Home Depot Smart Home  


General Information

Building Name: Home Depot Smart Home
Bulding Location: Durham, North Carolina, United States
Project Size (ft2, m2): 6,000 ft2
Building Type: Residence Hall
Project Type: New Construction
Delivery Method: CM at Risk
Total Building Costs: $336 ft2
Owner: Duke University

Project Team

Managing Architect
Chris Brasier, AIA, LEED AP (Vice President)

Patty Boyle, AIA, LEED AP (Associate)
SmithGroup provided Construction Administration services that included design evaluation and integration of donated materials for this project.

Design Architect and Architect of Record
Frank Harmon Architect Pa

Construction Manager
Bovis Lend Lease


Project Summary

A live-in research laboratory, this 6,000 gsf residence hall serves as a testing ground for smart and sustainable technologies. Initially developed by a student as a senior thesis, the Smart Home Program has evolved to include the participation of over 450 students, several of whom represented the University during the process of design and construction of the Smart Home. The program advances the students' efforts through relationships with corporate partnerships, like project sponsor The Home Depot, to evaluate product prototyping, marketability, and commercial viability.

Completed in November of 2007, the Smart Home was awarded a LEED-NC Platinum Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for its excellence is sustainable design. Several sustainable systems are incorporated into the home including rainwater harvesting, solar hot water heating, photovoltaic power generation, a green roof, rain garden, energy recovery ventilator, and renewable and recycled materials. Alongside these systems, many innovative technologies developed by the students are integrated into the home including voice recognition systems, shower water heat recovery, and energy performance and water usage monitoring systems.

The Smart Home site is strategically located at the threshold between the University and the surrounding community of Durham. The scale and form of the building responds to the adjoining residential structures while also visibly expressing emerging technologies and design strategies aimed at minimizing environmental impact. The orientation of the building on the site provided the greatest opportunity to take advantage of solar technologies, passive ventilation, and natural daylighting.

Photo of exterior walkway - Home Depot Smart Home

Overall Project Goal/Philosophy

The goal of the project was to design a home which cultivates student-led idea-generation and innovation, ultimately working towards improving the quality of life for people of all ages and incomes.

Secure/Safe Goal

To design a safe living and learning environment where occupants feel comfortable with their surroundings.
As a campus building for students, safety was a necessary goal. The building is equipped with an entry access system that is linked to and monitored by the campus security. In addition, site lighting analysis and fixture selection allowed exterior lighting levels appropriate for safety without impacting the surrounding homes and environment.

Sustainable Goal

To design a home that serves as a model for sustainable living in the "every-day" home.
In June of 2008, the Smart Home achieved a LEED-NC Platinum rating by the U.S. Green Building Council, perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments for the Smart Home team. It is the first residence hall to receive a Platinum rating and is among the highest rated buildings in the world. The Smart Home serves a model for sustainable living for the surrounding community and beyond. Scheduled tours allow visitors to come to the home and learn more about its sustainable features and the mission of the Smart Home Program.

Home Depot Smart Home interior view of common area and staircase

Functional Goal

To design a home that can support and adapt to technological advancements well into the future, supporting the productivity and experimental learning of its occupants.
Many of the rooms within the Smart Home have a specific purpose, however, the floor plan still allows for interaction and flexibility. In addition, as one of the underlying goals of the project, the home is designed to adapt to future technological advancements. One example of this is the removable wall panel system and accessible ceiling areas, which allow for easy reconfiguration of the Home's internal systems.

Accessible Goal

To design a home with an open floor plan to promote collaboration and interaction among its occupants while still allowing space for privacy.
Upon entering the home, you are immediately struck by the large, double-height common room which provides open views to the second floor and ample daylight from the south-facing windows. A clean and dirty lab anchor each end of the common room. Both labs were specifically designed without doors to promote interaction, collaboration and visibility throughout. The students' individual bedrooms provide privacy on the second floor.

Aesthetic Goal

To design a home that is sympathetic to the surrounding residential scale structures while also clearly articulating new ideas about the relationship between building and landscape.
In addition to usual connections to "working" landscape features such as the rain garden, the building also responds to the climate and aesthetic of the southeast region and provides "porches" and balconies that run along the southern elevation. This approach not only provides habitable outdoor spaces but also serves to shade the structure during the summer months.

