Our Smart Dorm

The Home Depot Smart Home is a 6,000 square foot live-in research laboratory operated by Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. The Home Depot Smart Home, part of a Duke Smart Home Program, creates a dynamic "living laboratory" environment that contributes to the innovation and demonstration of future residential building technology. The central concept of this project is our belief that smart homes can improve that quality of life for people of all ages and incomes.

The Home Depot Smart Home provides students at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, Trinity School of Arts and Sciences and Nicholas School for the Environment and Earth Sciences with an opportunity for practical hands- on engineering outside of the classroom in a living and learning community. In addition, we are partnering with industry to strengthen the residential market for integrated technology, and helping homeowners make their own ideas for smart homes a reality.

The goals for the residents of The Home Depot Smart Home are to:

  • Commit to and explore an energy efficient lifestyle, and
  • Compare, use and develop smart and sustainable technology.

Features of The Home Depot Smart Home

Common Area

The common area is the first room one would walk in when entering the home. In this space, there is have a mix of many zones; the common area provides access to any room on the first floor and most are open with the bedroom as the only exception. The first thing you will notice in the common room is the high open ceiling. The original architect, Frank Harmon, specifically opened up the ceiling to the roof in this space so you get a feeling of openness as well as passively circulate air flow in the house. If you open up one of many windows in the first floor and open one in the back of the second floor, you have what is known as the chimney effect. Warm air rises and exists the home and cooler air is then circulated. This is called passive thermal cooling. In the back of the common area is the kitchen/laundry space.

The dorm design complies with American Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. The key highlights of this back wall are its high tech, ENERGY STAR certified appliances.

The Smart Home has a mix of LG and GE products are described in footnotes as seen from left to right:

  • LG Tromm Steam Washer and Dryer
  • LG LCD Refrigerator
  • GE Profile Electric Cooktop
  • GE Profile Advantium Microwave
  • GE Profile Trivection Electric Oven
  • GE Dishwasher

The common room is furnished with a large dining room table to seat the 10 residents of the house as well as a few chairs and sofas for relaxing and conversing.

Clean Lab

The clean lab is on the south east corner of the building. It is immediately to your right when entering from the front door. The clean lab is not a static free room. It is generally referred to as the clean lab to differentiate its purpose from the dirty lab. A good way to think of the difference between the clean lab and dirty lab is to think of them as software (clean lab) and hardware (dirty lab).

When you enter the clean lab, notice that there is no door enclosing it from the rest of the house. If you turn around, the opposing side of the house has a similar open access lab called the dirty lab. These labs were designed specifically without doors to create a sense of openness in the home; the lab space blends seamlessly with the living space allowing innovation to connect with all parts of the home, rather than being confined to a single room.

In the clean lab, you can find computers, an e-Print printer station, and monitors that show various systems in the house. The main light control panel is also located in this room giving you master access to the lights in the house running on the Square D - Clipsal system. There is also monitor panels from the solar hot water and solar power systems. The clean lab is most like a standard computer lab with the bonus of controlling and monitoring various aspects of the house such as current electrical and water usage. Another nice addition to the clean lab is its location adjacent to the media room. Students can go through the Smart Panels (see additional features at bottom for more info) located between both walls and perform various experiments between rooms with ease.

The clean lab will possibly house a small library of books, both electronic and in print of appropriate technologies, sustainability, and research for students living in the home. There will be a couple of sofa chairs for reading.

Media Room

The media room is an all immersion based multi-media experience. A student team designed it to be a creative, user-friendly combination of television, gaming, and movie experience for the residents in living the house. The key thing to notice about the room is there are no exterior windows. This was specifically chosen to configure any type of light or room display. The walls are highly acoustic for an enhanced sound effects. The room is for gathering residents to watch movies, play video games, make presentations, and experiment with the home media experience - a component of the current home industry that seems to be the biggest source of spending for the average home owners.

