The ‘homes of the future’, previously the stuff of fantasy exhibited only in World’s Fairs and science fiction, are increasingly becoming a reality. Automation and connectivity are making it possible for today’s smart homes to integrate information technologies, resulting in increased convenience, energy efficiency, safety and security.
The W.I.N.D. House in the north of Holland incorporates both integrated sustainable solutions and home automation, whilst enabling a flexible use of space. The home, designed by UNStudio, is located on the outskirts of a Dutch village and is backed by a wooded area and fronted by an open expanse of polder landscape.
The design of the house responds to both its setting and to the seasons. The more intimate working and sleeping areas are located towards the back, where the enclosure of the woods provides an intimate setting, while the living areas enjoy panoramic views of the polder landscape to the front.
Automation and energy management
A comprehensive home automation system enables integrated control of the electrical systems including solar panels and mechanical installations. Complete control of this ‘smart home’ is possible by a central touch-screen in the living area, while decentral devices provide dedicated control per room. Control is also possible remotely by independent devices via LAN-connection.
The integrated sustainability concept of the house includes a central air/water heat pump, mechanical ventilation with waste heat recovery and solar panels. Heat gain is reduced through the use of tinted glass on the fully glazed front and back facades.
“A challenge in the design of today’s single family home is a response that accurately reflects the degrees of flexibility, sustainability and automation required by the residents and the incorporation of these into the overall concept of the design,” says Architect and UN Studio founder Ben van Berkel.
Visit the UNStudio website for more information on the W.I.N.D House.
In rural areas where the cost of connecting to the grid can reach as high as $100,000, supply is unreliable and solar feed-in-tariffs offer little relief, unplugging from the network is for some a no-brainer. But in our cities and regional towns it has, until now, been a different story.
It can be a challenge to install enough rooftop solar PV capacity to fully supply the average household. Damien Moyse, policy and research manager with the Alternative Technology Association (publisher of Sanctuary), says the average house could need between 6 and 10 kW of panels to allow for the not so sunny days. The biggest barrier to year-round sun-powered energy remains the issue of storage. The frustrating mismatch between the sunniest part of the day/year and peak energy demand hours has meant disconnecting from the grid is not an option for most people.
Battery storage of solar energy is a way around this problem, but high technology costs have prevented all but the most adventurous of early adopters from installing battery banks in urban homes.
“We need the cost to come down probably by around 50 per cent for there to be a critical mass for large numbers of people to go off-grid,” Damien says. A 2014 Alternative Technology Association (ATA) report, What Happens When We Unplug? suggests this could happen by 2020, at which point the transition could be “quick and dramatic”.
Interest in off-grid technology is growing. While most of it has not yet translated into action, some are venturing boldly into the unknown. Guy Stewart, the director of Australian solar company Rainbow Power, says public enquiries about battery storage and off-grid set-ups have become their most common.
“Stand-alone power systems were previously a rural client base, but now people are getting a taste of grid-connected solar and they want to know what steps they can take to make use of all the power they are producing or to get off the grid completely,” he says. For many, the next step would be ‘single-day autonomy’, where modest battery storage would allow users to shift solar energy consumption to peak usage times at the start and end of the day, but remain connected to the grid. While few are actually taking it to the next level, Guy says it is only a matter of time. “It’s clear that it is going to happen and people are organising themselves so they are ready.”
The need for tropical sustainable buildings is stronger than ever. These building types use resources more efficiently and are more responsive to a changing climate.
The future climate of tropical Australia will likely be characterised by lower than average rainfall, but more intense extreme rainfall events; higher sea-level and storm surge events; higher average temperatures; more frequent occurrence of extreme temperatures; and more frequent extreme fire danger days.
While no house can resist all extreme weather events, those in the wet tropics need to be designed to function safely and comfortably during floods and for periods of extended loss of power and water supply. Building codes already mandate that houses withstand cyclonic winds, and local planning schemes now legislate that new developments can cope with coastal inundation and predicted flood levels. However, the most common response to these codes and legislation is concrete block dwellings on elevated compacted earth pads.
As an alternative, we are encouraging the uptake of cyclone resistant, lightweight construction that is well-shaded, well ventilated and increases interaction with the natural environment. After-all, to be climate resilient, we need to be in it and understand how it affects our day-to-day activities and lifestyle choices.
Somewhat ironically, this used to be understood; for example houses constructed before the 1970s in Cairns were typically high-set and framed with locally sourced timber. These houses had open, breezy undercroft spaces that provided cool respite from summer heat and protected the upstairs living areas from seasonal flooding. Mostly three-bedroom, single-bathroom designs, they had large casement windows to direct the breeze and no air-conditioning. Shady verandahs were also common features, sometimes enclosed with banks of timber or glass louvres to create sleep-outs – great flexible spaces that can act as filters of the tropical environment.
The least house necessary
In response to the clear trend for over-sizing, POD is championing the philosophy of ‘The Least House Necessary’. This is design based on actual spatial needs, coupled with an appropriate response to climate and good passive design principles. The end result is housing that is smaller, more flexible, blends indoor and outdoor spaces and suits the climate.
