The future kitchen

A huge flow of embodied energy passes through the kitchen. This was one of the messages to emerge from a panel debate hosted by home furnishing specialist IKEA when it lunched The Future of Kitchens, a report it had commissioned from The Future Laboratory.

Frustratingly, although this event happened some time ago, very little energy was devoted to posting the report on the company’s website so I’ve held off mentioning it until it was freely available. As you will now be able to see, the Report concludes that by 2040 the kitchen will be personal trainer, dietician, psychologist and lifestyle coach. It will respond to energy levels, nutritional needs and moods and, despite a high use of technology, it will be sustainable and eco-friendly.

IKEA offers its idea as ‘Big Mother meets Mother Nature’ with the belief that, in thirty years time, “The kitchen will be so technologically advanced that it will almost be alive, responding actively to our needs like only a mother could’.

The report investigates the changing values and aspirations that will power the transformation of the kitchen as we know it to a smart, self-sustaining and emotionally intelligent epicentre of the home. But the kitchen must also play its part in the sustainability of that home because water, energy and food are its lifeblood, just as they are the lifeblood of every individual, family, community and nation.

Interestingly, it was the wider issues of sustainability which somewhat derailed the panel discussion at the IKEA event. No one could quite focus on the kitchen – the talk diverged to solar panels, insulation and what governments should do. The Report suggests “The kitchen will come to embody a move towards sustainable living and be a measure of how people adapt to changes in society”.

Indeed, the kitchen is a barometer of life. For millennia, the food we eat, the way it’s prepared and how and where we eat it has been dictated not simply by culture but by its availability, the way we choose to communicate with one another and by the way we live our lives.

When it comes to embodied energy, this is not just embodied in the food passing through the kitchen. It’s in every worktop, unit, floor tile, light fitting and appliance. This is something designers, architects, housebuilders and especially homeowners need to understand and companies like IKEA must do their bit to help.

Image credit: IKEA