If you asked the upcoming generation of architects and designers to design the kitchen of their dreams, what would they come up with?
One where they wouldn’t have to lift a finger — of course.
A close-up of the countertop.
A team of Virginia Tech architecture and design students, in collaboration with the Modular Building Institute, plan to show that in the age of the Internet of Things, a full-service kitchen is entirely possible. During the Kitchen & Bathroom Industry Show in Las Vegas (January 20-22, 2015), they’ll be exhibiting the first prototype of a FutureHAUS kitchen, a fully automated, fully integrated, prefabricated module that seems to do everything for you. It keeps an eye on your popcorn as it pops, opens your refrigerator doors, even lets you know when the milk is running low. It’s a one-stop showcase for the growing number of smart home amenities that have emerged in recent years, with elements including:
- A central “social table” that houses a horizontal 55-inch Microsoft Touch display that connects your appliances with your smartphones and tablets.
- A Wi-Fi-enabled camera in your oven, which avoids the heat inefficiency of the traditional glass door — and also allows you to see your pizza crisping in real time while you watch TV, thanks to the magic of picture-in-picture technology.
- A handsfree faucet, in this case Kohler’s Sensate.
- Horizontal monitors embedded into the backsplash to help you peruse recipes while cooking, or prepping to do so.
- Weight sensors embedded in your refrigerator shelves that tell you remotely when the milk is running low.
- A scanner for your foods’ barcodes that monitors the contents of your pantry and makes suggestions based on nutritional goals.
These features are housed within a minimalist design, marked by a white, unadorned surface and a stove concealed beneath a fully integrated glass cooktop. That choice is partly aesthetic, according to lead faculty advisor Joseph Wheeler, who previously led a winning Madrid Solar Decathlon Competition design in 2010. “The younger generation expects everything to look like their iPhone,” he said.
The FutureHAUS floor plan in its entirety.
But this simplicity was also necessary for efficiency; the kitchen is fully constructed — wiring, plumbing, and all — off-site on an assembly line, to be someday crane-lifted and installed into a complete FutureHAUS site. The prototype being shown at KBIS is the first component, or “cartridge,” of the Virginia Tech team’s medium- to high-density modular FutureHAUS housing concept, which they hope over the course of their three-year project will also include a living room and bedrooms. The group aims to demonstrate that prefabricated housing isn’t just efficient, but provides the formula for high-quality, sustainable, customizable homes.
“Just like you would go to a BMW showroom and choose the features that you would want in your car — a sunroof, the color of your paint, the sound system type — you can go in and custom-design your space,” said Wheeler. The FutureHaus rooms would allow you the latest options in high-tech convenience, although it will likely begin at the developer end before reaching the masses. The kitchen on view is actually part of a much bigger picture in the future of housing construction, involving issues more comprehensive than which gadgets will be making your dinner.
Images via Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design.