House of Tomorrow : Environment: Planners hope their model home will address the energy needs and social changes of the 21st Century.


The House of Tomorrow is here--at least on paper. Many of the ideas are so new they haven’t been built yet, but you can walk through a working blueprint at this week’s Eco Expo at the Convention Center.

A maze of scaffolding encloses exhibit cubicles that show ways we can create the environmentally appropriate house for the 21st Century.

The project was developed at UCLA during the past three months by a team of architects, students, and experts in such fields as water reclamation, recycling, construction and landscape. While they hope to have a model house built by midsummer, when the show ends its four-city tour, their preliminary results are being previewed at Eco Expo, the nation’s largest environmental trade show, which runs Friday through Sunday.


“Eventually we’ll have a house--right now we have a process,” says Richard Schoen, professor at UCLA’s Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning and the project chairman.

His team tried to create a prototype that “responds to family-living arrangements and resulting housing forms emerging in the ‘90s.”

They were guided, he says, by the principle of “sustainable architecture,” which he describes as “living within the caring capacity of the region.”

“I think the future challenge for architects and builders is to show that their development will minimize their impact on the land,” says Schoen, who has taught this approach as architectural imperative since the 1970s. “That’s what the (Eco Expo) house is all about. . . . We’re trying to show how you go all the way through social issues to make the design environmentally responsive.”

Inside the scaffolding, like a string of art exhibits, will be cubicles displaying graphics of environmental systems, such as solar energy, natural light, water catchment and waste recycling. In addition to a scale model, an overhanging central video screen will take visitors on a tour of the house, from start to finish, via computer animation.

What kind of house results when a team of futurists designs one in a socially responsible way? Schoen cites some examples:


* Social change: The Los Angeles Basin’s population of 12 million is expected to reach 15 million by 2010. Single-parent families are the fastest growing group. So, the house must address new forms of household diversity. With the H-shaped house plan, each wing can serve as bedroom-bath-kitchen or bedroom-bath-bedroom with a common area between. An individual apartment module behind the house allows for growth.

* Landscape: Instead of “20 feet of scraggly lawn” needing water, the house fills most of its city lot and opens onto decks of recycled wood for areas of family privacy and gardening. One garden area, the “outdoor room,” would use drought-tolerant plants. It is outfitted with a gray-water system from the house, photoelectric lighting systems, water-harvesting system and a composting area.

* Transportation: Electric commuter vehicles seem to be almost a certainty under the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s clean air plan that mandates large-scale conversion to non-polluting vehicles during the next 20 years. A parking area will provide recharge outlets for single- or double-passenger electric commuter cars. A one-car garage will hold a larger, conventional family car for weekend outings.

“We are not doing social engineering,” Schoen says. “We’re just trying to find out what’s going on in this basin. We created the cutting problems of traffic, air quality, and drought here by using resources like there was no tomorrow. We tried to make an oasis out of a semi-arid desert, but there was a cost.”

The House of Tomorrow will reduce that cost, he says, in part by reducing its appetite for natural resources. It will be energy-efficient, with solar photovoltaics built into pitched roof grids, and energy load will be reduced by maximum natural light from the H-shaped house and clerestory windows.

The house will have low-flow water fixtures and drip irrigation, gray-water systems and various downspouts and catchments for rainwater. And under its raised foundation will be areas for a rainwater cistern, solar battery storage and moveable dollies below the kitchen’s built-in recycling bins.


Schoen says such a future-conscious house can be affordable: “We think that an industrially produced house with this sort of flexibility can be built for as little as $65,000, independent of its lot. I am saying that an environmental community is a possibility.”

His team expects that such housing can be accessible to middle- and lower-income families, reversing the tradition that architectural change starts at the custom level and eventually trickles down.

Schoen says constraints of Southern California’s exploding growth create opportunities: “It’s an exciting era. We are going to solve many growth problems here first. I think architecture doesn’t change beyond fad and fancy unless true social change is occurring.”


What: Eco Expo, an environmental trade show and marketplace to promote use of the growing number of products, services and programs that contribute to environmental quality.

When: Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: Los Angeles Convention Center, Pico Boulevard and Figueroa Street.

Admission: Adults, $10; children 6-12, $5; children under six, free.

Major pavilions and exhibits:

* Transportation

* Home and Garden

* Natural and Green Products

* Energy

* Recycling

* Art

* New Technology


More than 100 workshops will cover topics ranging from tree-planting in cities to supporting environmental political candidates.