Your next home may just be smarter than you are.
Virginia Tech’s architecture department has produced its most recent phenomenon, the Lumenhaus, a completely autonomous house designed to maximize energy efficiency by adjusting to changing weather conditions.
After traveling 16,493 miles, to a series of exhibits and competitions which have won the sleek metal structure international fame, the Lumenhaus has found its way back to Blacksburg and is currently on display on the Drillfield.
In July, the Lumenhaus defeated 17 other top international universities’ entries to win the inaugural European Solar Decathlon in Spain.
“We were one of only two U.S. teams accepted to the European event,” said Joe Wheeler, lead project coordinator and Tech architecture professor.
According to Chip Clark, an architectural doctoral student and one of the original creators of the Lumenhaus, the true goal of the building was to design and build a beautiful, energy-efficient, net-zero smart home with a strong potential for pre-fabrication and mass-production.
“It is there to break down stereotypes and stigmas toward modern design, sustainability and alternative energy production, while serving as a critique against and counterpoint to current housing design and construction and general living patterns,” Clark said.
The Lumenhaus is designed to enable its inhabitants to live closer to nature, while simultaneously enjoying a comfortable and modern space.
“What we’re trying to prove by this house is for people to come into our house and think, ‘Wow I can live here. This feels spacious,’” Wheeler said.
Through a weather monitoring system, the house adjusts its solar panels, insulation panels and metal shutters to maximize energy efficiency in response to changing weather conditions.
“No one likes to be controlled by a computer, so we developed an application for the iPads that gives you access to everything that’s controllable in the house by a touch screen,” Wheeler said.
Passive heating, rain water collection and natural lighting and ventilation combine to make the Lumenhaus self-sustainable.
While the Lumenhaus owes its inspiration to its 2002 and 2005 Tech solar house predecessors, Clark said the true story of its success lies with the multi-faceted team of more than 200 students and faculty who contributed to the project.
“We have had some really smart, clever and persistent minds dedicate an immeasurable amount of time to the project,” Clark said. “It is amazing what happens when you get unlikely groups of people together, for extended periods of time, in the wee hours of the night.”
The Lumenhaus team has been invited to display its project at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago but is waiting for funding.
Or as Clark put it, “We need a sugar daddy to get us there.”
Until then, anyone can check out just how smart the house is during tours on
Mondays and Fridays between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.