In the bold, bright future of the animated TV show The Jetsons, virtually anything, from cars to houses, could be controlled by the push of a button. How quaint. Little did the show’s creators know that the true sign of control in the 21st century is the smartphone app and the touchscreen.
In a new project outside the American Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, a new prototypical “house of the future” has been set up to demonstrate how easy it can be to control the indoor environment in all four seasons while doing as little harm as possible to the overall outside environment. The Soleta zeroEnergy One house, as it is known, is compact, modular in construction and able to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature year-round at just 45 percent of the energy needed for a conventional structure of its size.
According to house’s developer, the Justin Capra Foundation for Invention and Sustainable Technologies (FITS), the key to the energy savings is to pack a lot of functionality into a small footprint—just 517 square feet—and to regulate heat loss through the strategic use of insulation and efficient, natural building materials.
To ensure that sufficient daylight fills the open floor plan, FITS used large windows and skylights with insulated glass in the Soleta design. The prototype also includes various hyper-efficient energy systems, such as solar heating, LED lighting, rainwater harvesting, radiant floor heating, and both natural and forced ventilation systems.
All of these systems can be programmed to perform at precise levels via a smartphone app. For example, with the home’s KNX climate control system, sensors can pick up changes in levels of CO2, temperature and humidity, and make minute changes to ensure the environment stay within pre-programmed parameters.
When the wood stove is in operation, the KNX system maintains a constant air pressure and helps to circulate heat around the structure. In the warmer months, a system of automated louvers lets in natural breezes, but when the temperature drops below a certain level, KNX kicks in with a heat recovery system.
The design is meant to be flexible enough to perform efficiently under a wide variety of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, fuel cell or geothermal energy. The modular construction can be altered slightly to convert the building into a home, a studio, an office or a summer cottage.