Components for the media room currently are:

  • Televisions: There are 3 Philips televisions donated for the room. They are all LCD over plasma primarily because of energy efficiency. The sizes are 37", 42", and 47". The 47" and 42" contain ambilight technology, which is LED lights behind the tv that change color based on the most dominant color pixel on the screen. The sets are wall mounted with their horizontal centers aligned on the back wall with the 47" in the center, the 42" on the left, and the 37" on the right. The Media Room Team is a student group that has designed an elegant, user friendly, system so that residents can use all 3 tvs simultaneously with whichever component they choose.
Dirty Lab

The dirty lab is a place to build and test products in the home. The dirty lab is directly opposite of the clean lab in front of the home. The main focus of the dirty lab is to perform experiments and build things. It is equipped with almost everything that will help a student with an idea to work through a problem. This space has cabinets, counter space, and plenty of outlets. The Smart Home Program students also share a lab similar to this with the Duke Robotics Team in the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine and Applied Sciences.

Guest Bathroom

The guest bathroom has the same layout of the upstairs bathroom, but it is about 1 foot larger in both dimensions to accommodate for someone in a wheelchair. The hardware in the bathrooms is all donated by Kohler

The showers incorporate hot water generated from the solar hot water system on the roof. The toilets incorporate the water collected from the rain water harvesting system. The guest bathroom has the potential to incorporate a student project called the Shower Hot Water Recovery. The recycling concept is to take hot water used during a shower and transfer some of the heat to the cold water so that it takes less energy to heat the water. A working prototype was created in a ME design class but a new scaled version must be created to be installed in the home.

Second Floor

The second floor is a completely private space of the home. You can get to the second floor either by taking the grand staircase in the common room or the secondary staircase in the back of the home.

The second floor main hallway wraps around the common room foot print and goes up to the roof, so it has a nice birds-eye view of the home. There is also access to the two front decks on the south face of the house. Some facts about the bedrooms are:

  • There are 5 double bedrooms in the home (4 on the top and 1 on the bottom).
  • They are designated by their compass location. For example, the room on the north face on the east side is called Northeast Bedroom.
  • Each bedroom is approximately 250 square feet and comes furnished with a 2 of the following: 3/4 loft, desk and chair, bookshelf, dresser, and wardrobe.
  • A 2-person lab counter is provided in each room with a window view as extra working space for projects.
  • Adjoining bedrooms share a bathroom except for the first floor, which has a public bathroom.
  • The ceiling on the second floor begins at the standard height of 8 feet in the front and rises up to 18 feet in the back so it is common for students to loft their beds to have more space.
  • Each bedroom on the 2nd floor also has a pocket door that connects with its adjoining bedroom making it easy to open them up into a suite style set-up.
  • Smart Panels are set up at specific locations to test projects and incorporate things within the entire home.

The basement houses mechanical systems such as the heat pumps, duct work and plumbing pipes, and control panels for power, lighting. It also houses the six 350-gallon rain water harvesting tanks and filtration and the solar hot water collection tanks. The OIT closet is in the back corner to house cables and network switches for the home. There is also a special laboratory site in the basement for experimenting with products from corporate partners not out on the market.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)
  • Heat Pumps: HVAC systems consume a significant portion of the energy used in buildings. Electric heat pumps, supplied by Trane are used to both heat the home in the winter, and cool the home in the summer. Central heat pumps are more efficient than conventional heating/air conditioning units. Not only do they combine multiple units into one, but they also simply move existing heat from outside to inside or vice versa instead of actually generating heat (i.e. through electrical resistance, or burning fossil fuels). Our ultra efficiency units have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of up to 16 (Cooling Efficiency) and a HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) of up to 9.85 (Heating Efficiency). For a comparison, the current national efficiency standard for new heat pumps requires a minimum SEER of 13 and a minimum HSPF of 7.7. The ENERGY STAR qualification is given at a SEER of 14, and a HSPF of 8.
  • Refrigerant: The refrigerant used in the HVAC system is R-410a, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to normal refrigerants used in air-conditioning systems. It replaces R-22 (freon) which has some potential for depleting the o-zone layer, and will be phased out in the United States by 2020. Our refrigerant does not contribute to o-zone depletion.
  • Energy Recovery Ventilator The Smart Home contains an energy recovery ventilation unit to pre-heat (or pre-cool) incoming air from outside the home with warm (or cool) exhaust air.
  • Trane Clean Effects: The air in the Smart Home is purified by the Trane CleanEffects air purification system that filters air and creates up to 99.98% cleaner air via electrically charged fields making it easy to clean (simply wipe the filters). The system is 8 times more effective than the best HEPA filters and 100 times more effective than the standard 1 filter or ionic-type room appliance. The system removes 12% of .3 micron sized particles from the air in Smart Home every minute.