Wayback Machine: A House of the 21st Century- From 1954


Housebuilding hasn't significantly changed in a hundred years; building codes limit innovation and buyers are conservative. However, just after WWII there was a burst of innovation; everyone thought that those airplane factories and technologies could change the housing industry. Here is an example from Modern Mechanix:

Jack Fletcher worked with his dad (who builds airplanes) to reinvent the American home. "The Fletchers drew on their aircraft and engineering experience to work out some new basic construction techniques. The result is that Jack Fletcher's new home is an example of quality construction at relatively low cost."

There are no light switches; capacitance detectors connected to a circuit and relay to turn lights on and off when you enter the room. A closed circuit TV system and intercom lets you to monitor and yell at the kids. The kitchen has an induction range. The phone has an automatic dialer. Radiant underfloor heating keeps the house warm. The structure is post and glulam beams with prefab wall panels. All the light fixtures are fluorescent.

So many green and efficient ideas; it sounds so 2007 but then it gets seriously Jetsonesque.


There are no electric outlets; induction coils are set below the concrete and you just sit the lamp, with its built-in coil, on top. (and ignore the waves of EMF). There is so much current flowing that fluorescent bulbs light up when they are placed over the hot spots without even being plugged in. Self-closing windows are actuated by a "window brain" on the roof that actuates solenoid operated catches beneath the spring-loaded windows, snapping them shut when bad weather approaches.


The fireplace doesn't waste any heat, it is drawn under the floor to keep it warm. "The secret is that the flue doubles back down from above the fireplace opening, then runs under the floor to a central chimney in the middle of the house. It's an old Chinese principle, so ancient that it seems brand new when put to use." -although I don't believe that would work at all, this ain't gonna draw.


The kitchen stove is not only an induction model but concealed electromagnets keep the pots and pans suspended in the air.


Somehow we don't think that will work so well either, but other than that, it is a pretty remarkable bit of technology in an affordable, 1905 square foot house. Don't know if it is still standing in West Covina, Calif, but the Fletchers built a very interesting house. ::Modern Mechanix


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