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Smart Green Homes

Aug 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Michael Goldman

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A couple of years ago, I wrote about how high-end residential installation projects we cover in these pages evoke the spirit of the famed House of Tomorrow exhibit that was featured at Disneyland throughout the 1960s. Fast forward to today, and such future homes are all the rage in the high-end residential market. We cover a couple of prominent examples in this issue: an IP-controlled smart home in Arizona on p. 10, and on p. 60, a home theater in the Bay Area that was built and scaled to THX-certified standards.

What I failed to appreciate two years ago is that the original House of Tomorrow — built in 1957 to predict what a home in 1986 might be like — was a prognostic failure in one critical area: It was built entirely of plastic (30,000lbs., to be exact). That wasn't surprising, considering Monsanto Chemical Co. built the prototype. The company had predicted that plastic would be the construction material of choice for homes of the future.

It didn't work out that way. In 1967, Disney tore the attraction down — literally shredding it to bits and trucking it away. One can only wonder if the chemicals within those bits still live on, infiltrating part of an ecosystem somewhere in California. Plastic obviously isn't the best environmental choice for a home-construction material. Perhaps that's one reason why the latest iteration of the house-of-the-future concept, the new Innoventions Dream Home at Disneyland — sponsored by Microsoft, HP, Life|ware, and builder Taylor Morrison — is built of more conventional materials. It resembles, according to the Associated Press, “a suburban tract home” from the outside. Inside, though, it's reportedly an IP-controlled digital paradise.

One environmentalist whose blog I read, though, wasn't impressed. The blogger points out that any facility awash in high-end monitors, loudspeakers, cameras, and even digital picture frames and other equipment must be an electrical consumption nightmare. I don't know if that is true in this era of power management, efficient engineering, and environmental control and monitoring systems, but it is worth pondering.

In either case, the modern residential market obviously has the potential to revolutionize how we live. It also adds a host of environmental challenges that demand innovative green solutions from the industry. Check out this magazine and our Residential AV Presents Connected Home enewsletter to find out about some of these solutions. One recent issue (
), for instance, discussed the concept of ecycling happening in Japan at the Matsushita Eco-Technology Center — where electronic appliances are neatly broken down into recyclable parts.

As we arrive at another CEDIA Expo, I'm anxious to see how the residential industry is currently tackling these environmental issues.

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