I recently visited the Museum of Science + Industry Chicago, to find design inspiration at the Smart Home: Green + Wired exhibit. Designed by Architect Michelle Kaufann, the home is full of ideas for living life with eco principles in mind.
The Smart Home debuted in 2008, and has recently been redesigned for 2010. I visited with my family, to explore the new design elements, and technologies. As a family we perform the expected rituals of environmental stewardship well, such as recycling, composting, water conservation and reuse. We even grow our own food, when the Chicago climate permits. We came to the museum looking for new ideas and new challenges to fuel our life choices.
The Smart Home is a modular, pre-fabricated structure. The exhibit displays concepts and technologies which reduce both energy use and footprint. The Smart Home was constructed off site, in about eight weeks. The module was built on an assembly line in a climate controlled environment. Architect Michelle Kaufman has stated this is 60% faster, and more environmentally friendly than traditional on site construction.
There were many state of the art architectural features of the home which we experienced first hand. Products such as the all glass nana wall, improved interior light quality and supported a passive ventilation system. A home automation system controlled lighting, window coverings, heating, and air conditioning, saving the homeowners energy and money. The green roof reduces energy costs by cooling air temperature and controlling runoff. Grey water is recycled for dual flush toilets and for watering the landscape. Radiant floor, solar panels, and energy efficient materials for roof sheathing and siding, were highlights, to name but a few.
While many of the features of the home are worthy of consideration if in the market to build a new home, renovate, or invest in infrastructure, there were many concepts which were easy to incorporate into one's everyday.
It was interesting to learn about the great strides being made in interior finishes. Eco friendly products were on display in the home such as NO VOC paints, recyclable FLOR carpet tiles and gorgeous recycled glass tile, made from 100% recycled consumer glass.
Around the property, beautiful native species were on display in the Smart Home gardens, which sustain and replenish the environment. Eco solutions were showcased such as a wind turbine, permeable pavers, composting, and even bee hives, to pollinate the lovely gardens. Rain barrels harvest rainwater to irrigate plants so less drinking quality water is used.
rain barrel installed at base of downspout
bee hive / detail
There's nothing more local than growing your own garden. Ultraponics growing system, a soil-less growing system, makes growing a garden possible in almost any location and climate.
The Earth Box, container gardening system, regulates water, and allows for a vegetable garden in locations otherwise impossible, like balconies, and rooftops.
Vertical Gardening is both efficient space use and beautiful living art for your environment.
earth box container gardening
vertical garden detail
I invite you to explore many of the features of the home as well. The Smart Home exhibit resource guide, and eco reading list are full of great products and ideas. Enjoy your exploration, and give a new eco inspired choice a try!
all photos courtesy of the author