MSI home to close in January

Staff Writer

After an unexpected five-year stint at the Museum of Science and Industry, the Smart Home: Green + Wired exhibit will end in January.

When the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, built the functioning, three-story modular and sustainable “green” home on the east side of its campus it was described as a temporary exhibit, “but we kept getting thousands of guests and good press so we kept it going,” said Jeff Buonomo, manager of temporary exhibits at MSI, of the home that was built to showcase how people can make eco-friendly living a part of their lives and to highlight unique home technologies for the 21st century.

The home, designed by Oakland, Calif.–based company Michelle Kaufmann Designs, has gone through a few phases during its years at MSI. The main focus of the home is its array of sustainably developed features, and its accents of technology concepts such as a digital chalk board that can be linked to the family mobile phone plan and a Cybertecture Mirror that monitors and displays vital information including time, temperature, energy consumption, health data and can connect you to social media sites.

Since its debut five years ago, the home has been updated with furniture from Scout, an Andersonville shop that reuses items to create furniture pieces. There are also pieces from the museum and the University of Chicago science lab that have been repurposed for the home and a wind turbine has been added to the home, allowing the house to run on wind, solar or a combination of the two energy sources. An indoor composting machine was also added to the kitchen area as an addition to the original plastic and wood ones outside the home.

MSI added tower gardens on the rooftop where chard, tomatoes and peppers are grown, and there are also bee hives in the garden area.

“It was an audacious thing to do building a house on museum property,” Buonomo said. “I think the public is very well educated on conservation.”

He said larger sustainability measures such as the construction of prefab homes did not rapidly increase because of the lagging economy but many people have been inspired by the exhibit to make upgrades to their current homes.

Products that were once expensive or hard to find, such as LED light bulbs, are now widely available and more people are choosing organic products, Buonomo said.

“We are proud of this exhibit that taught people about eco-friendly living and all things green,” Buonomo said. “We are happy that it was so well received.”