The homes of the future will be smart, responsive, and even save us money. University of Maryland students let us take a peek into what the future may hold with reACT, a smart sustainable home that rethinks architecture as living organisms. Created as a “kit of parts,” this modular solar-powered dwelling is likened to a home-building kit that can be easily shipped out and readily adapted to different needs and environments. Most impressively, reACT—short for Resilient Adaptive Climate Technology—is self-sufficient and generates clean energy, recycles waste, self-regulates its building systems, and even produces clean water and grows nutrient-rich foods.
UMD students designed and built reACT for a married couple living in Denver, Colorado, who are also members of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe of the Eastern Shore. The solar-powered home draws inspiration from the clients’ Native American roots to demonstrate how reACT’s innovative building system with off-grid capabilities can be customized to unique occupant needs. Thus, the reACT prototype incorporates Native American influences such as materials, patterns, and even ancestral farming practices, which can be found in the hydroponic garden, exterior vegetable garden, and movable living walls. The modular design allows the homeowners to expand or contract the house as needed.
“Team Maryland created Resilient Adaptive Climate Technology to showcase how a sustainable future is more than just designing a better built home; it is a lifestyle system that incorporates a home with its surrounding environment, interacts with its occupants, and strives to give back more than it takes,” wrote the students. “This lifestyle system is supported by regeneratively mindful innovations that can be seen and explored throughout reACT communications. A modular ‘kit-of-parts’ home is the base of reACT as a lifestyle system. The ability to customize a home to adapt to the occupant’s unique needs is complimented by the technologies and innovations that increase energy efficiency, power generation, comfort, self-reliance, and overall enhance sustainable living.”
The modular reACT home is designed around a central courtyard with an operable glass roof and wall panels to bring light into the interior and serve as a solar heat collector. A solar electric photovoltaic array harnesses renewable energy and stores it in an on-site battery. Residents will have the option to sell energy back to the grid. The reACT home also produces clean water through rainwater and gray water collection and treatment systems. Indoor gardening creates the home’s green core where nutrient-rich foods are grown using organic waste gathered from the composting toilet. Self-regulating building systems, achieved through automation, program the home to become more energy efficient over time as the virtual house technology learns from its environment and the occupants’ lifestyles.
The reACT home is the University of Maryland’s submission to this year’s Solar Decathlon competition. Once the competition is over, reACT will be shipped back to Maryland and installed next to Maryland’s Solar Decathlon 2007 second-place house in a sustainability park for further research and development.
Images via Mike Chino