Welcome to our
Book of the House
Building an energy-miserly, 40-years-maintenance-free
ultra-automated proof-of-concept house
Why & how & more - full details (more or less) on everything.
Our inspiration was a light bulb - specifically an LED bulb
When we switched to LED bulbs we saw our electric bill drop and knew we could go more than 20 years without replacing them. Then we learned that LED fixtures last twice as long as bulbs, so we began wondering what else we could do to cut energy costs and avoid maintenance chores for a very long time. That led us to redefine the way the market was treating home automation products into the concept of an autonomous house - one that can adjust itself to the needs of its occupants as well as the needs of the structure, without requiring human intervention.
So we committed to a scary-big editorial project: designing and building a proof-of-concept house that comes as close as we can get to fulfilling these goals. But perhaps we should begin with a mutual understanding of how we interpret thoses.
ENERGY-MISERLY does not mean going off the grid. We just want to slow the meters and consume fewer resources. We make some significant inroads in comparison to standard materials and practices. As you will see, some of the most significant steps have to do with isolating the inside of the house from the environment outside, in part by aggressively addressing insulation.
40-YEARS-MAINTENANCE-FREE does not mean you'll never dust or vacuum. It does mean making selections that can help avoid needing major repairs or replacements for 40 years. We were surprised by how many products already meet that qualification.
ULTRA-AUTOMATED does not mean the house becomes a plaything for a smart phone. It does mean that thousands of sensors, hundreds of actuators and more than half a hundred computers and controllers work together to recognize the needs of both the occupants and the structure, and as much as we can make happen, satisfies those needs without requiring human participation.
The Book of The House
For media people covering this project and needing assets...
for educators working the lessons of this house into the classroom...
and for anybody who just wants to know more...
Every detail we can gather is (or will be) on this Web site, designed to serve as The Book of The House.
Here's a quick guide to where the tabs can take you.
PLACE: The influence of location, local weather and other factors that brought us to Goodsprings Plantation in Aiken, South Carolina as our build site
PROJECT: The design phase and tactics for pulling all the pieces together
PRIORITIES: Each of our emphasis elements (energy, longevity and automation) comes with trade-offs, with conditional considerations and with chains of consequence
PRINCIPLES: Those 3 main goals of the project don't include all of the elements behind our decisions; we discuss others (like security, privacy and safety, among others) here.
PLAN: The floor plan, the site plan and the other plans in play as we find and select sweet-spot products that let us build smart
PROGRESS: Building doesn't exist in just 3 dimensions; the 4th, time, shows its face in these snapshots of our progress
PRODUCTS: Each choice of materials and other products we use in assembling this house has stories behind it, explored here
PEOPLE: An army of people played part in helping this happen; many of them are here
PREMIERE: Details about the media event where we debut the house to the press and the public
POSTSCRIPT: After the build, the build-up and the brouhaha, we'll add some personal notes about living in it
These main tabs lead you to more places with, for example, high-resolution photography, video, audio streams of interviews, Newstips reports and reviews, narratives, product data sheets, links to product pages, links to company press contacts and more.
This site, like our project house, is still under construction. Please forgive the design flaws and missing chunks of stuff and please treat whatever we have up for you to see so far as a sneak peek, likely in need of editing and corrections plus significant amounts of additional content. In short - we're not move-in ready - so be careful around the loose floorboards and make sure you're wearing a hard hat.
UPDATED DECEMBER 17: There’s finally content on the Progress page - plus rolling revisions everywhere - and we’re trying, at least, to get content onto more of the pages that have been incomplete or empty.
Builder Don Cerra, left, explains where the footprint of the house will be so the brush hog can do its work. October 10, 2016
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