The real house of the future?
In 1957, tourists flocked to Disneyland to see the House of the Future. It was a vision of plastic and gizmos, a fantasy that hasn’t exactly materialized. In 2009, we’re far from living in plastic – in fact, we seem to be turning our backs on it in many ways. But we’re certainly more wired than forecasters in the Fifties could ever have imagined. In May of last year, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, Michelle Kaufmann Designs, and WIRED magazine collaborated to present the Smart Home: Green + Wired, a modern take on the same theme. And they’ve just given it a facelift.
It’s been dubbed ‘Chicago’s Greenest Home’, but as far as we know, no-one lives in it. On display at the Museum of Science and Industry until January 3, 2010, it’s open to visitors, who can check out its futuristic, but attainable, green credentials. The modular home was created in a factory by All American Homes then transported to the Museum site and set on its foundation. This process allowed for less waste, as lumber was precut and scrap minimized.
The Smart Home’s green tech is pretty impressive. It makes use of natural lighting, features energy-efficient heating and ventilation, uses storm water run-off for irrigation, and recycles sink water through the toilet. Appliances, from microwaves to PCs, are all energy-efficient. DNA 11 lets you turn your genetic code into wall art, and EasyBloom suggests appropriate plants for the environment you’re in.
Most excitingly, there’s a home automation system, which lets you control room temperature, lighting and entertainment, using touch-screen panels around the home. One meets you at the door with an update on the home’s status, and you can even access the home’s controls remotely by cell phone or the internet.
Occupancy sensors around the house automatically shut off lights, TV and music when a room is empty (which sounds like a great idea, but could be annoying if you run to the kitchen during half-time to grab a beer). The same tech allows parents to watch baby on a ‘cribcast’ – a video displayed on any of the control panels. Another sensor in the shower advises when it’s time to stop draining the world’s water supply.
The makeover has brought bold colors and environmentally-friendly furniture. Countertops are recycled glass, chandeliers are made out of old hubcaps, and bathrooms created from reclaimed marble. There’s a new ‘green’ baby nursery (with bamboo furniture and organic bedlinen), and a space-maximizing hallway office.
The roof is not only green but covered in photovoltaic film to power the house. This summer, a Skystream wind turbine will be arriving to add further power-gathering potential. Perfect for the Windy City. At ground level, the garden features EarthBoxes (self-watering, food-growing containers), a worm composter, as well as native, sustainable plants.
In the garage is a do-it-yourself workshop, with tools for various green projects, as well as a prototype of the I-Shovel (a solar-powered robot that shovels snow), a battery-powered lawnmower, and an Enertia electric motorcycle.
Phew. The future’s looking good. RM
Images: JB Spector, Museum of Science and Industry