My walk through the American Institute of Architects (AIA) conference exposition hall brought me face-to-face with products I'd never seen. In part, because the AIA conference focuses on commercial construction, although residential still features prominently. The exposure to new things, even commercial fixtures and finishes, accomplished what the Homebuilder's Show hasn't now for several years, it got me excited about building. It was not the same old same old, and so I thought I'd share a few of the things that caught my eye.
The Matrix: Virtual Reality from WorldViz
Look around your room, get up and walk a few steps and then sit back down to read. Okay, don't. But that's exactly how real the Architecture Interactive Virtual Reality system feels as soon as you put on the ridiculous head gear. It's so immersive and convincing that the team demonstrating the technology had to stay inches from anyone testing their device, lest they walk off into a virtual sunset. I put on the helmet and popped into an Italian villa. Standing in the kitchen, I looked around at a virtual world as deeply detailed and texturally three-dimensional as this one. It's a stereoscopic environment you can walk around in and explore from every angle. I turned 180 degrees to face a beautiful, beckoning courtyard and walked toward it, until I felt the gentle nudge of my attendant telling me I'd gone far enough. I'm not sure this is the future for CAD, but it's definitely going to be the future entertainment.
Switchable Privacy Glass from LTI Smart Glass, Inc.
Switchable glass provides an instant swap from clear to obscure. Switching options range from a simple, single-pole switch, to advanced integration with home automation. The glass can be framed, as in traditional window and door installations, or mounted with polished vertical edges for butt-joint installation. Watch the video to the right to see it in action.
Window Upgrade Film, the EnerLogic Series from Llumar Designer
A window film you can apply to an existing, single frame window, instantly improving the glazing performance to the equivalent of a double-pane. Basically, it's a high quality, Low-E film that reflects heat, and shields from glare and UV rays. Llumar claims the insulating power of their EnerLogic film gives single pane windows the annual equivalent energy savings of a dual-pane window, the dual-pane windows the equivalent of three panes. Good for historical restoration projects where new glazing is not an option, or when adding efficiency on the cheap.
Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators from PVE, LLC
They resemble a drive-through bank deposit tube, and work on the same principle, the suction of a vacuum, but come with a cab large enough for four people. Having installed elevators, especially in retrofit applications, the tiny footprint and lack of framing required drew my attention. No pit, nor mechanical room required; two-day, turn-key installation; self supporting structure (just provide the landings); no regular service required (no elevator maintenance contract); and 220 Volt, single phase service-like an electric dryer. The model pictured works for two. If you're very slim. But they have bigger cabs.
T-Bar LED Smartlight from JLC-Tech, LLC
I know we rarely use T-bar ceilings in houses anymore, especially the kind featured in Fine Homebuilding. But I could not resist this clever use of LED technology to place the lighting within the frame, rather than suspend 2x4 florescent fixtures from it. One advantage, the ability to digitally control the lighting environment, the other, the extreme efficiency of LED technology. And it looks cool.
Molten Metallic Paint, from Benjamin Moore
It was great to see a new product that didn't tout zero-voc or extreme energy efficiency, Benjamin Moor has come out with a line of paint that creates a hammered-metal effect without relying on any special, faux-finishing techniques-even a painter can do it. Just brush, spray or roll it on. Avoid the fumes.
Log Cabin Metal Siding from TrueLog
I was hoping it was vinyl, so it would be even cheaper and cheesier, but if you're looking for the log cabin look, sort of, without chinking and chopping, then inventor Ted Baum may have a product for your hunting lodge.
Built-in Rain Screen Solution from Progressive Foam Technologies, Inc.
Starting with the 2012 IECC / IRC will require rigid, exterior foam sheathing in most climate zones. One issue with foam, where to put the WRB and how to detail the flashing to avoid water trapped under the foam, against the wood sheathing. Progressive Foam offers a variety of insulation products with deeply scored ridges that act as gutters to carry any water that does get behind the foam down to the weep screed, where it belongs.