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Thursday, May 5, 2011

High-tech Living and Green Design of Smart Home

During its 75th Anniversary year, the Museum of Science and Industry has created a functioning, three-story modular and sustainable �green� home in its own backyard to showcase the ways, big and small, that people can make eco-friendly living a part of their lives.
The home, which was designed by Michelle Kaufmann DesignsTM and built by All American HomesTM is the basis for the original Museum of Science and Industry exhibit Smart Home: Green + Wired, Powered by ComEd and Warmed by Peoples Gas, which is open from May 8, 2008 through Jan. 4, 2009.
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This marks the first time that a museum has built a fully functioning exhibit home of this kind on its grounds. And, in addition to that designation, after a comprehensive review of the home�s plans, materials and design in relation to the City of Chicago�s Chicago Green Homes Program, the Smart Home has also been named �Chicago�s greenest home.�
Celebrating exciting new directions in sustainable living and spectacular, environmentally-friendly technology, Smart Home: Green + Wired offers guests guided tours of the 2,500-square-foot home and grounds, located in a park on the east side of the Museum. Within the home, guests are able to view the latest innovations in reusable resources; smart energy consumption; and clean, healthy-living environments in a contemporary setting.
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Smart Technology
With the help of key participant Wired magazine, the home will incorporate �smart� technologies, with a focus on energy efficiency, making greener choices and homeowner awareness. A home-automation system automates heat, lighting and window coverings to reduce energy consumption. The motorized skylight in the ceiling opens when detectors sense a cool breeze (saving air conditioning) and digital electronics in the plants send voicemail when they need water. When the doorbell rings, a touchscreen reveals a wireless video feed from the front entry. An energy monitoring system will track electricity and water usage on a real-time basis, giving homeowners a direct way to see the resources they�re consuming by the day or week.
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Smart Home Interior
The interior architecture, which is inviting, sophisticated and family-friendly, demonstrates the use of natural light, open spaces, energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems and energy-efficient building components to maximize a healthy-living environment. The materials chosen-from the windows to the fixtures to the counters and floors-tell a compelling story of sustainable architecture and eco-friendly design. Guests learn how storm water runoff can be used for landscape irrigation; how toilets can be equipped to use waste water from the shower and bath; how spray-in foam insulation can create a completely sealed building, resulting in better air quality, a quieter home and greater energy efficiency; how recycled glass bottles can create beautiful bathroom tile-and much more.
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The interior also includes unique furniture and accessories, including a couch covered in fabric made from recycled t-shirts, an ash wood dining table made with wood from a fallen tree, an organic mohair rug with a backing made from
recycled coffee bean bags, whimsical chandeliers that recycle old colored light bulbs and mid-century dining chairs found in a resale shop (a great way to recycle).
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Landscape, Green Roof and Garage
The Museum of Science and Industry collaborated with Jacobs/Ryan Associates Landscape Architects, the University of Illinois Extension and Openlands to develop a native and sustainable site landscape for the Smart Home. Using organic materials and environment-replenishing concepts such as composting and collection of rainwater, a team from the University of Illinois Extension Horticulture, Environmental and Green Educators have created beautiful gardens around the house, alive with plants native to this area. Starting in the garden, guests explore the possibilities of a sustainable vegetable garden, rain gardens and other vegetation-how it can be used for food, indoor climate control and water recycling and conservation.
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The home�s tour concludes on the roof, which is covered by a green-roof garden as well as photovoltaic film, which will harvest daylight and provide much of the home�s electrical energy. Rooftop gardens not only act as a source of cooling in the summer and insulation in the winter, but also absorb precipitation, which reduces storm water runoff, which can be reused for landscape irrigation. In the exhibit, guests explore the process of building a garden, along with its many environmental benefits.
The Smart Home garage is a multi-purpose space. In addition to housing vehicles, it can also be used as a movie room,
or offer other flexible uses in the future, when families of the future may not own two cars. The garage houses the latest in low-emission and energy-efficient vehicles, a Honda Civic Hybrid, which was awarded 2006 World Car of the Year �greenest car.�
How the Home Was Built
The modular home was constructed at the All American Homes� modular construction facility in Decatur, Ind. The module construction took place on an assembly line and lasted approximately eight weeks. In this precision-engineered and climate-controlled environment, All American is able to build homes 60 percent faster and in a more environmentally-friendly way than traditional site-built construction. (Waste is reduced because much of the lumber arrives precut, reducing the need to dispose of �off-cuts� in the field. Drywall scrap is trucked to local farmers to use in preparing soil for planting, keeping it out of landfills.)
Once finished on the factory line, the modules were transported to the Museum site in early March and set on the foundation at the Museum. After the initial set, final interior work, furnishing and landscaping were completed in preparation for the exhibit�s opening.
Smart Home: Green + Wired is a must-see exhibit for anyone who wants their home, and life, to be smarter, more efficient and more in tune with the environment than it is today. The exhibit requires a ticket with a specified entry time. This ticket, which includes general Museum admission, is $23 for adults, $22 for seniors and $14 for children 3-11. Tickets are on sale at

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