Cost-Effective Goal

To design a cost-effective home; taking into consideration sustainability and durability.
The Smart Home team was careful to consider cost throughout the design and construction of the building. Many of the materials and systems for the home were not only selected based on their environmental impact, but also based upon their durability and long-term benefits to the home. Life cycle cost evaluations helped inform the decision-making process.

Historic Preservation Goal


Productive Goal

To design a productive living and learning environment.
More than 90% of the locations inside the home have direct daylight views. Large windows span the entire front of the home, providing ample daylight for its residents. Opportunities for natural ventilation are provided to introduce fresh air. In addition, the porches located on the front of the home allow residents to take advantage of the outdoors.

Computer area within the Home Depot Smart Home with windows


Overview of Process

Many of the high-performance strategies implemented in the project were the result of extensive engagement between the design/construction team and student representatives. The students were involved throughout the entire process of design and construction, including the evaluation and selection of systems and materials for the home. This unique team composition brought multiple and diverse perspectives to the table.

Pre-Design/Planning Activities

Initially developed by a student as a senior thesis, the Smart Home Program gives students the opportunity to conduct research and develop innovative, sustainable designs, some of which are incorporated into the Smart Home.

Design Activities

A challenging aspect during the design phase was the incorporation of materials and systems being proposed for donation to the project. These proposals, while often attractive from a financial perspective, had to be vetted against many criteria including the primary goal of sustainability, compatibility with other building systems and materials as well as the potential collateral impact to the ongoing construction schedule. The team worked collaboratively to evaluate the trade-offs of a particular proposal and to reach a collective decision that best served to advance the overall project goals.

Construction Activities

Waste generated during construction was placed in a bin and taken to a sorting facility where it was separated into disposables and recyclables. This process resulted in more than half of the total waste to be diverted from landfills.

Operations/Maintenance Activities

All of the owner training sessions were digitally recorded and stored on a network, allowing occupants access at any time to fully understand how the systems worked in the home.

The Smart Home participates in Duke's campus-wide initiative of a sustainable campus. This includes the University's recycling program, which services over 800 locations containing 1900 bins per week and collects 17 different items for recycling.

Post-Occupancy Evaluation Activities

As a "living laboratory" occupants of the Smart Home are continuously conducting experiments and evaluating their results, which often lead to other studies and experiments. While students move in and out of the home each semester, their projects remain, influencing and informing the work of the next generation of occupants. This continuous cycle of testing and experimenting is conducted with the single mission of working towards a more sustainable future.

Computer-work area inside the Home Depot Smart Home
Media inside the Home Depot Smart Home

Information and Tools

Energy Modeling Software

(used to calculate performance and determine the energy contribution from the photovoltaic rays)

  • eQuest
  • pvWatts

Project Management Software

(allowed potential material and system donors to upload technical data for evaluation by the design team, vetting proposals against the projects sustainability goals)

  • Expedition

Products and Systems

Water System

Two 1,000-gallon storage tanks located on either side of the home collect rainwater from roof runoff and is later used for irrigation and landscaping the property. Any excess water that cannot be stored is diverted to the site where it flows through a series of "rain gardens" before entering the municipal storm water system. In addition, six 350-gallon rainwater storage tanks are located in the basement of the home. This water is used for toilet flushing and clothes washing.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System

The electric heat pumps installed in the home have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of up to 16 (Cooling Efficiency) and a HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) of up to 9.85 (Heating Efficiency). For a comparison, the current national efficiency standard for new heat pumps requires a minimum SEER of 13 and a minimum HSPF of 7.7. In addition, the refrigerant used in the HVAC system is R-410a, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to normal refrigerants used in air-conditioning systems.

The air in the Smart Home is purified by the Trane CleanEffects air purification system that filters air and creates up to 99.98% cleaner air via electrically charged fields making it easy to clean. The system is 8 times more effective than the best HEPA filters and 100 times more effective than the standard filter or ionic-type room appliance. The system removes 12% of .3 micron sized particles from the air in the Smart Home every minute.

