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Florida ’Smart House’ Opens Jan. 28; Operates Lights, TV, Calls for Help If You Can’t; RDG Has Key Role in High-Tech Retirement Residence


OMAHA, Neb.--April 14, 2005--The new Oak Hammock Gator-Tech Smart House--partially designed and funded by RDG Schutte Wilscam Birge of Omaha, Nebr.--will go far toward helping the elderly live more independently and more safely, says RDG president John Birge.

With RDG architect Brad Milton, Birge represented the firm at the Smart House grand opening Jan. 28 at the Oak Hammock retirement community in Gainesville, Florida. Birge headed the team that designed Oak Hammock, including the Smart House, which is an adaptation of the typical cottage homes in the community. Milton was responsible for integrating Smart House technology into the cottage structure; he also helped identify technologies to be used.

Developed by a University of Florida research team under the direction of professors William Mann and Sumi Helal, the Smart House will lodge retiree volunteers for short periods of time. The retirees will offer feedback about living in the high-tech environment, which includes:

-- Ways to monitor the occupants’ well-being, in part by keeping track of their activities and learning their regular behavior.

-- A specially designed kitchen with easy-access refrigerator and dishwasher.

-- A microwave oven that “reads” food packages, programs itself, and tells the user how to prepare the food.

-- Voice command of lights, temperature, stereo, television, curtains, security equipment, and other features.

The Gator-Tech Smart House is unique among high-tech homes, says Birge, because “it is, to our knowledge, the first Smart House meant to collect organized feedback from a series of retiree occupants.” Besides RDG, principal corporate donors are the Weitz Company and Praxeis. Grants from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs are helping pay for University of Florida Smart House research.

Omaha-based RDG Schutte Wilscam Birge has served clients locally, regionally, and nationally since 1965. RDG’s broad experience ranges over 70 percent of the U.S. and includes public safety, urban and comprehensive planning, landscape architecture, interior architecture, architecture, lighting design, museums and cultural facilities, historic restoration, worship facilities, financial institutions, and governmental and corporate facilities. The firm has active projects in more than 25 states.


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