The vision motivating this research was to renew some of the fundamental performative and aesthetic aspects of residential architecture, by implementing an efficient building system in parallel with autonomous management of energy and comfort.

The fundamental challenge of the Connected Sustainable Home prototype was to propagate the evolution of an exemplary home living environment, that will provide comfortable living while contributing to the sustainability of energy supply. Our vision encompassed the creative use of natural resources and the enhancement of the human interaction with architecture and the natural environment.

In the Connected Sustainable Home prototype we addressed the challenges at the level of the single house unit, through the implementation of three key features: an innovative envelope; an intelligent energy management system that is robust to uncertainty and user comfort levels; and a set of intuitive interactions between systems and occupants.

We adopted a holistic research approach by advancing research in four key areas:

Sustainable Architecture: realization of a vivid and specialized architecture embodying particular sustainable principles, integrated into the landscape in an efficient and elegant way.

Smart Energy System: innovative use of clean, natural, renewable energy resources for heating/cooling and energy supply.

Information and Communication Technologies: integration of information & communication technologies to provide a responsive home living environment which enhances the quality of human interaction and the day-to-day experience of architectural space and nature.

Social Sustainability: integration of the connected home within a specific community with a thoughtful view to the local social and economical contexts and actualities of sustainable living.

The physical architecture of the Connected Sustainable Home is influenced by the energy generation apparatus. Alternative types of house units may incorporate alternative means of energy production like wind turbines, solar concentrators or biomass silos, as tectonic elements that reflect their design identity. At an urban scale, parallel use of alternative energy production strategies ensures maximum energy availability.

An intelligent energy management system addresses the problem of instability of energy supply and demand. The distributed, autonomous control apparatus of the house ensures that the resources are employed efficiently, while managing risk to failure. A novel technique, using an Iterative Risk Allocation (IRA) algorithm, ensures that the risk of failing to meet demand is always kept within user specified bounds.

At an urban scale, a distributed, market-based approach to risk allocation can use the symmetric connectivity of the community as an insurance mechanism by allocating and distributing risk throughout the network. This overall control architecture can optimize energy performance based on conditions, usage profiles, and preferences including specifications of acceptable risk to failure.

Finally, a set of intuitive interactions between systems and occupants improves the overall home experience. The occupants specify their preferred levels of comfort, temperature, humidity, natural light and so on, but also the acceptable risk of failure to meet these comfort levels. The communication between systems and occupants makes use of innovative non-intrusive visual, audio and tactile interaction modalities.

Mitchell, WJ, Casalegno, F, 2008, The Connected Sustainable Cities, MIT Mobile Experience Laboratory Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts, ISBN: 978-0-9821144-0-7.

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