Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Will Moore’s Law Spur an Architectural Revolution?

George Carlin once summed up the history of architecture by saying, “Your house is a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff!” And for much of architectural history, this assertion was correct. Sure our homes and other buildings had certain fixed utilities that took up space (bathroom, kitchens, beds), but a good portion of their usable volume was filled with stuff. But what happens to our architectural needs when stuff becomes ephemeralized? What happens to our walls when they are no longer covered with bookshelves because we can fit thousands of books on a thumbdrive? What happens to the space we used to use to store our CD’s and DVDs? What happens to office spaces that used to be stuffed with file cabinets? What happens to our garages when we can access shared cars on demand? These are the questions that occupy the thoughts of consultant Gunnar Branson.

In his TED talk, Branson discusses the impact of Moore’s Law on real estate. Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit will double approximately every two years. It’s a law that has stayed true since Intel cofounder Gordon Moore proposed it in 1965. It’s the law that has made it possible for us to stuff our phones with more computational power than computers that used to take up several floors in an office building. Branson believes that because technology is permitting us to offload so many of our once-bulky items to the cloud, there will soon be a less is more real estate revolution, where quality of space will be prized over quantity, where less space will facilitate more living.

What’s funny about Branson’s contention is that new home sizes have continued to grow in the last several years, suggesting that books are easier to offload than the desire to flaunt one’s wealth. However, he does make the point that legal offices, to cite one example, use a third the space than they used to–largely because law books and files are now stored on hard drives, not books and binders. Maybe the lawyers are on to something.

What do you think about Branson’s notion? Will disappearing goods–atoms being replaced by electrons as he puts it–revolutionize real estate? Or will people continue to hog up architectural resources regardless of their actual needs? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

  • stlounick

    It’s only a matter of time. Most of those now living in small spaces probably don’t have the income to enjoy the space savings associated with the new technology. Among those with medium sized homes, they are recovering space to either make the area seem more spacious or it’s being used for the soon-to-be adolescents that will populate the space. Strangely enough, those in the higher income brackets don’t seem to understand the new technology and I think that’s the reason the McMansions continue.

    The passage of time will change all of this. I estimate we will see the gradual decline in housing space over the next 20 years. Just my nickel…..

  • I see this going both ways.

    Now that everything is stored on phones or in the cloud, we don’t need the space we once had. So maybe people will live in smaller spaces.

    But now that we’re telecommuting to work, why live in an expensive crowded city when you can have all the space you like and the entire world at your finger tips? Why have a lawyer’s office at all if your employees can avoid the commute, and you can skip the overhead entirely?

    To each their own, I say.