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construction of the Smart Home april 2008

photos by JB Spector / Museum of Science and Industry

april 9, 2008
Photo by J Jeffery Johnson

These photos of the Smart Home, taken just this morning at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, show a few very exciting things going on there right now. Not only does it look a bit warmer than it did a few weeks ago during the setting, but you can also see the crew on the ground at MSI working hard to get the Smart Home ready for its May 8th opening. Keep reading to see more!

The beautiful wood siding that they’re just finishing up is a fast growing, FSC certified hardwood called Brazilian Ipe. Above the Ipe you can see the integral color cement board siding, which, because of the integral color, will never need to be painted or refinished. In the photos below, you can see that they’re also in the process of adding the second stair, which visitors will use to exit the Smart Home at the end of their tour. It may not look like much now, but these red stairs will be going green in the next few days: they’ll be wrapped in a “green screen”, which plants will then grow up onto over the next few weeks. So, by the time of the exhibit opening, these stairs will have morphed into a beautiful “living wall” and we hope you’re there to see it!


Photo by J Jeffery Johnson

april 17, 2008

Photo by JB Spector

This week at the Museum of Science and Industry they are embarking on the final stages of the Smart Home’s interior finish work, including, as you can see in these photos, completing the stairwell. The stairs and some of the railing are already in, but now they are preparing to install more railing in the form of shelving backed by the same cable rails seen here. This will allow the rail to serve a double function as not only a railing but also as the backing of the upstairs book shelves.

We designed the stairs to be open and unobtrusive so that they don’t detract from the room’s sense of space and lightness. Instead, they connect the different levels of the house and add to the feeling of openness within. And, of course, the wood used for the stairs all comes from sustainably harvested sources. The upper mezzanine leads to roof level deck and the Smart Home’s solar outfit, but perhaps most important of all, it sculpts sunlight into the center of the house so that no lights need be flipped on during the day. The design of the mezzanine also helps to facilitate the stack effect and allow hot air to rise up and out of the house in the summer, helping to keep the house naturally cool.

Photo by JB Spector

april 23, 2008

Today I’m hopping on a plane and heading off to Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry to see the Smart Home. While there, I’ll be reviewing all the finishing touches as well as the smart technology that will be a part of the home. This means I get to meet with the exhibit’s super savvy technology gurus, including Bob Parks and the fantastic folks from WIRED magazine.

As we mentioned earlier today, the landscape work started yesterday (the perfect Earth Day event!) and later this week the furniture and artwork will be going in to the home. I’m incredibly excited about the art because some of the paintings in the living room will be by one of my absolute favorite artists, Brian Andreas of StoryPeople. His work is so witty and inspiring and never fails to put a smile on my face. I just adore his most recent work, which focuses on the idea of eco-action. Above and below are a few of the sketches he has been working on in the process of creating the paintings for the Smart Home. Below, you can also see of some of the paintings he’s done for his own home.


Stay tuned over these next few days while I’m visiting the Smart Home – I’ll be sharing all the news and adventures we’re sure to encounter during the whole completion process as we get everything ready for the Smart Home’s opening on May 8th!!!

april 28, 2008

During my visit last week to the Smart Home exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, there was a lot of exciting work going on. The landscaping, side decking, roof decking, and permeable pavers for the driveway (which allow rainwater to pass through, thereby reducing runoff and it’s negative effects) were being installed, furnishings were being delivered, and the home automation system was getting wired. Webcor (the site contractor) and the Museum’s team are doing a marvelous job finalizing it all and the whole exhibit is really coming together beautifully. Everything about it is going to be so fabulous for the May 8th opening – I can’t wait!

Me and J Jeffery Johnson (MSI’s Smart Home Project Manager) take in the view

Standing inside the Smart Home, even at this unfinished stage, was a thrilling experience. I just absolutely love the voluminous sense of space it exudes. By design, it feels so much larger than it actually is. . By designing big, rather than building big, not only do we use fewer materials in the building process but we also create a space that uses less energy since it requires less heating and cooling than a larger space would. By designing big we make the space feel larger than it is through the use of elements like large windows and glass walls that allow the interiors to borrow a sense of space from the surrounding landscape. Another piece of the home’s Smart Design is the 3-story opening located at its heart. Not only do the multiple levels of windows sculpt light into the center of the house, but the opening also allows hot air to rise up and out of the third story via the chimney or venturi effect, which cools the home naturally. All of the Smart Design elements in the Smart Home make the overall experience of the space remarkable. I can’t wait for all of you to experience it for yourselves!

Looking up through the Smart Home’s 3-story opening

april 29, 2008

One thing that visitors are going to see a lot of in the Smart Home: Green + Wired exhibit when it opens at the Museum of Science and Industry on May 8th is eco materials. The Smart Home is going to have some very cool, very unique examples of Eco Materials on display, which includes the home’s furnishings. The interior furnishings are from Chicago-based Verde Design Studio, whose products are all developed in a manner that aims to do the least environmental harm possible. Many of Verde’s pieces arrived while I was there and now I cannot wait to see what they’ll look like once they’re all unpacked and in place. I am especially excited about the sofa (above) made of recycled t-shirts!


These very original light fixtures represent an extremely creative application of the Eco Materials principle. They were designed and installed in the Smart Home by Ted Harris , a fabulous Chicagoan designer who creates lamps and furniture out of other people’s discarded items (aka junk). We all know that old inefficient light bulbs are on their way out of common usage (or at least we hope so!), but what to do with them after they’[re replaced with CFLs? Why, turn them into pendant light fixtures lit by LEDs, of course! And that’s just what Ted did to create these great pieces, which he calls the “Edison Twins” chandeliers.

Smart Home’s stand woven bamboo flooring

The Smart Home’s floors are another beautiful example of Eco Materials. I just love the strand woven bamboo; its visual texture is so rich and timeless. Because of the way in which it’s produced, strand woven bamboo is more durable than either vertical of horizontal grain bamboo flooring. In fact, it’s actually commercial grade (so it will be able to stand up to the abuses of your overactive puppy or kids!). Plus, because it grows back so quickly after being harvested, bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource (it is actually a grass!), so you can have the hardwood floor, but without any guilt since it’s not derived from old growth trees.


The FSC Certified Ipe siding is also looking amazing. It is the outer finish to the home’s exterior rainscreen system. This Ipe, which is a Brazilian hardwood, is not only sustainably harvested but is also known for its hardness, durability, and resistance to wood boring insects and fungi. You can oil and finish it or simply let it age naturally without applying any maintenance.

Everywhere you turn in the Smart Home, whether indoors or out, you’re going to find so many great examples of Eco Materials. There are just a ton of wonderful elements and pieces in the exhibit that are either constructed from recycled or renewable materials or whose production and/or maintenance make them environmentally friendly.

The home design depicted in this photo was designed by Michelle Kaufmann while with Michelle Kaufmann Designs. It is not owned by, and is not available for purchase from, Michelle Kaufmann.

One Response to “construction of the Smart Home april 2008”

  1. Lisa Johansen says:

    What color is the Strand woven Bamboo used? I’m remodeling a beach house that Storm Sandy took out and need to pick a floor fast. Love the bambo but can’t find the perfect color. This one is great. Please send me the color and or SKU number

    Thank you!!


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