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NEXT: Securing Home Deliveries from “Porch Pirates”

David Staley David Staley NEXT: Securing Home Deliveries from “Porch Pirates”
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If you look at houses built in the early part of the twentieth century, most did not have attached garages (if there is a garage, it was probably added on sometime later.) The reasons are obvious: in the early part of the century, automobiles were not yet ubiquitous. Once they were, however, the architecture of our domestic dwellings were redesigned to accommodate this sociological and technological change. In contrast, look at houses built in the 1970s. Practically every house was built with an attached garage as a common feature. Or consider the emergence of the “rec room” or the “family room.” These (at the time) new architectural features reflected changes in the broader culture. 

In November, I envisioned a new meaning for the word “mobility”: that in the future, mobility will come to mean the ease of movement of things, the bringing of the world to us rather than us moving about in the world. As we have more things delivered to our dwellings, our houses will undergo architectural and structural changes to reflect the new reality. Specifically, we will likely build on a security appendage that will secure our deliveries. If our homes are to become sites for mobility, then they will need to be able to accommodate the new economic reality. 

At the World Economic Forum last month, a new service, Loop, was introduced. Loop will deliver items such as shampoo and detergent to your door, in re-usable containers. Used containers are then picked up by Loop, refilled and redelivered. The idea here is to reduce the amount of plastic containers, and it is not a stretch of the imagination to see a host of products that could be so delivered in eco-friendly packaging. 

If this delivery model sounds familiar — at least to some older readers — it sounds very much like the way milk used to be delivered. Milkmen would drop off, on your doorstep, however many quarts of milk you requested, in glass bottles that, after you used them, you washed and returned to your doorstep. These would be picked up by the milkman and replaced with fresh bottles, the used bottles sterilized, refilled with milk and delivered again. 

The implications for the circular economy are clear. But what draws my attention here is yet another example of how “home delivery” is emerging as the predominant way we will engage in consumption. This trend is already well under way, of course: Many of us make purchases through Amazon, and have these delivered to our doorsteps. Services like Loop — and doubtless others, like Doordash — mean that our front porches are becoming loaded with deliveries.

We know some of the problems this is causing. Theft of delivered items is becoming more and more common, and “porch pirate” has now entered our lexicon. If we are fortunate to have neighbors at home to watch over the neighborhood, then this crime is less of an issue. Otherwise, like many others, deliveries might be sent to a friend or parent who we know are home and could receive such deliveries.

Others are combatting porch pirates by installing cameras and smart doorbells to monitor the exterior of the house. There is some question, however, whether this practice is legal, as in some jurisdictions it is not permissible to have a video camera pointed at a public street or in a neighbor’s property. A video doorbell may not be the answer to the porch theft problem.

It is possible that as we bring more and more of the world to our doorsteps that our domestic architecture will be redesigned. Houses might soon feature some sort of secured space that delivery people would have access to but no one else. Analogous to a de-compression chamber, this space would be open to the outside, large enough to receive delivered items, but separated — although accessible — from the rest of the house. In some ways, it would resemble a garage: a secured container for objects. 

This “delivery chamber” would be as distinguishing an architectural feature of the home of the 2020s as a rec room was to a home of the 1970s. 

David Staley is Director of the Humanities Institute and a professor at The Ohio State University. He is host of the Voices of Excellence podcast and host of CreativeMornings Columbus.

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