- Erin Hudgins
Field Trip to FutureHAUS!
We had the amazing opportunity to visit Virginia Tech's FutureHAUS last week, currently on display on the campus drill field in downtown Blacksburg. The smart home was completed early last fall after years of
research, design and construction and with the help of over 100 Tech students and faculty. In October 2018, the house traveled
by cargo ship on a 40-day voyage to Dubai where it competed in the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East. The solo American team spent a month in a desert on the outskirts of Dubai assembling the entire house and won first place among more than 60 entrants from across the globe. The
international competition aims to accelerate
research on sustainable, grid-connected
solar homes by creating a space for universities to test innovative ideas and technologies. Dubai presented a unique set of climactic challenges, including blistering heat, sandstorms and high humidity.
Unlike the slow process of traditional home building that requires raw materials to be shipped to the final location and assembled on site, FutureHAUS consists of separate but compatible "cartridges" that are completely finished off site- including framing, walls, wiring and plumbing. These
are then sent to the home site where
they can easily be put together with a plug-and-play approach.
This modular system allows for an efficient, cost-effective process that avoids weather delays and can be assembled in a fraction of the time of a typical house: it took the
FutureHAUS team less than 48 hours (in the desert!) to fully piece together the structure.
Hundreds of smart LEDs placed on the ceiling above a
transparent screen create dramatic, morphing color-scapes
The FutureHAUS kitchen is a modern, clean space with smart screens under the glass countertops and behind the backsplash. Aging-in-place technology allows a user to control the height of any working surface in the home, to better accommodate a range of ages and abilities. The minimalist wood dining table can be pulled out for family dinners or stored neatly under the island. Convection ovens are seamlessly and invisibly integrated into the counter top: a user can place a pot anywhere on the surface to activate a convection "burner" in that exact spot. A sink created in collaboration with Kohler can pour a precise amount of water for cooking or drinking, and the hinged cabinets open and close with a touch.
The FutureHAUS bedroom features a drop- The sleek bathroom has exclusive Kohler
down Murphy bed, built-in cabinetry and art fixtures, including an overhead bath faucet
inspired by sand dunes. "Flex space"- or that produces a corkscrew-shaped water
movable walls- can increase square footage spout that does not splash. A glass
or change the floor plan based on user partition adjacent to the bathtub can show
needs. Smart mirrors in this room can help projected movies or tv shows, and a smart
a homeowner inventory and find their mirror over the sink can identify a family clothing when needed. member and display relevant content like their daily schedule or emails.
The glass wall panels throughout FutureHAUS contain transducer wiring, essentially transforming all the walls into speakers.
The home is
equipped with over 60 unique devices, including touch screen control panels in every
room, which display energy-tracking data and real time
solar array production.
Living Room module with a 360-degree rotating screen
The electric "spine" of FutureHAUS runs lengthwise through the center of the structure and connects the individual room
cartridges. These are then linked to the mechanical room which contains the home's HVAC and electrical systems.
The kitchen module is attached to the spine
(running from top left to center)
The home is entirely powered by the rooftop
solar array of more than 40 photovoltaic panels, and any excess power that gets created can be sold back to the grid. Four batteries, including this TESLA Powerwall, store electricity produced by the solar panels for nighttime energy use.
Building-integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) - or solar windows- are also included in the home.
These totally transparent windows work by absorbing ultraviolet and infrared light but allowing visible light through, allowing homeowners the ability to go solar when rooftop solar may not be a viable option.
This innovative home is an insightful mixture of function and beautiful design. When scaled up, the manufacturing process could provide housing to some of the world's most remote and
Surrounding the home are privacy screens inspired
by Middle-Eastern textile design
Thank you to the FutureHAUS team for letting us peek into the world of the future!