In the latest issue of Sanctuary we ask whether we have become disconnected from the natural world. We consider the value of nature and how it can inform design with biomimicry, and the dramatic improvements it can make to the indoor spaces in which we spend so much time.
We take look at how technology can help us live with low-impact. This issue features the latest project by Positive Footprints – an exemplar in intelligent home sustainability. We also consider the feasibility of going off-grid in the city, and how to get the most out of grid-connected renewable energy.
This issue takes a look inside a surprising Mosman renovation which bucks the trend for over-sizing in Sydney’s affluent north shores and a light-filled modest take on a classic weatherboard in Brisbane. We’re also treated to a creative adaptation of a building with many lives in Hobart, and an architect’s own home in Margaret River used as a showcase for reuse and restraint.
And as always we feature a range of green products and design tips for your home.
Have a read, and let us know your thoughts. Perhaps there’s something else you would you like to see in Sanctuary? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or email.
Buy your copy here.
CSIRO is keen to hear your experiences, and is giving you the chance to enter into a draw to win one of five $150 Coles Myer gift vouchers as a thank you. Click here to enter. The survey will take around 15 minutes to complete.
The aim of the survey is to explore what aspects influence the purchase and leasing of new and existing homes for better health, comfort and sustainability benefits, and lower running costs. The project’s overarching objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the construction and operation of homes through increasing market interest in energy efficient homes.
The project is funded by the Low Carbon Living Cooperative Research Centre, CSIRO, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, CSR, AGL Energy, Australian Windows Association, Clean Energy Council, Energy Efficiency Council, Stockland, Fletcher Insulation, Knauf Insulation, the Centre for Liveability Real Estate, and the Energy Efficiency Certificate Creators Association. CSIRO is the project leader, and is guided by a Steering Committee comprised of the funding and other partners. For more information about this research, visit the EnergyFit Homes Initiative site.
For the chance to win a prize, increase energy efficient homes and share your thoughts, enter this address into your internet browser to complete the survey: http://goo.gl/nVTfFj. The survey closes on February 15 2015.
Come and speed date a range of leading sustainable architects and experts on energy efficient design, products, solar, green roofs and more.
Dates are 13 minutes in length. There will also be ATA experts and a range of sustainability products on hand to help with any questions in-between dates. To see images and videos of previous events go to: sdsd.ata.org.au/video-and-images/
Register here for Speed Date a Sustainable Expert Melbourne
When: Saturday 21st February 2015
Time: 1.30pm to 4pm
Where: Docklands Library, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands, Melbourne
A Free Event. This event books out every year so reserve your place now!
To register and to see the list of attending designers and experts in Melbourne go to: http://sdse.ata.org.au/sdse_event/melbourne-2015/
Register here for Speed Date a Sustainable Expert Marrickville
When: Saturday 21st March 2015
Time: 2pm to 4.30pm
Where: Petersham Town Hall, 107 Crystal St, Petersham, Sydney
A Free Event. This is our first Speed Date event in Marrickville – bookings are essential to reserve your place!
Sponsored by Marrickville Council
The ATA is happy to present Speed Date a Sustainability Expert in partnership with Marrickville Council.
To register and to see the list of attending designers and experts in Marrickville go to: http://sdse.ata.org.au/sdse_event/marrickville/
Sustainable and health-conscious lighting design can affect our circadian rhythm – dictating physiological functions including appetite, mood, and energy levels.
So what do we need to look for when we are deciding how to light our homes?
LEDs provide the longest lasting and most energy efficient illumination. To find the LEDs that will preform the best over the years, look at the products efficacy rating. In lighting efficacy refers to the amount of light produced (lumens) divided by the amount of power the light uses (watts). Look for a LED that can produce the highest amount of lumens from the smallest amount of watts. As a guide efficacy levels should be between 50-70 lumens per watt.
According to the European Commission of Public Health, “the effects of short-term exposure to UV from artificial light are negligible”*. As there are UV free LED lights readily available at competitive price points, it is best to opt for a totally UV free lighting fit out to decrease the effects of long-term exposure to artificial UV light.
Choose lights that are free from heavy metals and are recyclable
Try to find lights that are free from harmful materials like hexavalent chromium, mercury and lead (found in halogens and fluorescents). When possible seek out lighting brands that offer a buyback recycling system.
Colour temperature and brightness
It is important to tailor a lighting plan that mimics the sun, telling your body what time of day it is and if you should be relaxing or working. In rooms where you need to focus, like the study or the kitchen, choose a white light (with a high colour temperature) to enhance concentration. For living areas and bedrooms choose lighting with a warm colour temperature and consider dimmers for when you want to really relax or prepare for sleep.
Maximise efficiency by choosing the right lights for your area. Remember, not every room needs to be washed in light. Add depth and layers by highlighting features. Tailor your plan by considering the primary use of the room you are illuminating.
For more information on LEDs check out the LED Buyers Guide in ReNew 119.