The systems in the North House can be accessed in a variety of ways: from a Web-based application, through on-site touchscreens, or from the users iPod or iPhone. This allows residents to track information and to control the houses systems remotely, ensuring that energy savings can be maximized even when the house isnt occupied.
Individual systems are integrated into the Central Home Automation master system, which monitors energy usage and production for the houses occupants. The data is stored and presented on a series of touchscreen panels inside the home that allow the user to change settings, track systems, and chart energy usage over time.
The house is clad in a Distributed Responsive System of Skins prototype that includes deployable exterior shades over quadruple-glazed IGUs and a series of building-integrated photovoltaic panels that generate electricity. The skin allows maximum light transmittance while retaining heat for passive heating in the winter months, and the shades can be deployed to reduce heat gain during the summer.
Solar power (from the façade photovoltaic (PV) array and an additional applied array of PV cells on the roof) and hot water production are tracked through to the end use, whether that is warm water for showers or a surplus of energy returned to the power grid.
The software behind the building management system is based on open-source calendar and social networking programs, which promote accessibility. Users can translate energy savings into dollar amounts and track and chart resource usage without needing an extensive training regimen.
To optimize the house's interior, the team designed a custom ceiling treatment with 4,500 individually formed cells made from window-shade material. The cells both reduce sound reflectivity and pick up natural light at the perimeter, helping to project and diffuse it further into the floor plate. Phase-changing materials in the floor store heat from the sun's rays and radiate it out during cold winter nights, an energy savings that can be tracked on the integrated touchscreens. Making the most of the small floor plan is a deployable bed, which can be retracted into the ceiling when not in use.