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Businesses Collaborate on Smart House

October 05, 1986|JOHN BETZ WILLMANN | Special to The Times

WASHINGTON — Technology and electronic innovation are scheduled to make a major impact on America's home-building industry to avoid competition from Japanese know-how and technical talent in residential construction.

Experimental dwellings, prototypes and, in mid-1988, super-wired and equipped new dwellings are on the housing horizon. Already they are called Smart Houses. For this special project, the National Assn. of Home Builders has already committed more than $2 million in the earliest stages of planning this Smart House of the future.

"We got cracking on this project to introduce sophisticated wiring and technology into many home appliances to achieve more flexibility, services and economies," NAHB President David G. Smith told a recent seminar. "Also, we wanted to be sure to forestall any foreign competition, such as might be expected from Japan, which has made so many inroads into our automobile and electronic markets."

Smith credited the National Cooperative Research Act, signed into law in late 1984, for enabling competing American manufacturers of appliances and other home products to work together cooperatively on research in order to produce a totally new wiring concept for a residential dwelling. This new wiring will accommodate existing appliances.

Smith and NAHB officials pointed out that in a few years home buyers will be able to select a dwelling that will have one master wire that will make both alternating and direct current available for appliances and varied TV and computer-type services used in any room of a home.

"This new system, for which we had to work more than two years to get code clearance and do necessary research, will enable homeowners to program hot water availability on demand. Smart House owners will trim the cost of maintaining hot water availability, because most of the time you're not using it," added Ken Geremia, a spokesman for the Smart House project.

Bruce Merrifield, of the Department of Commerce, has pointed out that more than a hundred manufacturing firms had earlier attend a Washington conference set up by his department and the NAHB Research Foundation. Now, dozens of the nation's manufacturing firms--Apple Computer, AT&T, Carrier, Federal Pacific Electric, Kohler, Lennox, Whirlpool and others--are committed to the perfection of the Smart House.

Merrifield, whose field is technology and innovation, said that the future use of appliances and manufactured products in Smart Homes will exceed $200 billion, adding: "Believe me, that's what's needed to fend off the European and foreign government-sponsored competition that's confronting us today."

In essence, the Smart House will look just like other new houses being built in 1988, but it will contain systems of power, signals and communication distribution demonstrating the ultimate in engineering design, safety, practicability and affordability for the American home.

Richard J. Emerine, head of Smart House Development Venture Inc., said the special new dwellings will operate with either gas or electric power (or both) and offer more flexibility in the use of outlets throughout a home, noting that the new wire system will be more serviceable and safer. For instance, a child will not get a shock if the youngster sticks a finger into an outlet or socket. Also, all of the dangerous home equipment (such as stove or oven) can be pre-programmed to be inoperative when parents are away from home. Also, the home power package will have the ability to keep the fundamental system perking even in the event of a temporary power blackout.

What about problems? "We're hoping this new wiring system will be relatively trouble-free in the case of appliances, but we will have a nationwide 800 number service to give advice and provide home service when necessary," Emerine added.

The new "wire box" in the house will require only a space of about 2-by-3 feet.

The first Smart House exhibit is not likely to be shown publicly in California and other states before 1988; introduction of the new Smart Homes into commercial production will be gradual. However, it is also considered likely that hundreds of thousands of these Smart Houses will be occupied by 1995.

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