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This solar-powered prefab home took over Times Square

Built from “Lego-style” components and assembled in three days

The pedestrian plaza in Times Square is full of people who are gathered around a solar powered prefab home. The billboards on the surrounding buildings are all brightly lit. All photo courtesy Futurehaus/Virginia Tech

During this month’s NYCxDesign, New York City’s annual celebration of design, the tourist mecca of Times Square played host to a series of showstopping installations. The Times Square Design Pavilion exhibit included, among other things, a giant wooden chair spinning atop a sculptural “Chairousel,” a tiny house made of sand and recycled glass, and perhaps most impressively, a life-size modern prefab home that anyone could tour.

Here at Curbed, solar-powered prefab homes are some what of an obsession, especially boundary-pushing Solar Decathlon-worthy designs. So it was thrilling to see this kind of sustainable vision of the future plopped right in the heart of Times Square, where upwards of 300,000 people traverse daily.

Designed and built by a student and faculty team from Virginia Tech, the sleek, silvery Futurehaus comes to Times Square fresh off taking first place at the 2018 Solar Decathlon Middle East last November. Built of 18 prefab “Lego-style” components, the 900-square-foot home is not tiny but still compact—”right-sized” as some might say—with enough room for a spacious open-plan living and dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Two automated wall modules can be rearranged to transform the room layouts. A patio adjoining the main living area provides an indoor-outdoor experience that, in the midst of Times Square, was a rare pocket of calm.

A plaza in Times Square is in the foreground. In the background are billboards and lights on the buildings.
Futurehaus assembly process begins.
A construction vehicle in Times Square is holding building materials. In the background are the brightly lit billboards on the buildings.
Futurehaus is composed of 18 “Lego-style” prefab components that enabled the team to erect the structure in three days.

Inside, the look is decidedly “future” with glossy all-white walls, flooring, and furnishings, including a kitchen island with touch screen and induction cooking capabilities. Cutting edge tech is embedded throughout, from smart LED lighting to a Tesla Powerwall unit to wireless charging surfaces.

On the exterior, a 15 kW rooftop photovoltaic array powers the home while doubling as a shade canopy, while SIP walls insulate the interior and laser-cut stainless steel walls shade the garden and patio. The home’s list of of features also includes an “actuated roof hatch that allows for drone deliveries of packages and groceries,” but we’ll probably have to wait a few more years to see that function in action.

Take a closer look at Futurehaus’s Times Square debut below.

The interior of Futurehaus in Times Square. The walls, ceiling, and roof are all white. There are monitors on one wall with a display of a nature landscape.
It’s all high gloss, high tech inside Futurehaus.
The interior of Futurehaus in Times Square. The walls and floors are white and lit with colorful smart lighting.
A glimpse of smart lighting embedded throughout the home.
The interior of Futurehaus in Times Square. The Sesame Street character Elmo sits at a wooden table. The floors, walls, and ceiling are white. People look at Elmo and smile.
TImes Square Elmo had to take a look as well.

The exterior of Futurehaus in Times Square. There is a patio area. In the background are the colorful billboards of Times Square.
The patio and garden are shaded by laser-cut stainless steel walls inspired by Arabic Mashrabiya screens.
The patio of Futurehaus in Times Square. There are chairs, plants, and a white fence. In the background are the billboards and buildings of Times Square.
A rare oasis.