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FutureHAUS Leads the Way in Multi-Family Housing with Innovations for Smart Home, Prefabricated and Sustainable Design Concepts

Developed by faculty and students at Virginia Tech Center for Design Research, the FutureHAUS is an exploration in the integration of pre-fabricated, energy efficient and smart home systems for the future of affordable housing. The prototype was unveiled in the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East competition, taking home a first-place victory over 14 other selected teams and more than 60 total entrants. The victory comes after years of research in two distinct fields: the industrialization of buildings and integrated construction, and sustainably designed smart home environments.

The FutureHAUS includes an entry way, kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom with technologies based on the principles of Aging in Place, integrated with the development of modular structures.

Giving shape to the exterior, 48 five-foot Silver Metallic ALUCOBOND® PLUS aluminum composite panels were contributed by 3A Composites USA, and fabricated into modules by MillerClapperton for assembly of the FutureHAUS exterior overhang. The overhang serves not only to shade the home but incorporates a 15 kilowatt photovoltaic array – much like that of a tree canopy which produces energy and provides shade during harsh summer conditions.

As described in the FutureHAUS architecture narrative, “The roof of the home is its own architectural element. An interstitial space between the PV’s and roof panels allows for ventilation. Five structural, modular, light gauge steel frames hold a 3KW Photovoltaic array each. These cartridges become the core of the solar canopy element for the home. They not only entirely shade the roof of the home, but collect the output of the desert sun and convert it to energy for the house needs. Eighteen prefabricated shading canopies attach to the outer band of the five solar trays completing the roof canopy. These shade elements are made of lightweight aluminum structure and clad with silver ALUCOBOND® PLUS which has a high heat capacity. The solar canopy is functional and aesthetic, power-generating and shading.”

Joseph Wheeler, AIA, futureHAUS Program Director and Co-Director of the Virginia Tech Center for Design Research, describes the efficiency of the modules during the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East Competition stating, “In two days we pretty much had the whole house installed, with the photovoltaic working, with all electronic systems and HVAC. The competition was a two week period where we essentially had to live in the house, and operate the house like a typical home. You had to generate hot water for showers, wash dishes, cook meals, maintain a temperature of 73 degrees in the house at all times, control humidity and air quality, and after all of this you had to be energy positive.”

The remarkable execution of the FutureHAUS concept is a testament to the future of Multi-Family Housing. Innovations in smart home, prefabricated and sustainable design concepts in a single prototype are what make FutureHAUS unique and unsurprisingly a headline in the architectural community.

Upon returning to the United States the FutureHAUS was disassembled and reassembled three more times. First during its showcase at Virginia Tech’s main campus, followed by its feature at NYCxDesign for 12 days, and lastly in Alexandria, VA to celebrate Amazon’s investment in Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus.

Currently the home is undergoing updates and improvements at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus, however the journey isn’t over; the FutureHAUS will return to Dubai for the 2020 World Expo and we’ll be keeping a close eye on progress of the FutureHAUS!

Information and photography courtesy of Virginia Tech Center for Design Research. Photos © Thorsen Photography

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Colors Used

Silver Metallic