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GE Plastics unwraps idea house.


GE Plastics' recent unveiling of its Living Environments concept house in Pittsfield, Mass., reflects the company's aggressive attempt to build new markets for its engineering plastics. The house incorporates many novel plastics-based systems that also apply potentially cost-effective automation techniques. It is a gutsy foray into the tough, basically conservative residential housing industry. A lot of commitment is still needed to convince traditional builders that what is new, different, and often more efficient can also be acceptable to broad segments of the home-buying population.

The [3000-ft.sup.2] house is designed as a "living laboratory" and a showcase of many unique and often high-tech concepts. About 30% of the house consists of plastic, in such areas as the roof, windows, siding, plumbing systems, foundation, and electrical and mechanical systems. Uwe Wascher, GE Plastics' vice president of marketing and product management, says, "The functionality and productivity of engineering plastics are combined with traditional materials to make the best use of each for more satisfying home living."

The concept house's architecture and interior design promote an expansive use of materials and systems that break new ground in originality. Glen Hiner, GE Plastics' senior vice president, capsulized the ambitious project as being intended as a "catalyst for industrialization and product development. It will allow us to share our vision with the industry for a systemized approach to building. When commercialized, the concepts will lead to better-built, cost-effective construction of systems and homes." GE Plastics classifies the plastics applications as 1's, 2's, or 3's. The 1's involve products that already exist, such as electrical components, lighting fixtures, and window profiles. Number 2's, such as advanced roofing systems, are a clear fit for plastics and require, it is believed, only an effective program and a key partner company to move them along. The 3's, including some unique wall and insulation concepts, are farther down the road, and will need more substantial development before commercialization. The plan is for the 2's to become 1's, and progressively to coax the 3's into a number 2 position. The concept house applies the technologies of modular design, electronics, integrated interior environment control, materials, diverse molding processes, and automation. Familiar comforts are blended with what seems like a host of 21st century amenities, but which largely can be made available with current capabilities.

Flick a switch and the liquid crystal windows in the bedroom instantly change from clear to frosted. From the kitchen, using a command center linked to a central processing unit, draw a bath, water the lawn, turn off the upstairs lights, or see who is at the front door. It's no magic. Just sharp engineering and creativity, imaginatively applied to jog a normally slot-to-change housing industry towards the year 2000.

PHOTO : Concept house showcases new design, materials/processes, and building methods.

PHOTO : Easily installed engineering plastic roof panels provide excellent weatherability.
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Title Annotation:Plastics News Supplement, part 2
Author:Wigotsky, Victor
Publication:Plastics Engineering
Date:Dec 1, 1989
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