VT FutureHAUS The Future of Building

Joseph Wheeler


FutureHAUS research explores a new and more efficient approach to the way we construct buildings, specifically medium and high density housing. We propose that buildings are manufactured utilizing an assembly-line factory process in a way similar to the production of cars and planes. Modular components such as kitchens, baths and service closets are pre-fabricated as whole assemblies or “cartridges” and then shipped to the site for integration into on-site built structural frames.


The goal of the research project is to propose fully employed industrialized processes to produce high density, high performance, responsive, dwellings. A factory built process offers the ideal environment for building complex components.  This process offers customized mass production, high efficiency, quality control and faster and safer product assembly.  Embedded in the house is the sensor and control technology capable of monitoring activity, learning user needs and responding to changing conditions.  Residents interact with the house through traditional and non-traditional user interfaces such as voice recognition, touch control, gesture control, and proximity and motion detection. The multi-modal interface technology makes it easier to perform daily tasks increasing the comfort levels and supporting the goal to provide more enjoyable and sustainable lifestyle.


Since last Fall, Three cartridges have been prototyped by the research team, a kitchen, bathroom, and living room. The three cartridges are described below:



The FutureHAUS™Kitchen

In January 2015, the FutureHAUS Kitchen prototype was exhibited at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas. As the signature cartridge for the FutureHAUS process, the prototype provided a proof of concept for the “Internet of Things” kitchen demonstrating a wide range of smart appliances and smart interactive displays.



The FutureHAUS Living

The Living Room cartridge was exhibited (with the kitchen) at the 2015 AIA National Convention in May. This exhibit focused on the “connected” home. The “Internet of Things” technology allowed multiple systems to tune and operate, demonstrating a responsive home for changing uses throughout the day.



The FutureHAUS™ Bathroom  

The most recent cartridge integrates new and innovative fixtures, technologies, and materials to create the Internet of Things bathroom. The prototype integrates user-friendly, electronic interfaces to control water and temperature flow, to monitor energy and water usage, to accommodate working heights for multigenerational users, and to customize music and lighting.  An interactive mirror display is the information wall for the bathroom, serving as its virtual interface. The mirror provides useful information including time, date, weather, and morning traffic along with bathroom performance data.  The focus of the bathroom is innovation, predicting the future on how integrated technology will improve the way we live. This high-tech room is another prototype testing the viability for pre-fabricated “cartridge” components to transform the way we build buildings in the future, especially as we expect our architecture to accommodate innovations of the digital age.


Eventually, all components of a condominium flat will be completed and installed on campus as a concept smart home to demonstrate to the public many aspects of future architecture from materials to use to technology to integrate.  



FutureHAUS Kitchen, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, CAUS, Joseph (Joe) Wheeler, ProfessorJoseph Wheeler is a Professor of Architecture at Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design. He pursues professional research in construction innovation, sustainability and energy efficient architecture. In teaching, he believes that there is a distinct advantage to the exposure of students to the direct making of Architecture and therefore is involved with his students in many interdisciplinary full-scale research projects.  

As Co-Director of School of Architecture + Design’s Center for Design Research, he has led multiple award winning interdisciplinary projects including Virginia Tech’s entries into the 2005, 2009 and 2010 DOE’s Solar Decathlon Competitions. The latter of which, the VT LumenHAUS, won first place overall in the international competition held in Madrid, Spain and subsequently earned a national design honor award from the AIA.  Wheeler has also led exhibitions for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) at the Javits Convention Center in New York, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, Italy and the Cologne Furniture Fair in Germany. Recent awards include, the NCARB Prize for creative collaboration between the academy and the profession, the Virginia Society AIA Research Prize, and the Xcaliber University Prize for Excellence in Outreach. Other contributions include testimony before Congress regarding national energy issues.

His current work, the Virginia Tech FutureHAUS, is a research prototype which proposes innovative new ways to build by utilizing industrialized methods for the making of Architecture.  The Kitchen, Living Room and Bathroom prototypes have been exhibited at the 2015 and 2016 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS)  in Las Vegas and the 2015 AIA National Convention in Atlanta.