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    Students assemble world’s smartest solar home in Dubai

    Geraldine Chua

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    Students from Virginia Tech have begun assembling FutureHAUS, their new, net-zero smart home prototype, in Dubai in preparation for this year’s global solar decathlon competition.

    FutureHAUS combines digital technologies, cutting-edge products and smart building design to create homes of the future.

    “We’re working on housing solutions to meet a world population crisis,” Joseph Wheeler, one of the team’s lead faculty members, professor of architecture, and co-director of the Center for Design Research says.

    “Our planet will grow by over 2 billion people before 2050 and we need to accommodate them with practical, affordable housing. FutureHAUS Dubai is a prototype for the high-volume production homes of the future that will be smart, sustainable, beautiful, and easily adapted to the needs of communities worldwide.”

    The project centres around prefabrication methods, which are used to assemble medium and high-density homes that are pre-wired, pre-plumbed and pre-finished with integrated smart technologies and detailed interior elements.

    This not only shortens traditional build times, but also changes the way homes will be designed and ‘installed’. As Wheeler told The Roanoke Times:

    “In the future, you’ll go online, design your kitchen and bathroom modules. They will deliver to your home. Just the same way you do with your car, you can do with your home.”

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    Smart technology is a huge facet of FutureHAUS. Embedded in the house are enhanced sensing and control capabilities that create opportunities to learn a resident’s needs and respond to changing conditions.

    Residents interact with the house through traditional and non-traditional user interfaces, such as voice, touch, gesture, proximity and motion.

    For example, the bedroom features smart closets that enable users to locate their clothes on a mirror touchscreen, and a smart window wall, which automatically adjusts for shading, privacy and insulation.

    These innovations are in addition to moveable walls that create flexibility, a voice- and gesture-activated bed, and an audiovisual wall that serves multiple functions, from speaker and screen, to dry-erase board or art wall.

    In the bathroom, an easy-to-use integrated interface caters for multigenerational use, allowing people of all ages to monitor and control hot water, energy and even resources such as toilet paper and soap.

    At the same time, integrated fixtures, adjustable cabinetry, smart accessories and operable lighting create a comfortable, user-led bathroom experience.

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    FutureHAUS was unveiled in four phases, starting with the kitchen in 2015 and culminating in the bedroom and home office in 2017. The prototype being installed in Dubai is the second of its kind, after the first was destroyed in an electrical fire in February 2017.

    Virginia Tech is one of 22 universities chosen to participate in the 2018 Solar Decathlon. The international competition was created by the U.S. Department of Energy, and is hosted this year by Dubai, which seeks to become the city with the smallest carbon footprint in the world by 2050.

    Images courtesy of Virginia Tech FutureHaus.

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