Two 1,000 gallon storage tanks located on either side of the Home Depot Smart Home collect rainwater from roof runoff
Trane CleanEffects air purification system used to purify the air in the Home Depot Smart Home

Energy Star Appliances

Most of the kitchen appliances in the home are ENERGY STAR certified.

Removable Wall Panel System

Requested by students, removable wall panels were strategically distributed throughout the house at critical vertical and horizontal nodes. The design allows students to easily modify and monitor the home's infrastructure systems in support of their research and on-going exploration of innovative technologies.

Material Selection

Low-emitting materials including paint, sealants and adhesives, carpet and composite wood were used throughout the home, providing a healthier environment for its occupants. Durability and long-term benefits were also significant factors in material selection.

Woman hanging a picture in the Home Depot Smart Home

Energy Issues

Energy Use Description

As a model for sustainable living, several systems within the Smart Home are energy-efficient. Exceeding the current national efficiency standards, the HVAC system is very resourceful, with an SEER of up to 16 and a HSPF factor of up to 9.85. In addition, the photovoltaic panels reduce energy by up to 30% in the home.

Currently, energy performance data is being collected and tracked through the Siemans Apogee system in the Home. Once a substantial amount of data has been collected, the results will be posted onto the Smart Home website for public viewing.

Indoor Environment

Indoor Environment Approach

More than 90% of the locations inside the home have direct daylight views. Large windows span the entire front of the home, providing ample daylight for its residents.

Interior view of the Home Depot Smart Home highlighting large windows that span the entire front of the home
Interior view of the Home Depot Smart Home


HVAC System
The Home's air purification system provides 99.98% cleaner air within the home and is 8 times more effective than the best HEPA filters.

Low-emitting materials, including paint, sealants and adhesives, carpet and composite wood were used throughout the home.

Project Results

A. Lessons Learned

The single greatest lesson learned on the project could be summarized by the often quoted, rarely achieved axiom of "the whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts". This synergy was evident not only in the attitude approach and results of the project team's efforts but also in the building itself. The building is far more successful as a research facility as a result of the embedded residential program and also a more inspiring student residence as a result of the integrated research environment. This lesson in the power of collaboration continues to be evident in the imaginative and innovative work of the student teams that now inhabit the building.

B. Ratings

The Smart Home earned a LEED-NC Platinum rating from the United States Green Building Council. With 69 points being the maximum number of credits achievable in LEED for new construction, the Smart Home received 59 total points, making it one of the highest ranked LEED buildings in existence and the first residence hall to receive a Platinum rating.

C. Awards

Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC), 2008 High-Performance Building Awards

  • Category A – High-Performance Building Award

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., 2008 Excellence in Construction Awards

  • Carolinas Green Award (1st year a Green Award was given)
  • Eagle Award

Triangle Business Journal, 2008 Green Awards

  • Nonprofit Education Program Award

D. Publishing

  • Building Design + Construction; September 2008; "Living in a Green Laboratory"
  • Business North Carolina; Special Advertising Section: NC Goes Green; "Seeing Green"
  • Duke Engineer; 2006-2007; "The Home Depot Smart Home at Duke"
  • Duke Engineer; 2008; "Life Inside Duke's Smart Home"
  • Duke Magazine; January-February 2008; "Green Living"
  • Duke Magazine; May-June 2008; "Campus Observer: Smart Living"
  • Duke Today; Volume 2: No. 10; "Building Green"
  • Durham Herald-Sun; October 29, 2008; "Duke buildings get LEED certification"
  • Durham Herald-Sun; "Universities' projects put environment first"
  • Sustainable Duke; "Tour Duke's new energy efficient Smart Home"
  • Footprint Eco Magazine; April/May 2008 Issue 1.1; "Duke Smart Home Program Gets Smarter"
  • The Chronicle; "High-tech home opens doors"
  • The Chronicle; March 18, 2008; "Smart Home selects top leaders, residents for Fall"
  • The News & Observer; "Campuses join green bandwagon"

Official Website: smarthome.duke.edu/