Incredible high-tech homes

John Giuffo
The Heliotrope in Germany may be the world’s first
home that generates more power than it uses.
Photo: Rolf Disch SolarArchitektur

You may have heard that Bill Gates has a pool with an underwater sound system. And that Tony Stark’s (aka Iron Man's) high rise houses 3-D holographic computer displays. But if you think technologically sophisticated living is reserved solely for Silicon Valley tycoons and superheroes, think again.

Not everyone can afford or prefers the same Citizen Kane-level of ostentation, but many luxury homeowners still look for innovative ways of maintaining, interconnecting or adjusting their homes — and the results are pretty impressive.

Technology junkies don’t always prefer sprawling homes and multi-room control centers. High tech often equals small and sleek, after all. One such sleek pad, nicknamed “Closet House,” in Matosinhos, Portugal, offers residents the ability to change the actual layout of the small home to accommodate different needs or design preferences.

When it comes to custom-made, high-tech home building, prefabricated home systems can be a boon. Los Angeles’ Proto Homes, for example, incorporates its signature architectural design elements with solutions that are tailored to the home and location. Central air, music, and temperature can be controlled from a specialized iPad. Cooler yet is the homeowner’s ability to change “skins,” or outdoor panels to switch the home’s color according to mood, season, or occasion. Kind of like changing the cover of an iPhone — but for your home.

See article: Incredible high-tech homes

See article: Incredible high-tech homes
See article: Incredible high-tech homes

Read on for more about these and other homes that are ahead of the tech curve:

Shape-Shifting Apartment
Location: Matosinhos, Portugal

This Portuguese apartment can transform at the touch of a button.
Photo: Consexto/Amandio Neto

Just 474 square feet, the modern marvel designed by architectural firm Consexto surprises with five different rooms — or “living areas” — two of which have walls that can be rearranged at the touch of a button. Entertaining friends? Expand one of the rooms for dinner parties or late-night movie marathons. Getting tired of the layout? Just hit a switch and the home transforms before your eyes.

The German home can turn with the sun.
Photo: Rolf Disch SolarArchitektur

The Heliotrope
Location: Freiburg, Germany

The Heliotrope is the world’s first home that generates more power than it uses, according to German architechtural firm Rolf Disch SolarArchitektur. The modern marvel was designed to use the sun’s energy by turning the more energy-efficient side of the cylindrical home toward the sun in different seasons.

A large multi-directional solar panel array on the roof tracks the sun’s movements in order to get the best charge possible. This system powers a unified climate and floor warmth system, and a rooftop collector traps and filters rainwater. There’s even a human waste disposal system that would impress an astronaut with its ingenuity, producing dry, odorless solids for composting and clarified liquid waste for a cascading pool in front of the home.

Switchable Skins
Location: Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles

This home is built to electronically adjust both inside and outside.
Photo: Proto Homes

L.A.’s Proto Homes combines prefab elements with architectural design and home features that are tailored to each owner’s needs. High-tech homes not only feature visible electronic features but are often the result of technology that builds and maintains such digital homes.

In this case, the company’s designers installed many of their most impressive features, including window shades that close themselves in bright light; iPad-controlled music, temperature, and fireplace in the home’s “core” room; and exterior panels, or “skins” as on an iPhone, that can easily be removed and changed according to the owner’s mood or color preferences.

Wine Connoisseur Haven
Location: Los Angeles

The L.A. home includes a computer-driven wine cellar.
Photo: Sotheby's International Realty

The prospective owner of this home in the hills above Los Angeles would have to be a true wine enthusiast. With a computer-driven, climate-controlled wine cellar that holds more than 1,200 bottles (there is an adjacent tasting room), it’s the perfect property for a busy wine distributor, vineyard owner, or successful restaurateur. Add to that a spacious state-of-the-art main chef’s kitchen, and extended caterer’s kitchen, and you’ve got the perfect home for a celebrity chef. The 12-seat THX home theater makes a top-quality viewing space. Located in Westlake Village, the house is on the market for a little more than $8.9 million.

Harbour Hide
Location: Dorset, United Kingdom

The indoor swimming pool includes a tablet-controlled hatch.
Photo: Winkworth

While some modern houses scream high tech, Harbour Hide does its best to blend into its surroundings. But rest assured, those familiar high-tech amenities can be found throughout the staggered, round, beach house.

Android tablets in every room allow the homeowner to set the desired ambiance, mood, lighting, and temperature for each part of the home. The system also runs the extensive audio-visual entertainment setup, curtains and blinds, and, most impressively, it controls the electronic photochromic glass which can darken or lighten as the sunlight warrants. There is also a hidden, heated swimming pool (with an endless-lap jet stream current feature) with tablet-controlled hatch and temperature. The asking price is just over $6 million.

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