DURHAM, N.C. — Duke University and The Home Depot are teaming up to build a high-tech “smarthome” where Bluto probably wouldn’t be welcome and food fights and beer fests are likely to be banned for fear of short-circuiting something.

The place will also be environmentally friendly.

The “smarthome” will include the latest in home entertainment technology, be powered by solar energy, and include biometric security. And it will house 10 students at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.

In other words, the joint effort will produce a “frat house” that John Belushi and cohorts from “Animal House” would not recognize.
Seriously, now, this is a high-tech research project that Duke and Home Depot hope will produce data that proves helpful in future home design.

It’s not cheap, either. The dorm will cost up to $2 million in cash and in-kind donations from Home Depot.

The building will be far more than a dorm, too — thus part of the cost. It is designed to serve as what Duke calls a “residential laboratory” for research into security, home monitoring, communications, energy efficiency and much more.

“The goal of this program is to provide an immersive and innovative project-based learning environment that students can be involved in throughout their undergraduate careers,” said Kristina Johnson, Pratt’s dean. “We also hope to transfer what we learn to homeowners who want to incorporate smart technology into their own homes.”

The dorm will include 6,000 square feet of space. Construction is underway, and it is expected to open next fall. Bovis Lend Lease, which is based in Raleigh, is building the structure.

It will include a residence hall, research lab and act as a test bed for various technologies. Members of the Duke Smart House Club and other engineering students will have access to the building.

“Our objectives are threefold: to create a home environment that incorporates innovative solutions that simplify life, to better understand the technology behind these solutions and ultimately to bring this technology to the consumer market,” said Craig Menear, senior vice president of merchandising at The Home Depot.

Tom Rose, a 2005 graduate of Pratt School, is the director for the house. And he’s quite serious about the project.

“Student projects with industry collaboration are very powerful,” he said. “They provide students with real-world experience in design innovation while providing industrial partners with the creative minds of students and a unique opportunity to showcase and market their technology.”

For more on the “smarthome”, see: www.smarthome.duke.edu/