Planning a visit the Windy City this summer (yes, I said it, summer)? Here’s a must-see attraction to keep in mind once you’ve been properly berated at the Weiner’s Circle and uploaded the requisite “here’s me looking silly in front of Cloud Gate” photos to Facebook: The Museum of Industry’s Smart Home exhibit. 


Having opened last week — on Earth Day, natch — for its fourth annual run, this year’s Smart Home is dubbed “Green + Wired.” And, yes, in case you were wondering it’s still the same green-roofed, solar panel-clad Smart Home that was assembled — the prefab home itself was factory-built in Indiana — on the Museum grounds in 2008: Green prefab queen Michelle Kaufmann’s groundbreaking mkSolaire although technically the home’s design is now property of Blu Homes after that company acquired all assets of Kaufmann’s namesake firm after it was shuttered in 2009. Still, the fully-functioning home, which has attracted over 250,000 visitors since the exhibit opened, is distinctly Kaufmann's creation


In addition to its many existing eco-friendly features, the revamped Smart Home offers plenty of new geek-friendly bells and whistles for the 2011 season. Leading tech blog Gizmodo has teamed up with MSI to outfit the space with gadgets and gizmos galore including a tricked-out bathroom mirror that can access your Facebook account (!); an advanced home automation system that monitors energy usage room-by-room and appliance-by-appliance and prompts the musical playlist of your choice as you walk though the front door (“Hail to the Chief” anyone?); and, last but not least, a “solar toothbrush [that] uses electrons that react with acid in your saliva to clean your teeth.” 


Although there’s many other crazy tech features on display at the 2011 Smart Home, this deep green prefab dwelling isn’t just one big robo-abode with futuristic everything. The home is furnished with refurbished/vintage pieces salvaged from offices, schools, courthouses, libraries and other public buildings by Chicago "urban antique shop" and Smart Home design partner, Scout.


Remarks Scout owner Larry Vodak in a press release: "The goal with the Smart Home is to add these kind of special pieces and create a space that's more functional, more interesting and memorable — bringing together a unique mix of items that bring a clean, timeless utility; an urban freshness; as well as a second-hand comfort and warmth.”


Outside, in the Smart Home’s University of Illinois Extension-created and maintained garden, visitors will once again find beehives, a wind turbine, and other sustainable landscaping features. A new addition this year is a “pizza garden” where circular areas of the garden are divided into “slices” that are each dedicated to growing pizza toppings like tomatoes, onions, peppers, basil, and more. 

Okay ... no more spoilers from me.  I could go on and on about the Smart Home’s nifty green features both existing and new for 2011 but I won’t — I'm actually exhausted just from reading about them. Instead, get yourself there in person for a tour if you happen to be traveling through Chicago or if you live in the area but have never before paid a visit.


Tickets are $23 for adults and include special timed-entry to the exhibit as well as general admission to the Museum of Science and Industry. And keep in mind that the clock isn't exactly ticking as this year’s Smart Home exhibit will be open to the public until January 8, 2012. Click here for more info on Museum hours, admission, and location and here for special advance Smart Home ticketing. 



If you can’t make it to Chicago by next January to visit "Chicago's Greenest Home," indulge in a bit of extensive armchair gawking with the 14-page 2011 Smart Home Resource Guide (PDF).


Anyone take a tour of the 2011 Smart Home yet? Any new, standout features you'd like to share?


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Chicago's brainiest green showcase home reopens
Looking to partake in a bit of green real estate voyeurism without any pressure to buy? Then get yourself to the Gizmodo-curated 2011 Smart Home exhibit at Chic