What Will the 'House of the Future' Look Like?Aired January 10, 2000 - 1:24 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Imagine, if you will, Natalie, being able to control everything in your house -- maybe not your child, but your lights, your heat, even your coffee maker -- control it from anywhere in the world.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Can you imagine?
WATERS: You can, for the right price, of course.
CNN's David George looks at the future of housing: the technology-ready home.
DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 40,000 square- foot house that Bill Gates built near Seattle was being hailed as the "house of the future" even before it was finished. A CD-ROM accompanying Gates' 1995 book about the future gave us a hint.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once inside, you'll wear a special pin that uniquely identifies you and connects you to the home's electronic services.
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GEORGE: There would be technology at every turn, we were told: things like lights that automatically come on when you come home; speakers hidden beneath the wallpaper playing music that would follow you from room to room. There would be portable touch pads controlling everything from the TV sets to the temperature to the lights, which would brighten or dim to fit the occasion, or match the light outside -- technology galore, about what you'd expect in a $53 million house fit for a king of software.
(on camera): Those pictures, those images of wondrous technology, did not come from Bill Gates' house. Bill Gates doesn't allow cameras in his house. No, those pictures were taken in this house. It's a very nice house; it's loaded with technology, but it didn't cost anywhere near $53 million.
(voice-over): And the fact is, in the future, you won't have to live anywhere near Bill Gates' financial neighborhood to savor the latest in home technology. Even today, houses in this relatively modest subdivision in Georgia, where home prices start at about $150,000, come wired for the 21st century.
GEORGE IDE, HOME TECH CONSULTANT: This includes wires for video, which is the coax wire, and that runs the cable television on it; a data line which runs data to the upstairs, as well as telephone. The red is for fire.
GEORGE: How much technology is up to the homeowner? A basic house might have a simple intercom at the front door, for instance. A more expensive house might have a front-door camera with the intercom linked to the telephone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
GEORGE (on camera): Hi, it's David George from CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, David, how are you? Come on in.
Well, the way it works, if you ring the doorbell, I just grab the phone and dial "star-star" and I'm talking to you at the front door, so I can be anywhere in the house.
GEORGE (voice-over): Step into the house of the future in Watford, a suburb of London. That's where a British home builder, Laing Homes, has joined with the giant technology company Cisco to construct a showcase residence they're calling the Internet home. It's chock full of every sort of technology: video conferencing, TV sets that double as Internet data ports, a kitchen computer that keeps track of what's in the refrigerator. There are multiple security cameras, even a system for starting the coffeepot from any room in the house.
But what makes the Internet home unique is, well, the Internet. The house has its own Web site. According to the builders, the homeowner could access the house from anywhere in the world: control the lights, adjust the temperature, check the security cameras, even turn on the sprinkler in the garden. All the technology and the systems to run it are available today off the shelf.
SARAH BAILEY, MARKETING DIRECTOR: It's basically a very comfortable house that you can operate both from the Internet and by hand, as normal.
GEORGE: But with the Internet becoming more and more a part of our lives, what will normal mean in the future?
PROF. JEFFREY HUANG, HARVARD SCHOOL OF DESIGN: The emergence of the Internet and the Worldwide Web and this networking infrastructure will have a very profound effect on how we live.
GEORGE: Harvard's Jeffrey Huang and his students envision such things as virtual walls doing the job now done by computer screens; virtual closets where you can see how you'd look in clothes without trying them on; virtual tables at which any number of people in any number of locations can work together or socialize. Huang even talks of a virtual shower in which the walls, even the shower curtain, become a digital interface.
HUANG: The house is an interface to a virtual community, and the interface is integrated into the architecture.
GEORGE: Ah, architecture: How it's changed since the 1950s when television's "March of Time" documented Levittown, the planned communities that made the American dream accessible to a generation of young Americans coming home from World War II. The Levitt brothers built tens of thousands of homes in three states and Puerto Rico: two bedrooms, one bath, 850 square feet for about $10,000.
Today, the average new home is more than 2,000 square feet, the average price, $175,000. Families have gotten smaller since the '50s, but houses have gotten bigger. With land prices up, typical lot size is down.
PROF. ROSEMARY GOSS, VIRGINIA TECH: And lots of people say, well, I can't have both so I will choose to have the large house on the small lot.
GEORGE: Virginia Tech's Rosemary Goss studies housing and property management. She says the cost of energy in the 21st century will make us rethink the way we build our houses.
GOSS: We're going to continue to see our homes become more and more energy-efficient.
GEORGE: That'll mean more universal acceptance of such things as solar electric shingles that generate power from the sun, energy-savvy design on the outside of our homes, more efficient lighting inside.
Builders may make wider use of things like cellulose insulation, which is sprayed into the walls, making them airtight. Made mostly of recycled newspapers, cellulose insulation is treated with borox to be fire-proof and resistant to termites.
Houses in this subdivision south of Atlanta sell in the $100,000 to $200,000 range. They are heated and cooled by water circulating through geo-thermal pipes sunk 200 feet into the ground. The system costs nearly three times as much to install as conventional heating and air conditioning.
JULIUS POSTON, HOME BUILDER: This is the whole system.
GEORGE: But it pays for itself through reduced utility bills.
POSTON: And a 2,000 square-foot home in Atlanta averages about $172 a month. Our utility bills average about $75 to $80 -- about half.
GEORGE: Back in 1957, Monsanto Corporation offered its version of the "house of the future" at California's Disneyland. In Monsanto's view, the future was all about easy living.
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ANNOUNCER: Convenience is right at your fingertips here.
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GEORGE: Some of Monsanto's vision came true, but the house of the future's floating diner design never caught on.
Four decades later, the "house of the future" looks a lot like the house next door. It's the technology inside that makes it different. The prediction is that, in the future, technology currently found mostly at the upper end of the housing market will work its way down the line, and one day here in the 21st century, our children will look around at all the technology in their homes and wonder how we ever got along without it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was wondering how I was going to get along with it until I figured out how to work it.
GEORGE: David George, CNN, Atlanta.
ALLEN: That was my question throughout.
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