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Working Press


Welcome to our
Book of the House
Web site


Building an energy-miserly, 40-years-maintenance-free
cybernetic proof-of-concept house

 Why & how & more - full details (more or less) on everything.

UPDATE A more cybernetic architecture

This update is overdue (apologies). On the structural side, we have a new and innovative way to make the flooring more energy-assistive with almost no compromise (certainly none you would notice) in comfort or quality. We identified one aspect of the HVAC system that would fail before ourNet routing 40-year target and we are working on a “cure” for that. Much more significantly to the project, we evolved the automation in a very significant way and now have a true-to-its-definition cybernetic control system; click on the image on the right for a PDF briefing on that. Also on the electronics and control side, recent progress by vendors in the established DALI protocol is letting us offload lighting and fan control burdens to a DALI interface. We came up with a way to control the EcoVent register flow modulatorsSolder stationwithout a “Cloud” connection. And we came up with a way (with the help of an old pal, Forrest Mims) to avoid toilet paper outages. We added a top-of-class wooden workbench equipped at one end with oscilloscopes and other test gear, and at the other with a top-class digital soldering station. We also figured out a way to provide cool and useful info derived by the house on interactive panels without touching the outside internet and a way to use the same panels as a more convenient maintenance interfacePi stack on rack than hours in the rack closet. We added surge protection to the outdoor surveillance network ports and made significant progress building our master control rack. We are now working on radar heads for direct measurement of soil moisture for the watering / irrigation system and a different kind of radar head under the floorboards beneath the beds so if you doze off while watching TV, turning it off and adjusting the room lights get taken care of for you. There’s a little more; we’ll try to fill in with these and other changes as we update the rest of the site. Meanwhile: back to the beginning of our story... .

Our inspiration was a light bulb - specifically an LED bulbTCP A19

When we first 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 those.

Total cost of ownership (TCO)

For the design example house, approximately 3450 square feet on a build site in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) of South Carolina, near Aiken, we can look at a 40-year total cost of ownership versus traditional designs. (The data for this chart is from veteran custom homebuilder Don Cerra, who's earned a reputation as the “Greenest” builder in the CSRA).





Cost per square foot



$25 more

Cybernetic (automation) costs



$68,000 more

Total build cost



$154,250 more

Monthly energy costs



$190-$350 less

Annual energy costs



$2,280-$4,200 less

40-year energy costs



$91,200-$168,000 less

40-year replacement costs



$131,000 less





40-year TCO



$67,950-$144,750 less

Energy cost forecasts are based on current rates. Replacement costs that the engineered build would not encounter but that a traditional build would normally encounter one or more times include roof repair and replacement, HVAC system repair and replacement, hot water system repair and replacement, driveway repair and replacement, repainting, well pump repair and replacement and similar repair, replacement or maintenance costs that the engineered build avoids through its investment in superior materials optimized for longevity. TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) addresses the full estimated ranges of each factor to show best/worst case estimates. Averaging the ranges, the TCO for the engineered house is $673,900 versus $754,250, a difference of $80,350, which represents a 10.7% savings versus a traditionally built house, in this example.



TomeThe 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.

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.

under_constructionThis 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 NOVEMBER 20: When we determined what our cybernetic architecture would entail in terms of preparation and wiring, we put a hold on the structure construction until we could have the electronics ready to install as the house goes up. We're rolling some major updates across the site..


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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Editorial Project House

© Copyright 2016, 2017 and 2018 Newstips, Lord Martin Winston and J2J Corporation; all rights reserved

Lot 14, Riding Ridge Court
Builder Don Cerra


Front elevation

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