2002 Innovative Technology in Housing Awards
With the help of the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, we pick the top construction innovations of the year.
by Illustration: Stephen Rountree
**DEFYING THE LAWS OF PHYSICS AWARD
You are the sunshine of my windowless basement.**
Americans spend $40 billion a year lighting homes and businesses, most of it when there’s plenty of light outside just going to waste. Enter Steven Winter Associates, which is developing a way to capture and deliver sunlight to dark, windowless rooms. The technology, called passive fiber-optic daylighting, relies on four high-powered Fresnel lenses to direct sunlight onto a secondary lens called a beam former. This lens concentrates the light, then sends it through 1/2-inch plastic fiber-optic cables to its final destination, where it’s delivered via a standard light fixture.
The company has been field testing a prototype since last March. It hopes to commercialize the technology, at $400 per fixture, sometime next year.
‘LIKE DUH’ AWARD
Finally, curved framing for curved walls.
Curved walls can be dramatic, but the traditional way of framing them
-cutting straight boards into tiny pieces, jerry-rigging a curve, and slapping drywall or another bendable wallboard on top-is akin to building a basketball out of Legos. The result: Not only does the wall take forever to build, it often has visible flat spots and humps.
But with Flex-C Trac framing, curved walls are easy. Instead of using wood, builders bend two U-shaped pieces of sheet metal-one for the floor, the other for the ceiling-to match the desired curve. These pieces hold the wooden studs in place at any angle.
**SECOND CHANCES AWARD
First comes the house, then the foundation.**
Anchorpanel proves again that there’s strength in numbers. The foundation system, which can be retrofitted on existing homes to protect from floods and earthquakes, consists of dozens of 3-feet-wide steel panels that attach around the perimeter of the house. Then they’re cast in concrete and hidden with stone or another decorative covering.
**PEACE OF MIND AWARD
Air filtration for the better-safe-than-sorry set.**
Do you need a filter that removes 99.97 percent of all airborne particles? Probably not. That said . . . feeling lucky?
GuardianPlus ($599 to $1,399, depending on features) is the most complete air system you can buy. Not only does it regulate heating, cooling, and humidity, it also removes asthma- and allergy-causing pollutants-such as dust mites, mold spores, and smoke-along with so-called volatile organic compounds, potentially harmful gases coming from carpets, paint, and furniture. It even filters
out carbon monoxide and radon.