SmartHome lives up to its name in a green future

They start out as a museum exhibit for the curious, providing a look into the future and spreading knowledge about things that capture our imagination.

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry has featured a “green home” for visitors to learn about building and living in a truly sustainable home.

Now, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has opened its PNC SmartHome Cleveland to visitors, providing tours of a home that could represent the future of energy-efficient housing.

PNC SmartHome Cleveland was constructed on museum grounds as part of an exhibition called “Climate Change.”

Conservationists have long felt construction in the United States would do well to consider that a country like Germany has thousands of furnace-free homes built at a “cutting-edge” efficiency standard that features walls more than a foot thick, large triple-paned windows, doors that resemble bank vaults, and other engineering methods that cut cooling and heating costs. It’s a concept known as a “passive house” and has been reported in the media that only about 15 such houses exist in the United States.

But there is one in Cleveland now. And though it currently stands as a museum exhibit, the SmartHome Cleveland will eventually be removed and presented to the public as a property available for purchase as a new home in the Cleveland area.

Designed to function without a furnace, SmartHome Cleveland is reported to be 90 percent more energy efficient than a typical home. It was constructed with sustainable materials and furnishings, advanced stormwater techniques, healthy housing techniques and designed to connect occupants to nature.

Three key elements distinguish “passive house” structures from typical houses: high levels of insulation, with walls up to 18 inches thick; a carefully sealed building envelope with minimal air leakage combined with efficient heat-recovery ventilation for superior indoor air quality; and ultra high-performance windows—at least double-paned and typically triple-paned. The result is a home with no drafts, no cold spots and extremely low heating bills.

The “Climate Change” exhibits will be on display through Dec. 31, 2011, in the museum’s Kahn Hall, but SmartHome Cleveland will be on display only from June to September 2011. SmartHome is funded by PNC Bank, the Cleveland Foundation and various other organizations and donors.


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