The home of the future is an unending topic of speculation. But can it be more? Can it be a reality? Yes, it can—look no further than Virginia Tech’s bold and visionary FutureHAUS.
The FutureHAUS is a modular concept home using the latest innovations to create an adaptable, energy-efficient, and technologically connected living space. The home occupies just 900 sq. ft., with each room serving as a sort of “plug and play” module that can be installed quickly. Approximately 50 solar panels power the compact home, which is intended to be integrated into existing grids with ease.
It’s the brainchild of futurist Joseph Wheeler, professor at Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies in Blacksburg, Va. The ambitious project serves as the showcase for Wheeler and the university’s Center for Design Research.
As Wheeler explains:
“What if we were to take the construction, the building of a home, and move it into a factory? Not like the factory home building we’re used to, which is modular homes and trailers. We’re talking about high-tech homes that demand this quality control and…the precision that you need.”
It’s not Wheeler’s first go at visionary design. He and Virginia Tech developed the celebrated LumenHAUS eight years ago. That concept won the 2010 Solar Decathlon and received honors from the American Institute of Architects.
Achieving this latest groundbreaking vision has not been easy. It’s been a monumental task, involving over 100 students and faculty for six years. It’s also had setbacks, as when a fire ravaged the project in 2017. (Luckily, no one was hurt.) Unwilling to be idle, Wheeler swiftly re-mobilized the crew to rebuild the FutureHAUS better than ever.
A core element of the new and improved FutureHAUS lies in its adaptable and moving environment. “We have an idea called Universal Accessibility or some might call ‘Aging in Place,” says Bobby Vance, co-lead on the project. This principle allows for surfaces and appliances to adjust to a user’s size or physical need. In theory, the home evolves as the homeowner ages.
Accuride had the good fortune of becoming a part of Virginia Tech’s cutting-edge home of the future. “We’re using Accuride products in every moveable portion of the home,” notes Vance.
Chief among those is the 116RC Linear Track System, a solution Joe and the FutureHAUS team came upon after a lot of trial-and-error. The team experimented with numerous sliding solutions from major brands. These included motorized linear travel systems, but exorbitant cost and complexity made them impractical for use throughout the FutureHAUS.
Given the scale of innovation, it’s understandable why so many companies struggled to take on the challenge. Thankfully, innovation is a core Accuride attribute–one the company was able to show front-and-center with the 116RC.
“We’re using the [116RC] Heavy-Duty Linear Track in many places within the house,” says Wheeler. “We’re using it to automate upper and lower cabinets in the kitchen, to automate vanities in the bathrooms, and even accessible toilets that can raise and lower.”
The Accuride 116RC provides smooth, linear movement to a wide variety of applications. The 116RC uses lightweight and corrosion-resistant aluminum tracks of modifiable lengths, along with innovative ball bearing carriages. The system supports multiple cartridges and tracks, handles loads up to 793 lbs., and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Accuride offers several accessories, including a kit to adapt the 116RC to sliding doors like those in the UK’s state-of-the-art Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
“the 116 has really surpassed our expectations. It’s allowed us to really engage and kind of load on all the technology that we wanted to in our house, and it’s really able to keep up with our innovation.”
The FutureHAUS is currently in Dubai taking part as the US entry in the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East. Modeled after the US Energy Department’s own Solar Decathlon, the Middle East event will host teams from over 20 schools around the world. It’s also the first event of its kind in the Middle East. (Other solar decathlons are held in Africa, China, Latin America, and Europe.)
Furthermore, the FutureHAUS is a great showcase for the role of movement in cutting-edge design. It’s a trend more and more designers are turning to Accuride to achieve.
“I feel I’m challenging the way buildings are built today,” says Wheeler, “and Accuride is helping me with that challenge.”
Accuride would like to congratulate Joe Wheeler and the FutureHAUS team for winning the Solar Decathlon Middle East
— Virginia Tech Engineering (@VTEngineering) November 28, 2018
In another tweet, Wheeler summed up what it took to achieve FutureHAUS’s win:
“We have the most interdisciplinary team that we’ve ever had around any research project, and that’s what it takes.”
For more recent stories of “Accuride in Action,” read how our movement solutions help emergency services in the Greater New York Area or provide movement in advanced archival systems. For all the latest news in movement innovation, stay connected with Accuride!
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