FutureHAUS: Virginia Tech Reinvents the Bedroom and Home Office

A spacious bedroom decorated in a simple yet very elegant blue and white-themed design.

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. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech

At the 2017 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Orlando, among the latest state-of-the-art toilets and appliances stood booth number S5880 — a booth that provided a preview to visitors of the future of housing itself. 

Designed by a student-faculty research team from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Va., the booth debuted the final phase of FutureHAUS, a prototype for the home of the future, with the unveiling of high-tech sustainable bedroom and home office designs. 

The Virginia Tech team introduced the FutureHAUS concept to the world in 2015 with a 
kitchen prototype and then released the bath and living room modules in later phases. The latest phase offers a preview of how digital technology can be combined with cutting-edge products and smart building design to make bedrooms and home offices more responsive to the needs of its occupants. 

The concepts modeled in FutureHAUS can be used to build homes that intuitively respond to the needs of everyone, allowing people to live better and more sustainably. — Joseph Wheeler, a professor in the School of Architecture + Design and co-director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Design 
“With the fourth and final phase of FutureHAUS, Virginia Tech and our industry partners are showing how smart design and technology can solve universal challenges in home building to make homes of the future more efficient, sustainable and affordable,” says Joseph Wheeler, a professor in the School of Architecture + Design and co-director of the university’s Center for Design Research. “The concepts modeled in FutureHAUS can be used to build homes that intuitively respond to the needs of everyone from Millennials and Centennials (those born in 1997 or later) to the aging and housebound — allowing people to live better and more sustainably.”

The Virginia Tech team refers to the prefabricated house components they’ve created as “cartridges.” If the technology is adopted in the future, those cartridges would be built in a factory, similar to the way we build automobiles, and would incorporate all the plumbing, electrical, technology and other systems found in a house. Once moved on site, the individual cartridges would be combined plug-and-play style to create a complete house, according to Bobby Vance, a master’s student and program manager of the Center for Design Research. 

Research Key features of the bedroom and home office cartridges introduced at KBIS 2017 include:

  • Flex space.A movable wall between the bedroom and home office allows the square footage of each to be maximized when needed. The closet also expands to include a sitting room, dressing room or laundry room. If a guest bedroom is needed, the office wall easily converts to a Murphy bed.
  • Smart closet and wardrobe.A smart mirror touchscreen allows users to quickly locate items in their wardrobe. Once users tag their clothes with tiny RFID tags, the smart closet can scan and locate items — and even let you know what’s in the laundry. “This is an important design innovation because people spend a lot of time in their closets,” says Erin Hardy, national manager of design for California Closets, which designed the system.
  • Smart window wall.The exterior wall, developed with DuPont, makes intuitive adjustments throughout the day for energy efficiency and interior comfort. The wall features tinted glass, a rain screen and technology that automatically regulates shading, privacy and insulation.
  • Laundry.The laundry room can be either hidden or exposed when needed. Just move the closet! 
  • Bedroom.Users can change the height and position of the included Tempur-Pedic bed with a voice command or adjust the temperature, sound system or LED lighting in the room. Television, movies or soothing sleep scenes can be projected above the bed. 
  • Home office.Folks who work at home can use a Microsoft HoloLens headset and integrated cameras to blend the virtual and real world. An adjustable desk on the wall automatically raises and lowers so home workers have an ergonomic position.
  • Audiovisual wall.The office features an audiovisual wall that is shared between the office and living room. It can spin 180 degrees when necessary, is covered with Corning’s Gorilla Glass (which is scratch resistant) and can function as a speaker, TV, computer screen, videoconferencing monitor or dry-erase board.

What are the advantages of FutureHAUS?

By prefabricating kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and other home components, the construction of a house becomes standardized, yielding benefits such as better quality control, faster construction time, guaranteed delivery dates and construction safety. 

“If you look at the current state of the construction industry, you have a bunch of trades on site in adverse weather conditions,” says Vance. “It’s very hard to ensure a certain level of quality and timeliness in an environment like that. But if you bring it into the factory, we can build homes faster at a much higher quality level, and then, when you deliver the cartridges to the site, it’s a very easy construction process.”

Now that Virginia Tech has completed all components of FutureHAUS, the team plans to build a two-story prototype at the university’s Corporate Research Center to serve as a model for the future of sustainable, cartridge-built housing. 

Team members predict that FutureHAUS technology will someday be integrated into standard home construction practices. “I think it’s going to happen soon,” says Wheeler. “It takes kind of a radical move, but I think in about three years you’re going to see it happening in places. It’s just a matter of time.

 

Robyn A. Friedman is an award-winning freelance writer and copywriter who has been covering the real estate and housing industries for over two decades. She has published more than 1,000 articles in print and online in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, The Robb Report, the New York Post, Realtor.com, Florida Realtor, Business Week Online, Bankrate.com and the Chicago Tribune.

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