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The FutureHAUS bedroom has a multimedia canopy bed screen that can project everything from TV and Internet to ambient lighting and user-responsive sleep scenes.The FutureHAUS bedroom has a multimedia canopy bed screen that can project everything from TV and Internet to ambient lighting and user-responsive sleep scenes. Image: Virginia Tech

The Future of Smart, Sustainable Housing: Virginia Tech's FutureHAUS Design Platform will be Featured at the 2018 International Solar Decathlon in Dubai

Posted 5 March 2017 - by Carol Brighton

Merging flexible, intuitive and responsive elements with sophisticated electronics and state of the art products, Virginia Tech faculty and students are developing the future of smart sustainable housing. Rethinking design to support next generation technology, they literally are turning the construction process inside out. Dubbed FutureHAUS, the pioneering prefab style is set to transform the housing industry.

Turning their backs on time consuming and wasteful traditional construction methods that move from the outside in, the FutureHAUS team set their sights on refining the prefabrication process focusing on the guts of the house first. The innovative model features cartridge style plug and play modular components. All the major housing areas like the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms and living rooms are designed for efficient manufacture offsite that can then be transported for quick assembly on location. “Virginia Tech’s FutureHAUS research isn’t just some cool, futuristic concept,” commented project leader Joseph Wheeler, professor of architecture and co-director of the Center for Design Research.  “We’re proving that it’s a practical, easy-to-implement model for efficient design and building that could revolutionize the construction industry and make housing more accessible to people of all walks of life, everywhere.”


LakeHAUS - Screenshots TEDxVirginiaTech

LakeHAUS Module Assembly

LakeHAUS Prefab Cartridge Assembly

To demonstrate the concept, during the summer of 2016, Wheeler and students built a home in FutureHAUS style near Charlottesville, VA. They obtained a construction loan and assembled a home using the cartridge methodology. 12 cartridge components were manufactured in rented warehouse space. In one day all the components were stacked on site and within a couple of months the 2200 sq. foot, 3 bedroom LakeHAUS was move in ready. Wheeler notes that, the AIA award winning design was built and sold for a competitive market price.

The team also completed a suite of modules supporting advanced technologies that could be assembled to create a fully integrated home. At a recent trade show in January held in Orlando, students showed off the final phase of the 3 year project - a bedroom and home office of the future. Earlier components included a kitchen, bathroom and living room. Included in the latest buildout was a high-performance exterior window wall that intuitively adjusts shading, privacy, and insulation for energy efficiency and comfort and an audiovisual wall that rotates to share art, entertainment, and technology between adjoining rooms. Pictured above, the master bedroom features a multimedia canopy offering ambient scenes for a good night’s sleep. With responsive elements, flexible transitions like converting the home office to a guest bedroom can be initiated with a simple voice command. In addition to gesture controlled lighting, technology embedded in the prototype included multimedia displays hidden in the kitchen island counter top and backsplash as well as the bathroom mirror. Sensors placed around the home intuitively adjusted for individualized needs such as bed and bathroom vanithy height. Facial recognition at the front door automated quick easy entry while a visitor's image could be viewed in the kitchen's virtual window backsplash. The embedded technoloyg would even allow occupants to log into to view the contents of the refrigerator and pantry remotely.

While all the high-tech elements of the FutureHAUS are fascinating, and you can read more about many more of them here, the real innovation with FutureHAUS is the fabrication process as well as flexibility and performance of the units. Likened to a luxury car production line, the FutureHAUS model devised for factory style building supports the integration of technologically sophisticated design that is both financially and resource efficient. The adaptable spaces created in the assembly line setting are not only intuitive and responsive to user needs, but are produced at affordable costs while cutting waste. Each cartridge module is built containing all wiring, plumbing, and hardware needed for smart house functionality and can be shipped to the building site for quick and easy construction. The flexible utility of moving walls and furnishing allows occupants to expand or contract spaces. With the ability to transform rooms according to occupants’ changing needs and activities, overall square footage requirements are reduced and life changes like the addition of children or aging can be accommodated.

With the prototype FutureHAUS project complete, students and faculty have turned their attention to designing another FutureHAUS endeavor. Transferring knowledge gained during the design and construction of the prototype, a team will design a FutureHAUS that relies solely on the power of the sun. Selected to participate in the 2018 International Solar Decathlon in Dubai, the team now also has to overcome a hugely unfortunate incident, as all components of the original FutureHAUS literally went up in smoke. In February, the FutureHAUS prototype, as well as work space, building material and tools used on the project were lost in a fire. “While this is a devastating loss, it renews our commitment to build the world’s smartest, most sustainable home," said Joe Wheeler, the faculty lead on the project. "Our plan is to take the research and innovation from FutureHAUS, combine it with what we learned on our winning 2010 Solar Decathlon home, LumenHAUS, and carry it forward to create the best solar home for the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East.” The team will be judged on 10 criteria. In addition to being judged on energy efficiency and the integration of solar power to the home, the team will be judged on architecture, engineering and sustainibility. The winners of the October 2018 competition will be awarded cash prizes totalling AED 10 million.

Learn more in the TEDX Video below.


Read more about sustainable building on the Tidewater Current Design page.




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