Welcome to your future home - Monocolumn | Monocle


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6 October 2010

From the oatmeal sofa and wooden floorboards to the abstract paintings and modern white lampshades, it resembles a family home that would not look out of place on any street in Japan.

But this is no ordinary scene of domestic bliss: beneath the Muji catalogue-style decor of muted tones, this is apparently the home of the future.

Today, the Eco Ideas House, created by the Japanese electronics company Panasonic, will open its doors in Tokyo following a renovation designed to show us how we will be living within the next decade.

The four-room house sits on the fringes of the Panasonic Center in the Ariake district of Tokyo, spanning a precise 136.9 sq m – the national average for a home in Japan – and is designed for 70-year-old granny, 40-year-old dad, 37-year-old mum and six-year-old daughter.

First stop: the living room. A neat panel of vents leads to the Wind Passage Tower which naturally cools or heats by flowing beneath the floor.

An air-current robot in the air conditioning also identifies people in the room to avoid heating empty areas unnecessarily and switches itself off when no one is around.

Lighting is equally adaptable: LEDs adjust automatically to natural sunlight while the mood is changed with the flick of a switch (sharper white for studying or softer yellow for relaxing).

In the kitchen, a rice cooker is able to minimise energy use and control temperatures, while the washing machine is fitted with a tilting drum requiring minimal water and producing 78 per cent less CO2 than conventional models.

The bathroom – white and Muji minimalist – is home to a self-cleaning toilet made from a new organic glass material and a “mould suppression system” with ions “catching” airborne bacteria. The garage is home to a swish electric vehicle, complete with charger, alongside an electric bicycle.

In the garden patio furniture has been replaced with a lithium ion battery, which stores energy generated by the solar panels on the roof. It sits next to a fuel-cell system in which electricity is generated by mixing hydrogen with oxygen for hot showers and underfloor heating.

And tying everything together is the Home Energy Management System – accessible on the flat screen TV or on mobiles – which monitors and connects all devices to ensure that collective emission levels remain as low as possible. So, the big question is when can we move in? A few products may be available already (anyone for the rice cooker?), but for the full eco-lifestyle and the home energy network, the wait is a little longer.

“This house reduces emission levels by saving, creating and storing energy in the home,” says a Panasonic spokeswoman. “And our aim is to help realise this lifestyle with virtually zero CO2 emissions within three to five years.”

Only time will tell if its creators are correct in their predictions of air current robots, tilting washing machines and lithium ion batteries in every garden.


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