The Connected Home

We are building a provocative vision of the home of the future.

The home of the future will be different in both its technological and social roles. Advanced materials and new information technologies will combine with local influences to define new modes of interaction between house and resident.

By combining trends in renewable energy systems, sustainable architecture, and connected information systems the Mobile Experience Lab is building a provocative vision of the home of the future. Beginning with alternative energy sources, the connected home provides automated services, which help its occupants, lead more sustainable lives. The connected home can manage demand through climate control automation and other efficiency measures. The local weather report helps the house calculate its daily energy plan, adjusting energy sources as conditions change through the day.

The connected home is situated in the larger context of the community, which means that even as it self-manages its own energy generation and distribution, it is also networked and coordinated with the community and city at large. As demand fluctuates, energy from micro-generation can be re-distributed as needed. With smart homes and intelligently connected communities and cities, citizens can play a positive and sustainable role in their urban landscape.

The novelty of this research is the integration of active and passive concepts of sustainability into a single building envelope. The motivation is to determine and fine-tune the performance of both. Along these lines, the dynamic façade is an “active system” placed back-to-back with the “passive system” of the high thermal mass envelope, while the energy production and autonomous control provide renewable energy and optimize the global functioning of the house.

Dynamic Facade
The southern-facing facade of the prototype house is “active”. Each window of the facade is an overlay of two electronically switchable materials: the first PDLC layer controls the desirable degree of visibility to secure privacy; the second electrochromic layer controls the necessary degree of sunlight penetration to secure optimal light and thermal performance. In addition, each window can be automatically opened and closed to provide optimized ventilation.

High Thermal Mass
Comprises the “passive” building envelope and the base of the prototype house. It secures high thermal resistance and low conductivity. To sustain thermal energy, it absorbs heat during the winter and it prevents excessive heat during the summer. The high thermal mass envelope and base are constructed from locally sourced, natural materials.

Energy Production
A solar/cogeneration system produces the required electrical power and heat for the prototype house through combination of two systems: a) a solar system, including a solar thermal plant and a PV system; b) an energy box, including energy storage and a cogeneration pellet boiler. An energy management system balances the production of electricity, heating, cooling, and hot water under the varying conditions.

Autonomous Control
All house systems are controlled by a central, autonomous control system. It combines feedback provided by sensors, statistical climatic and ambient data to evaluate building performance in real time. Using this data along with the long term goals and the preferences of the inhabitants, the control system balances risk and predicts future user behavior to provide optimum performance.

The design of the active and passive systems of the prototype house was developed as a kit of independent, exchangeable parts. This allows for flexible reconfiguration and transportation and provides a superb test-bed for experimentation. Transportability is secured by dimensioning the house modules to fit within standard shipping containers.