Thursday, December 19, 2013

How to redesign the future.

One of the major problems in people's lives is that too much stuff we use is not designed to work together. The people who design the different systems in our houses (heaters, dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, fridges, freezers), our cars, our phones, and our computers are all work independently, with no concept of managing the houses power.  This inefficiency in design makes the modern house nearly impossible to convert to alternative energy systems.

If I were running a huge high tech company,  I would take in 100 random families from every area in the country, 2 per state, and build them 10 different  styles of housing, ecologically sound and sustainable, something that reuses a lot things we think of us as waste today.  The initial building should be engineered to last 100 years. I would design these houses so that even if they were torn down, everything that went in them could be used again in another house.

The houses should each be independent, off the grid and not connected to any utilities. They should have sufficient solar panels and wind generators to power the house and to recharge the electrical vehicles and electric mowers, and electric power tools.

I would roll out 10 versions, to 10 families each, of a complete set of technologies, and create a single environment that spans from smart phones, to pad computers, to TVs, to laptops, to desktop machines. An environment that would make it impossible to lose data, that securely shared info anywhere in the world, proof even against the best intelligence agency/corporate spying.  That could scale up temporarily using shared cloud processors to inexpensively perform massive calculations in the blink of an eye.

This environment would span all the house systems, including the appliances, heating, cooling, and hot water generation.  By centrally managing when each system is drawing their highest amount of power so that they take turns you could reduce the maximum amount of amps needed to run a home by a factor of 10.  Just by taking turns, not running the the washer up in a spin cycle when the freezer compressor is running, you can massively reduce the maximum level of required amps. By using LED lighting, and light pipes to bring in ambient sunlight you could reduce the power required for lighting to about 1/4 of that required for florescent lights. Half the energy used in a house goes to heating water. By using solar water heaters you could make the cost of generating hot water essentially free.

Such a house could easily be powered by a many fewer solar panels and a much smaller set of lead acid batteries than a standard house that does not intelligently manage its power requirements.  This makes the return on investment of the solar and wind power generation system pay back in just a few years instead of in decades.

I would combine the best features and requests of all these different groups of people, fix any problems they run into, and finally roll out a complete solution to living, that uses tech as a tool to make people's lives better and more complete.  The reuse and recycling of common waste items would create entire new sectors of our economy. I would radically redesign everything from scratch, creating a house that can be build and maintained for much less than anything mass produced today.

Finally I would redo how houses are built. I would manage the way houses are build centrally, for economies of scale. Think car manufacture, not house contractor for the model I would use to roll out these new methods of living. But the houses would be designed online by the customer, then the blueprints generated would be approved by an engineer and an architect, working with the customer to quickly nail down any issues, any custom construction built in a large building and shipped to the customer site where a uniformed professional work crew that makes a living wage would assemble the homes.

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