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FutureHAUS wows crowds at KBIS

Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies faculty and students earned rave reviews as they showed off their work on FutureHAUS – a revolutionary prototype for the future of smart, sustainable housing – at the world’s largest kitchen and bath industry expo last week.

“How do I get a home like this?” and “This is incredible!” were just a few of the reactions from the more than 40,000 visitors touring Virginia Tech‘s booth at KBIS, a three-day international trade show in Orlando.

The FutureHAUS exhibit drew over 40,000 visitors.

Smart audiovisual walls in the home projected lounge music as students and faculty members demonstrated its futuristic features. The highlights included adaptable “flex space” rooms that expand or contract by moving walls and furnishings; a “Jetsons”-style automated closet with a smart mirror touchscreen for wardrobe management; and a high-performance exterior window wall that intuitively adjusts shading, privacy, and insulation for energy efficiency and comfort.

KBIS, held January 10–12 in conjunction with the International Builders Show and Design and Construction Week, attracted an estimated 110,000 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors to Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.

The FutureHAUS team traveled there to debut the Bedroom and Home Office of the Future, the final phase of a three-year research project partnering faculty and students with industry leaders to push the envelope in high-tech, responsive home design.

Students Laurie Booth and Elyse Smith explain the smart home’s controls.

“This has been the experience of a lifetime,” said Laurie Booth, a second-year interior design student from Charlotte, North Carolina. “The FutureHAUS faculty treat us like we’re part of a firm and this is a job, which has enabled me to learn so much. I’ve worked on renderings, finishing options, virtual reality models, construction, and also with our partner companies like California Closets. It’s made me more interested in housing and how we can live in more smart, compact ways that are better for our health and environment.”

FutureHAUS merges advanced technologies, modular “cartridge” construction, transformable rooms, and sleek design into practical, user-friendly living spaces. Its concepts have won sponsorship from industry leading companies such as California Closets and DuPont and garnered attention from media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Architect.

The FutureHAUS home office converts to a guest bedroom with a simple voice command.

Like the three prior phases of FutureHAUS – the kitchen, bath, and living room – the bedroom and home office show how digital technologies, cutting-edge products, and smart space design can make homes more responsive to occupants, using a refined modular style of building. Among the features are flex space – adaptable rooms that can transform according to occupants’ space needs and activities; an audiovisual wall that rotates to share art, entertainment, and technology between adjoining rooms; and a master bedroom with a multimedia canopy offering ambient scenes for a good night’s sleep.

The FutureHAUS team employs an innovative style of building – prefabricating walls and rooms as “plug-and-play” cartridges. The process, refined from the manufacturing assembly line, allows for seamless incorporation of advanced technologies and home systems in controlled, factory setting, and easy integration at the construction site.

Project leader Joseph Wheeler, professor of architecture and co-director of the Center for Design Research, plans to build a two-story FutureHAUS in a nearby research complex. The main floor demonstration facility would connect all four phases into one integrated smart home. On the second floor, a research and development lab would enable Virginia Tech and industry partners to continue inventing the future of housing.

The FutureHAUS bedroom’s multimedia canopy screen projects everything from TV and Internet to ambient lighting and user-responsive sleep scenes.

Wheeler and the team now set their sights on the Solar Decathlon Middle East in 2018, with hopes of repeating their 2010 victory in the international solar home competition.

“Virginia Tech’s FutureHAUS research isn’t just some cool, futuristic concept,” Wheeler said. “We’re proving that it’s a practical, easy-to-implement model for efficient design and building that could revolutionize the construction industry and make housing more accessible to people of all walks of life, everywhere.”

Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the Center for Design Research wish to thank the sponsors and partners who make the FutureHAUS possible: California Closets, DuPont, B&M Sheet Metal, Blum, Corning, Columbia Forest Products, Dr. Shrink, Element Designs, Glass Dynamics, Häfele America, Interlam, KB Home, Kollmorgen, Linak Actuators, Moving Murals, Murus, Philips Color Kinetics, Pilkington Glass, Plain & Fancy, Shaw, Sketchup, SnapCab, Sugatsune, Tempur-Pedic, Thomson Industries, View Glass, Weyerhaeuser, Whirlpool, the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science, Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology, and the Macromolecules Innovations Institute.

Visit for more information and a press kit with downloadable files.

By Marya Barlow,