i3 - November/December 2019 - 45

By Jennifer Taylor

Policy

P O L I CY N E WS

Time-Travel and See Your Future House

 V 

irginia Tech's solar-powered FutureHAUS descended
upon a residential neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia
- near the grounds of Virginia Tech's forthcoming
Innovation Campus and a mile south of CTA's headquarters this
summer. This futuristic, 900 square foot, single family home was
designed by a Virginia Tech University team with the goal of disrupting the residential construction industry. Students from four
of Virginia Tech's colleges (Architecture, Engineering, Sciences
and Business) collaborated to build the FutureHAUS and in
November 2018, won first place at the Solar Decathlon in Dubai,
making it the world's best solar-powered home.

Transportable, sustainable and accessible, the
FutureHAUS uses smart tech to rethink housing.

At its core, the architectural design of
the FutureHAUS is quite innovative.
Using what the team refers to as the
"cartridge concept," the entire house can
be transported in pieces smaller than
eight feet by six feet, essentially fitting in
the back of a UPS truck.

Courtesy of Virginia Tech (2)

A Smarter Home

The FutureHAUS is a perfect example of
how technology makes a house accessible for people with disabilities and the
elderly. For example, load cells located
in the kitchen floor can detect who is
present by measuring their body weight,
which then uses LINAK actuators to
trigger the cabinets to smoothly raise or
lower to the optimal height for whomever approaches to grab a glass out of
the cabinet.
C TA . t e c h / i 3

"The idea
that a home can
accommodate
any user regardless of their age or ability
is the true definition of a smart home,"
says Joseph Wheeler, co-director, Center
for Design Research and professor of
architecture at Virginia Tech University.
"The most dramatic and practical feature is the upper kitchen cabinet wall
that can automatically lower when
access to upper shelves is needed making it ideal for a child or any vertically
challenged individual."
The house is also energy efficient and
produces twice the amount of power
than it uses. For instance, the shower is
a closed loop system equipped with sensors in the drain to determine if the water
is clean enough to be sent through a

filtration system and back into the showerhead for reuse. This means someone
could leave the shower running for an
hour without wasting a single drop.
The house includes moveable walls in
the bedroom and living room; a drone
hatch next to the front door to enable
drones to safely and securely deliver
packages from online retailers to your
home; three touchscreen TV backsplashes in the kitchen connected to all
of the appliances; and a magnetic
induction stove top, which doubles as
counter space, and transfers heat
directly into a pot to save energy and
speed up the cooking process.
"Smart home products will never truly
be smart until they are seamlessly integrated into their working environment,
not just controlled
by a phone or your
voice," says
Wheeler. "For
example, a smart
appliance is truly
smart if it is integrated with a whole
kitchen and home
network where the
appliance can communicate with
someone while
cooking or using the whole kitchen environment. Integration of the technology
into the entire kitchen environment is
essential and the technology cannot be
awkward or uncomfortable to use."
This award-winning house exemplifies
how tech for good can have a positive
impact on people's lives. Not only would it
help people age in place, it also is
extremely affordable - so much so that
the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development (HUD) visited the
FutureHAUS prototype in Alexandria
and expressed interest in its application
for public housing units. Though not on
the market for sale today, the FutureHAUS is worth keeping an eye on.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019

45


https://cta.tech/i3

i3 - November/December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - November/December 2019

i3 - November/December 2019 - Cover1
i3 - November/December 2019 - Cover2
i3 - November/December 2019 - 1
i3 - November/December 2019 - 2
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