KAYSVILLE Utah's house of the future uses runoff from the roof to flush the toilet and water the plants, has a garage built partly of straw bales and turns off the lights when you leave the room.
It also collects its own solar energy and sells any extra back to the city.
Dedicated Tuesday, the Utah House is a demonstration project built by Utah State University on the grounds of its Utah Botanical Center, just off I-15. The project showcases new efficient technologies and uses 50 percent less electricity and 40 percent less water than a normal house its size. And it's fully accessible to people in wheelchairs.
The one-story, 2,400-square-foot house features a highly insulated metal roof, 2-inch concrete floors and straw-bale wall, all designed to conserve energy.
The house has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star rating for its design and use of recycled and raw materials. The house has eight solar panels that collect electricity, and juice not needed for lights or appliances is sold back to the Kaysville power department. It is hooked directly to the power grid and has the capability to produce electricity constantly. The Utah House is the first Davis County house to be connected constantly to the grid and one of the first in Utah to do so.
"We live in an era of high energy costs and electricity blackouts," Lt. Gov. Olene Walker said. "This may be the answer."
USU President Kermit Hall said the house symbolized USU's determination to be a regional leader in developing ways to balance the needs of population growth and sustainable use of natural resources.
USU Extension Services will hold classes in the two-car garage, which has one wall made of straw bales and others made of two 2 1/2-inch foam panels with concrete poured between them. Smart-technology lighting senses when people leave rooms and turns off lights. Compact fluorescent lights are used throughout, and several tubes that go to the roof pull in sunlight to reduce the need for artificial lighting. A large clerestory in the center of the roof also gives additional light; during summer months its windows can be opened to allow heat to escape.
Water-conservation features of the house include a 6,500-gallon underground cistern that collects runoff water from the roof that is used in one of the toilets and for watering plants; toilets that use only 1.6 gallons per flush; an instant hot-water dispenser at the kitchen sink to reduce unnecessary running of water; a plumbing system of 3/8-inch plastic pipe that reduces water flow while increasing pressure; and low-water and energy-efficient washing machine and dishwasher.
Outside, a water-efficient landscape design uses native drought-resistant plants and limited grass. Trees have been planted to shade the house and landscape to reduce cooling and watering costs.
Arbors in the back yard are made of wood timbers used in the construction of the Lucin Cutoff across the Great Salt Lake. During their decades in the lake's brine, the timbers absorbed salt, making them harder than normal wood and more resistant to decay.
The house is entirely accessible with no stairs, no steps and no barriers of any kind. It incorporates a so-called universal design, meaning those in wheelchairs can access all the appliances, sinks and wall switches. Even the toilet paper rolls are set at a 90-degree angle to make them easier to replace.
Walker urged homebuilders to incorporate some of the features in their new homes. "I know the affordable-housing people will say it costs more money. But I don't know that it costs any more to make a door wider so a wheelchair can get through it."
Total cost of the home, including landscaping, was about $500,000.
The Utah House, on 50 West between 950 and 990 South, is open to the public for tours Monday through Friday during regular business hours. USU Extension staffers will be available to consult with homeowners, and the house will be a resource center with books and videos.
At some point, university courses, student internships, in-service training for teachers workshops and research activities will be carried out there. For more information, call JoAnn Mathis Ross, Davis County Extension agent, at 801-451-3404.
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