FutureHAUS at the NAHB IBS

I first started attending the National Association of Home Builders International Building Show (NAHB IBS) back in 1982 when it was held in Las Vegas, as it was again this past January. When you attend the massive trade show nearly every year, you see many things change, and many remain the same, though every so often, there are truly inspirational ideas that resonate and push the industry forward.

The Kitchen Cartridge of Virginia Tech's FutureHAUS

The Kitchen Cartridge of Virginia Tech's FutureHAUS

From my first show in 1982, out of the 50 acres of displays at the time, one exhibit stood out for me. The NEST (New Experimental Prototype of Tomorrow) House was an exhibit with a long line to tour a small model. The home reminded me of what we now call a tiny house, but it was uniquely created so that an owner could add modules or units to create a larger home to better suit a family or as needs changed. At that time, interest rates were at 18%, and those of us in the design industry saw this revolutionary new housing type as a way for young families and couples just starting out to become homeowners. 

Several years later in 1988, the Smart House was introduced to the building community, and many national brands supported the promising technology. Seeing the very concrete possibilities in housing when builders and designers think differently and use new technologies to impact how we live our lives is one of the most exciting things about home design, making how we live smarter, safer, and more sustainable. 

Structurally Insulated Panel (SIP)

Structurally Insulated Panel (SIP)

Although 35 years of time and economic transitions have passed since first seeing these groundbreaking ideas, my latest trip to the 2016 IBS convention brought back many of those same feelings when I saw an exhibit of what the design students and professors at VirginiaTech have been up to. On display was an example of their FutureHAUS, taking the concept of modular, pre-fab homes to the next level by incorporating cutting edge technology. They do this by creating “cartridge” units for kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas that are constructed in a factory using precision digital printing and SIPs (structurally insulated panels). Upon assembly, each cartridge is installed with advanced technology and sensors that allow every surface and device to send and receive information. 

The technology is impressive, and what really caught my eye was the the display of the bathroom cartridge, with features allowing for personal customization and aging in place as well as video projections on the shower door. Now over the years we have placed TVs behind mirrors in master suites and I have seen the holographic images from Disney to Michael Jackson that look so real you think that person is actually there. It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities ahead in our own daily lives.

As the Millennial generation begins to make their mark on the housing industry, I hope they continue to embrace and expand these emerging technologies. We Americans have a tradition of building on past achievements and reaching beyond, a good reminder being to look at the milestones noted in the 75th anniversary issue of Professional Builder Magazine, such as when MIT announced “America’s First Sun-Powered Homes” way back in 1939. The future looks exceedingly bright as we develop new ways to sustainably house people. My only hope is that at least some of the new housing will continue to carry timeless architectural style. I love the sleek, contemporary, utilitarian feel of Apple stores, but I still enjoy the enduring warmth of a Craftsman home. 

Check out the videos below to learn more about FutureHAUS.