Home Technology in Green Design

The home of the Jetsons has arrived. With home technology and automation available today, that “home of the future” is here now—the “home of the future today.” A home where the lights turn on as you approach the driveway, the temperature adjusts before you get home, and the coffee maker starts on cue. We are starting to see refrigerators that let us know when we run out of milk and dishwashers that run when electricity is the least costly.

As more and more active adults choose active adult housing or independent housing, this “home of the future today” is a perfect fit for today’s active adults and contributes to green and sustainable design principles. Home technology and automation enable the homeowners to live safely and comfortably while maximizing energy and cost savings, as well as convenience.

Today’s active adult housing is targeted to the 55 and better crowd and typically offers luxury, low-maintenance living that supports an active lifestyle. This is the perfect environment for the “home of the future today.”

The “home of the future today” employs home technology and automation to create a low-maintenance, convenient set of systems to manage many behaviors automatically through control and communication systems. The Internet of Things allows most electronically controlled home systems and appliances to communicate to a controller or smart phone/tablet app where they may be controlled remotely. Add automation to the systems for preset schedules to take advantage of energy and cost savings while the home is not occupied or during low use or sleep times. Sensors may also be added to the home to allow for control systems to operate from changes in conditions, such as time, light, temperature and humidity. Combining home technology and automation with pre-set schedules, monitoring and sensors allows for an automated home that can optimize safety, comfort, convenience and savings.

Home technology also allows today’s active adult to easily understand how their home is using energy and make lifestyle choices in support of the information gained. In the July August 2015 edition of Green Home Builder Magazine, Karen Benner of EYA shared how “Technology plays a big part in that (lifestyle choices), including home automation and energy tracking program that are available.”

Add home technology to other popular green design concepts to maximize the benefit of the total systems. Lighting technology and controls may be coupled with daylighting and automated blinds and curtains to control light and heat for optimum comfort and maximum light where and when it is needed – a big plus for the active adult community. Communicating thermostats and controls with temperature and humidity sensors offer an excellent solution for a comfortable indoor environment that takes advantage of the energyefficiency of the systems in the home.

Today’s trend towards cooking as a social occasion has brought our kitchens literally to the center of our homes. Kitchens offer great opportunities for energy, water and resource conservation while great design makes these all work seamlessly for a beautiful, functional kitchen. Appliances and lighting especially should be designed to look good and perform well. Task lighting in a kitchen not only adds flair to the ambiance and design, it also provides an active adult with a good place to read a recipe and see the ingredients for the evening’s culinary creation.

The “home of the future today” not only offers today’s active adults a wonderful and convenient living experience, it also offers a transition to independent senior living later in life. Todays’ control systems combined with sensors and monitoring enable a senior to live on their own while offering family and friends the peace of mind that they can be notified of irregular behavior or an emergency within moments via communications and alarms. Family and friends can remotely change or control temperature and lighting while also monitoring activity and safety. Home technology not only helps optimize how a home performs, the Internet of Things may be the path to a new era of safety and independence for many seniors allowing them to age in place longer.

Home technology and automation are only one piece of green design for active adults, yet it is an area with fast growing capabilities and possibilities. In 2010, there were five trends noted in active adult communities – home technology, green living, walking trails and outdoor spaces, universal design and lifelong learning. It seems that home technology and green living support each other and help to optimize a living environment well suited for active adults in “the home of the future today.”

Marla Esser is a LEED AP and NAHB Master Green Certified Professional, a Green Home Coach and the owner of HomeNav, LLC. She may be reached at marla@homenav.com.

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