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SFU unveils West House at Olympics

February 25, 2010

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A good 200,000 Olympic visitors were wowed this month by SFU’s West House, a model "laneway home" at Vancouver’s Yaletown LiveCity site showcasing the latest in local green-building, clean-energy and smart-home control technologies.

The 56.7-square-metre (610 sq. ft.) made-in-B.C. prototype is the brainchild of Lyn Bartram and Rob Woodbury, both professors in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT).

The house features a combined living/dining/kitchen area, bathroom and loft bedroom with small balcony and a photovoltaic roof as well as an attached 21-square-metre (226 sq. ft.) garage with an electric car charging outlet.

West House is the first laneway house to be built since the city passed zoning last year allowing the garage-sized structures in place of detached carports or garages on some 66,000 existing 33-foot-wide or larger single-family lots that face onto open lanes.

"By supporting laneway housing in Vancouver, we’re helping to increase options for affordable housing and at the same time establishing our city as a centre of excellence for green building design and construction," says Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Bartram and Woodbury worked with city officials to get West House built and ready for the Olympics in only a few months.
 Vancouver contractor Smallworks built the house with solar and electrical systems, energy-management software and computer-control systems provided by MSR Innovations, Day4Energy, Embedded Automation, Schneider Electric, Pulse Energy, Terasen Gas and Ver-Tek. BC Hydro and the National Centre of Excellence in Graphics, Animation and New Media, known as GRAND, provided additional support.

SFU researchers created the house’s smart data interface and display system called Adaptive Living Interface System, or ALIS. Bartram says ALIS encourages the homeowner to actually practice energy conservation, unlike previous energy-control systems.

"I don’t want to know about volts, watts and amp hours—I want to know if I can run the vacuum cleaner," she says, noting the kitchen backsplash glows in different colours to show how much energy is being consumed.

Residents can track and manage energy consumption via touch screens embedded throughout the house, or on the Internet using a computer or Web-enabled smart phone.

Western Economic Diversification contributed $347,000 to the project, while Vancouver provided the display site and a permanent location in East Vancouver for after the Games.

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