Architects dream about it and Microsoft's Bill Gates spent millions of dollars creating a fanciful prototype of it. Now the 'smart' house is set to become a reality. Britain's reinvigorated building industry, criticised for lacking innovation during the post-war period, has come up with fully computerised, environmentally friendly homes. Already 200 hundred computerised homes are being built in London this year, with many more going up elsewhere in the country. A further 1,400 are planned at an urban village in London, next to the Millennium Dome. Mr Gates was the first to turn science fiction into reality when he spent seven years building his dream home, Xanadu, at a cost of US$33 million. Every aspect of the house is run by computer - from the temperature of the bath water to which works of art have their computerised images displayed on the walls that day. In Britain the schemes are more modest in size and expense, but no less adventurous. Soon, some Britons will be able to stretch out in an office chair and find out what is in the fridge at home, by using a mobile phone to dial up the home computer. The computer scans video images and uses artificial intelligence to find out what is in fridge, tells the owner what is missing and then, if instructed, shops for items via interactive television. All this is made possible by the work of Integer, a consortium of developers, municipal councils and universities, whose name is derived from the words 'intelligent' and 'green'. Integer is a system allowing home appliances to integrate with a master computer that controls them all. By combining existing environmental measures used at a project in Swansea with this computer technology, Integer plans to build a series of model houses throughout the country which it hopes will form the basis for building practices in the next century. Occupiers of an Integer home who have gone away for the weekend will be able to unlock the door of their house by dialling a code on their mobile phone so a neighbour can go in and feed the goldfish. The Integer system also incorporates security, lighting, television and audio equipment, so if a burglar enters a smart house, he sets off a sensor which turns on the television and the lights as well as a burglar alarm. It can even record a favourite TV programme while you are away - and it will regulate the heating system automatically, using green technology which allows warmth created in the kitchen and bathroom, and from solar panels, to be redistributed to cooler parts of the house. The biggest Integer scheme is planned for Greenwich, where a consortium including developers Countryside Properties and Taylor Woodrow won a government-sponsored competition to design a futuristic urban village. Each computer terminal used to run a Millennium Village home will be linked to a local area network. Therefore, in addition to enjoying all the computer wizardry mentioned above, residents can access information on bus timetables, events, shop openings or the weather via their TV. Further Integer pilot schemes of about 20 houses each are planned in Harlow, West Bromwich, north Wiltshire, Swansea and Belfast over the next 18 months. Although most British smart homes are new, some are being created in refurbished older premises. In Northamptonshire, another smart-home developer, Mullion, is refurbishing a listed mansion house to incorporate intelligent features. From the outside, the house will retain its 19th century appearance, while the use of computer technology and state-of-the-art design methods will transform the property on the inside. Features include ergonomically planned bathrooms and a smart room designed for use as a spare bedroom, study or studio. Some futuristic house-building schemes do not include computerisation, relying on the introduction of other sorts of technology instead. An example is a four-bedroom luxury house being built in Surrey, where a glass wall overlooking the back garden can be converted into a screen for showing films and videos. Wates Built Homes also is considering introducing floor lighting similar to that used on aircraft so people can find their way in darkness. The buyer of this house can marvel at its silent flush toilets and miniature security cameras, which will send an image of a house-caller to the television screen. Residential building practices have changed little over the past 40 years, with little investment made in research and development. Therefore, the Royal Institute of Architects and a consortium of builders launched 2000 Homes Project, with the aim of building 2,000 homes to act as models for the next century. However, these new model homes - fully computerised or otherwise - will not come cheap. The eight Mullion homes in Northamptonshire cost GBP380,000 (about HK$4.79 million) each.