with intelligent technologies), creates renewable and living structures that don't rely on petro-chemicals or non-renewable resources. Think bioluminescent lighting from jellyfish protein, building materials from cultured tissues or plants that grow and repair themselves on your house. Seaside houses use bacteria to transform sand into sandstone or to filter waste, algal harvest stations create food and fuel, cellulose nano-crystals create glass and light, wood pulp cellulose batteries generate energy, mushroom bricks are fire-resistant and stronger than concrete.
18. Maori housing will take off
Whanau and hapu will lead development of papakainga - multi-generational housing – for their own people. Maori hands-on urban regeneration started in 2010 so by 2040 there will be many developments like Ngati Whatua's Kainga Tutahi in Orakei or Wellington's Te Aro Pa Papakainga.
Designed by the whanau, smart modular and sustainable buildings using new financing models tap funds outside of conventional banks, right down to design details that are modern twists on traditional marae art.
19. Adaptable housing will change with us
Cheap, warm and sustainable modular houses can be shifted on or off a property, or moved around as the family or household configuration changes to add space for living, work or play, reconfigure as people age or children join.
Square footage of houses in cities will be limited, so rather than add extensions, renovations will involve movable walls or pods within bigger rooms for multiple uses depending on the time of day or year.
20. Gen X will have new ways of living for ageing gracefully
By 2040, the very last of the baby boomers (born in 1966) will be in their 70s, most in their 80s and 90s, and the next generation, Gen X won't repeat their parents' losing capital on traditional licence to occupy retirement villages. More will be renting those villages or in co-housing, but they'll be beside public transport, walkable to shops and doctors. Lifetime design to keep homes accessible as people age will be standard.