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Duke's Smart Home Wins Green Award

Note to editors: Jim Gaston can be reached at

SmarthomeDURHAM, N.C. --- The Duke Smart Home Program, a high-tech, 10-student residence for green living and learning, has been selected as the Green Nonprofit Program of the Year by the Triangle Business Journal.

The 6,000-square-foot live-in laboratory, designed by students and advisers, opened in November 2007. From its roof of plants and solar cells to the rainwater cisterns and sophisticated electronics in the basement, the Smart Home was designed to be adaptable, environmentally sustainable and technologically integrated.

Built with recycled and sustainable materials, Smart Home also boasts a fiber-optic network with the fastest Internet access on the Duke campus. Workshops next to the living areas of the five-bedroom, three-bath home enable further tinkering and deployment of new technology. Wall panels in every room open easily to enable students to add features.

Earlier this year, the Smart Home received a top-level platinum standard for its design from the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system.

“We are proud of the Smart Home and its students,” said Tom Katsouleas, dean of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. “As the site of the first LEEDS Platinum rated dormitory in the world, it is a reflection of Duke engineering’s commitment to sustainable technology development and, as a student-initiated project, is a reflection of the leadership and strong sense of social consciousness that are characteristics of our students.”

The $2 million building is the centerpiece of a larger program in which more than 100 Duke students are conducting research on smart living. Primarily focused on undergraduates, the program encourages students from different academic disciplines to form teams and explore ways to use technology in the home. Smart Home Project students are encouraged to explore new technologies that aren't being addressed through commercially available technology.

“What I think is the most important quality of the Smart Home is that it is very much student-driven,” said Jim Gaston, the program’s director. “More importantly, the students are working hard on projects deigned to help improve our environment and to further the practice of sustainability.”

The winners were honored Oct. 23 during a ceremony at the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh. Gaston attended the ceremony with Tom Rose, his predecessor and recent Duke engineering graduate who was instrumental in the conception, design and construction of the house.