Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

Humanity's first houses, evidence of which traces back 250,000 to a half-million years ago, were simple.

They were structures, assembled of found materials into shelter, an envelope, if you will, protecting inhabitants from harm and disturbance of various kinds, ranging from Mother Nature to predators on two, four, and a hundred legs, or slithery bellies.

After millennia and eons, houses, like people, evolved beyond the enclosure, the hardware, and began--for additional measures of safety, convenience, and well-being--to include systems. Mostly in the relatively recent past century or two, software circulating through sheltering structures carried warmth, light, power, water, airflow, sound, and an exponentially expanding array of resources in, out, over, around, through, and inside the enclosure.

A rapid evolution of home software along with scientific improvements of various kinds to materials performance features and functions gave us the iconic 20th Century house, which for most working American households, consists of structure and systems in relatively equal measures whose happy combination we know today as "livability."

We're beginning to recognize now that that blend--of well-evolved structures or enclosures and well-integrated systems or software--is only the threshold of yet another steep learning curve in home design, development, and engineering's path of progress.

If safety might serve as the best single word to characterize a most-basic need humans fulfill through house structure, and comfort adequately reflects a move up in our hierarchy of needs, leading to this harmonious blend of building envelope and home systems, what's the next logical step in this ascending hierarchy?

Increasingly powerful and inexpensive microprocessors and RFID sensors--the material building blocks of the Internet of Everything--provide at least a keyhole view of the answer.

As microchips and sensors--and the oceans of algorithmic solutions-oriented data that flow back and forth between humans and their immediate and remote environment--engage us as they do now, in their exponential potential in our lives, the very core nature and essence of the home as a beacon of structure and systems changes.

Now, both materials that make up the DNA of our homes' structure and manufacturers' products and sub-components that comprise the brains and circulatory systems of our living experience inside our dwellings are beginning to get recognition at their molecular and biodata level role in our safety, our comfort, and more.

Products, what ingredients and powers and potentials they're made of and materials, whose biological, microbial, and informational codes are only now beginning to be mapped, understood, and reapplied to their function in our shelter and well-being, literally perform according to a new mission and purpose in our lives as inhabitants of homes.

Increasingly, a product in a home--from the standpoint of growing expectations of those who buy them, live in them, and eventually may want to sell them--serve a role beyond safety and beyond comfort.

Each discrete product--as much as it may represent a node whose value, independent of its connection and relationship to a whole living experience, may be quantifiable to some degree--becomes an integrated, dynamic passageway, in real time and over time to what people know as an experience of ease, of calmness, of serenity, of well-being, of prospering.

Ease of use, reliability, seamlessness, logic, privacy and security, evolve-ability, sustainability, resilience irrespective of drastic environmental disturbance, and in general, a holistic, indistinguishable relationship to the very value of a home--all of these properties have become essential characteristics of building products and materials in our new homes.

Products, materials, and their molecular and data make-up now serve as critical gateways to humanity's next era in what they expect and value in a home and a community. They're where the building enclosure and systems promises of home performance now open up to entirely new vistas of human value, the value we currently describe as experience.

Beyond safety and durability, we arrived at comfort and energy performance in our homes. What's next--and it's being unlocked through ever cheaper, ever more potent microchips and sensors and the zeroes and ones of data and the greater and greater understanding of our microbiological multitudes--introduces us to an era of intentional, engaged, and engaging experience as our homes become nodes of ongoing relationship and service.

A product in isolation, then, may be of diminishing value.