Bathrooms of the Future
Virginia Tech’s FutureHAUS Bathroom shows what’s possible.
Imagine this: you step into your bathroom and it knows who you are.
It raises or lowers the countertop to your preferred height, tells you your weight and whether your team won last night, adjusts the shower to your desired temperature and streams your favorite music or TV show into the room.
Best of all, it does all of this in a stylish, low maintenance, water- and energy-efficient space. All of these features — and more — were on display in a futuristic bathroom. Some of them are available for homes like yours now.
The Virginia Tech Center for Design Research brought its FutureHAUS Bathroom to Design & Construction Week in January in Las Vegas. (Last year, it debuted its FutureHAUS Kitchen, which was just as ambitious and futuristic as this year’s offering.) A joint project of the school’s architecture and computer science programs, the FutureHAUS Bathroom shows what’s possible in home design. Some of the amenities that are integrated into the project bathroom include:
- A bathroom mirror with customizable readouts for weather, traffic, TV display and more;
- A shower system that lets you know when you’re low on shower gel, conditioner or shampoo and places an online order for the item before you run out;
- Flooring that sends out an alert if a bathroom occupant falls;
- A chromatherapy-jetted tub for comfort;
- A high-tech bidet-style toilet with Bluetooth capability.
The Future is Now
Some of what the FutureHAUS Bathroom offers, including the TV mirror component, radiant floor heating, LED lighting, chromatherapy tub and bidet-style toilet with Bluetooth, are already on the market. (Kohler is a partner in the project.)
Others, like the alert and ordering system on shower products running low, are starting to enter the market. How long they’ll take to enter the plumbing world will probably be determined by their acceptance elsewhere first, but the number of home products getting connected to smart phones and tablets is increasing dramatically — every trade show brings new innovations in this realm.
The FutureHAUS Bathroom has a sleek glass countertop and a slip-resistant glass floor. Glass countertops are on the market, but tend to be more expensive than other durable, low-maintenance alternatives like quartz. Glass floors are not yet widely available and the sensors that yield weight and fall information are still a future technology for most households at this point.
Sleek, handle-free floating vanities like the ones in this project are becoming increasingly popular. Even without the ability to raise and lower them, as FutureHAUS does (but most available models in the marketplace don’t), they make wheelchair accessibility easier. A walk around the Design and Construction Week show floors reveals an appealing array of internal accessories for vanity storage, as well. These accessories make finding your contents much faster and easier. There are even built-in plugs and phone chargers for vanity drawers on the market.
The shower system includes a rain head and hand-held for flexibility, as well as body jets. These, too, are also available now, and usually feature low-flow technology to meet strict water usage codes across the country.
Privacy and security are always concerns where connectivity is concerned. Before wiring your bathroom, consider who might be given access to your personal information through your permissions. (Everyone clicks on those terms of agreement links to get their systems set up, but do you know whom you’re giving what access when you agree?)
If your bathroom knows who’s using it at any given moment, does the neighbor’s teen hacker son, too? These are all questions to address with your home technology consultant, ideally someone you’ve also checked out thoroughly.
Maybe it’s NASA. Maybe it’s Star Wars. Maybe it’s just society’s love affair with its iPhones, iPads and Androids. Whatever the driving factors, we’ve developed a passion for technology at home that isn’t going to slow down any time soon.
So consider it in your best interest to determine what’s essential and beneficial to build into your house and what you can easily live without. Accessibility, comfort and safety will likely have a greater effect on long-term bathroom use than which apps you can stream into the room.