Modular smart home for Aging in Place

A bicycle with flowers in the basket on the front of it.

Emerging Trends by Claton Moore

The students are a whole bunch of big brains from Virginia Tech who are currently in Dubai to compete in the Solar Decathlon Middle East. The Decathlon is an international competition created by the U.S. Department of Energy in which universities from all over the globe meet to design, build, and operate a grid-connected solar-powered house. Out of the fifteen teams in the contest, the Virginia Tech team serves as the sole U.S. entry this year.

The Future HAUS is under construction

Located at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, UAE, the competition offers the challenge of adapting the design to heat, dust, and humidity. The competition requires houses to use solar energy as the only energy source and employ technologies that permit maximum energy efficiency. The competition runs from November 14 to 29.

The Solar Decathlon Middle East in Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, UAE

One of the keys to Future HAUS’ adaptability involves the team’s partnership with Accuride International, one of the world’s largest designers and manufacturers of sliding hardware that has modest roots as a tool and die shop that started in 1962.

Accuride’s contribution is a heavy-duty sliding solution that enables the personalization of the Future HAUS interior, including kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, and toilets that can be raised and lowered for individuals based on advanced recognition technologies. These sensors can adjust the surroundings based on a wide variety of factors including voice, gesture, and proximity detection, as well as fingerprint ID and facial recognition.

The Future HAUS occupies just 900 square feet but it’s a marvel for the industrial design of modular housing. The home is powered by 50 solar panels, incorporates state-of-the-art technology, and is the result of six years of hard work and innovation by over 100 faculty and students.

The Future HAUS is the brainchild of futurist Joseph Wheeler, a professor at Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies in Blacksburg, Virginia. Just eight years ago, Professor Wheeler was lauded for his design of another project called Lumen HAUS, which won the 2010 Solar Decathlon and earned high praise from the American Institute of Architects.

Dr. Joseph Wheeler and his team at Virginia Tech’s Center for Design Research

The team claims their modular smart home is based on the concept of “Universal Accessibility,” but they’re really talking about “Aging in Place.”
“We’re demonstrating how a house can automatically adapt to the needs of every individual who lives in it,” Wheeler said. “Future HAUS makes it possible for a couple to stay in the same house for life, and for a home to accommodate every resident – for example, from a toddler to a tall teenage basketball player to an aging person in a wheelchair.”


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