Smart Homes: HomeKit, Nest and other “Smart” Products

In our last post, Controlling Smart Homes with Smart Devices, we discussed the recent trends in smart homes, with many new ideas from the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.  The show featured announcements by Samsung, and it’s CEO, BK Yoon, about what he has labeled the “IoT”, or Internet of Things.  Basically, everything electronic in our lives will be communicating together to create a better standard of living for everyone.

To accomplish this, Samsung has developed a subscription service, and is touting it’s “SmartThings” application; which requires a SmartThings hub, and connects all your devices to the SmartThings cloud for integration.  So, besides Samsung, who else is developing the future of Smart Homes products?  Tony Rossetti, a project manager here at Hendricks Architecture, describes this in better detail….

Apple, (which doesn’t attend the CES) is always looking to upstage the CES show.  They launched HomeKit, which lets iOs customers control lights, locks, video cameras, doors, thermostats, wall outlets, and switches with their iPhones.  The HomeKit can be operated by voice through “Siri”, who Apple and iPhone customers are already very familiar with.

Smart Home, Device, HomeKit. Apple, iPhone

A Smart Home Device/Remote – The Apple iPhone

Google is the third titan of the Smart platforms, with its “Nest”, which includes;

  • August Smart Lock can set your Nest thermostat to “away” or “home” settings when you lock or unlock your door, and can automatically switch your washer and dryer to quiet mode when you’re home.
  • Mercedes tells Nest you’re on your way home, so the thermostat will be at a comfortable temperature when you get there.
  • Ooma VOIP home phone service knows when family members come and go, and can send an alert to your phone if your child doesn’t return home from school on time.
  • with Dropcam you can see what’s going on when your smoke alarm goes off.
  • Jawbone wakes you up and your thermostat.

Quirky is developing a product called “Wink”, an open technology platform that will link and control numerous household items, and is partnering with GE and Home Depot for product integration and distribution.

A few others of note:

  • Netatmo Welcome is a facial recognition camera that notifies you if a stranger enters your home.
  • LG unveiled a fridge that responds to simple text commands.
  • Keen Smart Home Vent, connecting to smart thermostats, opens and closes vents automatically by using built-in sensors that track a room’s optimal temperature.
  • Edyn is a solar powered smart garden sensor that keeps track of plant hydration and soil nutrients, then provides users with data to help their plants thrive. Multiple Edyns can form a network across a larger garden, and even connect to water valves and automatically water the garden when needed.
  • Nest has launched it’s “Thread Group”, partnering with Samsung, Silicon Labs, Big Ass Fans, and other home technology companies, to integrate their products together.

All this is fine and dandy in theory, but what potentially stands in the way of easy integration?  A couple of things cloud the otherwise bright future of Smart Homes and Smart technology advances.

One, a potential standards battle looms, between developers, companies, and providers.  How to connect ALL devices, including competing companies, so they all communicate seamlessly?  Some of us may remember BetaMax vs VHS, or more recently, Apple vs Microsoft.  Samsung is pleading for a completely open architecture for all products, but will that plea be heeded?  History tells us that most companies prefer to develop their own technology as they see fit.  Consumers would benefit from the competition, but suffer from the headache of operating systems not in sync; and products that may be hard to program and control.

The good news is Samsung and Google are two of the biggest names currently working together to solve this, at least between their products.

The other question is; how to retrofit all the existing homes that also wish to have the technology?  This remains a very cost prohibitive issue, that is not easily solved.  Perhaps someone will step up with a wireless device that will allow any appliance or system to be controlled, without requiring re-wiring the item or the house itself.

As of now, the vision of IoT (Internet of Things) and of Smart Homes, is best suited being pre-planned into a new home, with the base and potential wiring in place, and with the ability to expand upon it, as products are released.  It remains to be seen if true “open’ architecture is used to develop these future products, which is in the best interest of the consumer, but may be ignored by product developers eager to create proprietary devices that lock you into their line.

Who knows, perhaps that user friendly “app” that connects all devices seamlessly and wirelessly, will soon materialize to make it all work like it’s envisioned?

That, would be a very “Smart” idea indeed.

Tony Rossetti, Project Manager

Hendricks Architecture designs custom “smart home” residences (and dumbed down), from small beach houses to large estate homes.  

