Over a century ago, the engineer Nikola Tesla envisioned a wireless grid for electric power transmission, eliminating the need for the vast networks of overhead wires we see in our modern cities. Recent reports from Stanford University herald progress in electrical engineering which may be bringing Tesla's vision closer to reality. The near-term application that Stanford's researchers are seeking is a way to recharge electric vehicles as they move.

Imagine now that this technology follows the path of so many others, and advances exponentially according to the "law of accelerating returns," as inventor Ray Kurzweil calls it. In such a scenario, we may see a world without wires in just a few short decades. While many significant implications could be envisioned in such a case, let's consider just one possible consequence related to the built environment, specifically the future of industrial facilities. 

In the present age, industrial parks and manufacturing facilities within must be located where transportation access is good, and where electric power is available. Proximity to raw materials is also an important factor, although not as crucial if transport is good. Consider now that electric power is no longer a constraint affecting location; manufacturing could take place anywhere accessible by truck, train, boat, or plane. Any manufacturing plant could be placed anywhere on the earth's surface, with electric power "beamed" to it. Such a plant could be situated anyplace a cell phone can go now, and many more. 

How would urban development be affected? "Dirty" manufacturing could evacuate large metropolitan areas, leaving them cleaner and able to stitch together more compatible land use patterns. Absent armies of large trucks on the roads and without multitudinous railroad crossings, mobility would improve. Greater expanses of urban land could be put to higher level uses. Furthermore, environmental concerns would be ameliorated. 

In the factories themselves, now scattered about in virgin areas (perhaps even on the oceans' surfaces), automation has filled them with machines but emptied them of people. Computer programs make things in these remote places; people are faraway in cities where research and product development are conducted. Manufacturing plants and their surroundings become settlements without populations - company ghost towns. Structures in such places respond to functional, technological, and environmental requirements only - human factors have no bearing on design. Sustainable/environmental architecture would be the central focus, resulting in an increase in eco-friendly structures. 

Such a future might have been thought impossible a few decades ago, but it may be closer than we realize. And further changes may be on the heels of wireless electric power transmission - imagine that power generation is offshored - into space! No more Fukushimas or Chernobyls, no more carbon emissions. How much more revolutionary, and how incredibly exciting would that be!