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This Remote-Controllable, Rearrangeable House Uses Almost No Energy

A smart home that lets you configure it however you want.

We still don’t have flying cars (not quite, anyway, despite some works in progress). But the 1950s vision of the futuristic home is fairly close to reality.

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Inspired in part by mid-century designs like the flying saucer-shaped Futuro house and a “home of the future” designed for the 1956 Ideal Home Show, a new house in the Netherlands is remote-controllable, energy-efficient, and can adapt as a family changes through an open, petal-shaped design.


“It’s flexible,” says Ben van Berkel, founder of UNStudio, the architecture firm that created the new house. “The rooms are designed with no columns in the spaces. If the client wants to turn living rooms in bedrooms or a working environment, that’s all possible.”

Everything electrical in the house can be controlled by smartphone. Minus the app, it’s eerily similar to this prediction from a 1950 newspaper:

People will live in houses so automatic that push-buttons will be replaced by fingertip and even voice controls. Some people today can push a button to close a window–another to start coffee in the kitchen. Tomorrow such chores will be done by the warmth of your fingertip . . .

“You can do everything you want to do related to energy on your phone,” says van Berkel. “It’s what everyone dreams of–that you can already heat up your house by phone before you come in, you can control the energy or the lights, or start the tea.” The house also has a central touch screen to control all of the systems, from solar panels to a central heat pump.

Of course, smart gadgets like Nest are starting to make it possible for any home to be remotely controllable–not just one that’s designed for that purpose. But the architects argue that the concept of “smart” should go farther than Wi-Fi-connected appliances.


“We talk a little bit about going beyond the smart concept,” van Berkel says. “It should not only be the Internet of things–what’s most important is that you also try to combine it in the architecture of the house. The materials of the house are smart. The energy, the machinery, the insulation is smart.”

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The materials he calls “smart” are not necessarily wired–they interact with other elements of the house without digital connections. The concrete floors, for example, are heated by embedded pipes; after warm water flows through, warming up the concrete, the house can stay passively warm for up to seven hours afterward.

“The energy used in the house can also be reused,” van Berkel says. “Energy consumption in this house is almost reduced down to zero.”

The house was completed last fall.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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