12.–16.01.2025 #immcologne

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A modern trend or an innately human endeavour?

A modern trend or an innately human endeavour?

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Globalisation and the economic network covering the entire planet have brought us many benefits in the past. And in some parts of the world, they have ensured a corresponding standard of luxury. Designed in the US, wood from Russia, made in China – this is not a rarity but a common example of how interconnected our world is in the interior design and construction industries. But the crises of recent years – in particular the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Europe and the ensuing energy crisis – have revealed how vulnerable to failure this system is. It creates dependencies that can rapidly turn into problems in extreme situations. As our awareness of this has grown over the past few years, a deep-seated human desire has clearly come to the fore: the desire for more independence, for more autarky. A desire that is having a huge impact on the interior design and construction industries – and opening up exciting new opportunities.

Tiny house, solar power and own-grown vegetables – all part of the autarkic lifestyle.

Tiny house, solar power and own-grown vegetables – all part of the autarkic lifestyle.

Autarky: the major trend in the current crisis

“Autarky” seems to be the buzzword of the hour since our world began to unravel with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. A tiny house in the forest, a self-sufficient rural commune or the dream of an isolated island – boundless freedom to shape one’s living environment as independently as possible seems to be the goal at the heart of these visions.

But what does living an autarkic life actually mean? In the current energy crisis, many people are toying with the idea of generating their own electricity so that they can be largely independent of the energy market and the spiralling electricity prices. This is a sensible and worthwhile first step in the direction of autarky, but it’s just the start of the journey towards completely realising this vision.

How far we pursue the idea of autarky is entirely up to us. Is it enough for us to be independent of the energy market? Or do we want to grow our own food as well? What about other consumer products, such as soap or cosmetics? Each path towards autarky is unique. Which one we choose is down to us. However, complete autarky cannot be achieved in Germany. German construction regulations stipulate that all buildings must be connected to the local sewage system and the road network.

Despite this, growing numbers of people are striving for their own little piece of independence. And this is opening up immense potential, particularly for the interior design and construction industries.

Energy, home, food: the foundations for an autarkic life

When it comes to autarky and an independent life, there are many areas where we could start. For the interior design and construction industries, energy, the home and a personal vegetable garden are the most important. Anyone who wants to live self-sufficiently has to tackle these three points. The potential for the sectors is therefore clear to see.

Those who aspire to an autarkic lifestyle will probably want to make themselves independent of the currently vulnerable energy market first of all. This is something construction companies will need to take into greater consideration in the future. Alternative energy sources have been popular for a while, but the autarkic living trend has given them a new boost. Photovoltaics, wind power, geothermal energy – we can expect to see many great advances in the field of power generation in coming years. Already today, the first companies are exploring how to connect solar batteries to a solar-powered biomass power plant. And that’s just one example on the path to energy independence.

Much of what we consider luxurious home living today has no place in autarky. Large rooms that are expensive to heat or lots of smart home elements that need round-the-clock power find themselves out of favour in the new autarkic living trends. Tiny houses and micro-housing focus on reducing everything to the essential. These homes should be big enough to provide enough space to live in, but small enough to save energy resources. And where there’s little space, innovative new ideas for furniture are often needed: It should fulfil multiple functions, instead of merely looking beautiful.

Whether it’s a hobby vegetable garden on the balcony, a wormery for turning kitchen waste into plant fertiliser, or making your own jam, gardening takes on a completely new significance in autarky. In the future, entirely new types of garden furniture, kitchen utensils, ideas for using land and construction concepts are set to play an increasingly important role.

The interior of a tiny house.

The interior design of a tiny house has to combine beautiful design with functionality. (Photo: Andrea Davis, unsplash)