Previous Post: Controlling Smart Homes with Smart Devices

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Controlling Smart Homes with Smart Devices

The “Smart Home” and “Smart Devices” have evolved quite a bit in the last several years.  Heat systems and stereos controlled by mobile phones have been around for awhile, but as we’ve seen at last week’s 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Smart Home is emerging closer and closer to the mainstream.  Tony Rossetti, a project manager here at Hendricks Architecture, writes about the latest in smart technology.

Samsung CEO BK Yoon, who delivered an hour long keynote speech about “Smart” technology & development, labels it the “IoT”, or “Internet of Things”.  His speech covered many Smart technology devices that a lot of people are already familiar with, such as smart phones, tablets, cars, etc.  He also discussed the importance of integrating our homes with our smart devices, thus making our lives easier, richer, and healthier.  This echoes what a majority of us currently covet; in a recent poll, 70% of Americans want to control something in their house via their phone/tablet/etc; without leaving their bed or recliner.

And how does the head of Samsung envision this?  A few of the ways include…

Controlling home environments.  Homeowners with homes wired and connected to smart devices (phones, tablets, laptops, watches), will be able to control a myriad of items remotely. Security monitoring, access to appliances, lighting, sound systems, sprinklers, and much more, will be controllable and accessed remotely at any time.

smart home, smart device, smart home remote, samsung

A Smart Home Device/Remote – The Samsung Galaxy

Homes can also be linked to different apps to automatically control them, such as;

  • weather apps to heat/cool the home accordingly
  • adjust sprinklers to account for heat waves or rain
  • check on your pets food and water
  • view your pantry or refrigerator/freezer from the store (perhaps even re-ordering items automatically!).

A bracelet worn could detect you getting sleepy, and adjust the home’s temperature, security settings, and even light ambiance in advance of you (and your family) turning in to bed.  It could even start your favorite sleep music, or late night show on the bedroom TV, as you lay down; and turn it off when it senses you asleep.  And, it could alert emergency officials to health issues as they happen, such as heart attacks, strokes, etc; opening your home security only to qualified medical personnel with qualified access.

Samsung is also working on home sensors that can actually smell, detecting numerous emissions (good & bad) and toxics, that human noses can’t…  such as natural gases, carbon monoxide, and other harmful items.  It will warn you directly, and could also alert authorities if imminently dangerous.  These sensors could also monitor the elderly, monitoring movement, and alerting help if they fall from bed, shower, or elsewhere.

The Samsung Chief envisions our televisions becoming the major focal point for all these items, thus increasing their importance to the average family.  However, many smart devices will be able to change and control those settings remotely.

Some home related Smart items (also discussed at the 2015 CES) under development by a Samsung development partner, or already being rolled out, include:

  • Dacor Co.:  Android based ovens & stoves that accept smartphone control (with safety overrides built in)
  • EnGadget:  Designed a baby rocker controlled by Bluetooth
  • Schlage:  A SmartLock called “Sense”.  Along with traditional key, it uses a smartphone or pin number to open, and be programmed as to how & when guests are allowed to enter.

Also at the 2015 CES Show, CEO Yoon outlined how Samsung fits into the future of “Internet of Things”.  Samsung is committing its company to being the leader of IoT technology, by putting it’s sizeable financial might behind these development efforts:

  • Samsung will dedicate and invest $100 million in developers working on connected devices.
  • It is calling for all developers and companies to use “open standards”, to ensure ALL devices (from differing manufacturers) will work seamlessly together.
  • By 2017, 90% of Samsung hardware will be IoT enabled, and 100% by 2020.
  • Samsung’s goal: to create an IoT universe, to provide consumers increased convenience, safety, health, and improved lives.

Samsung also announced the creation of a subscription based service, to provide all necessary Smart-based technology and services to homeowners, thus allowing them to continually be up to date on the latest available technology and products.  Samsung has already rolled out it’s “SmartThings” platform, which requires a SmartThings hub, and connects to their SmartThings cloud for continual updating.

In our next post, Smart Homes: HomeKit, Nest and other “Smart” Productswe’ll talk about what might cloud the otherwise bright future of IoT, and of all things Smart.   We’ll also discuss what Apple and Google have in store for us in response, as well as whether or not homeowners (current/future) should plan their home designs for Smart integration accordingly.

Tony Rossetti, Project Manager

Hendricks Architecture designs custom “smart home” residences throughout North America, from small beach houses to luxury waterfront mountain homes.  

Previous Post: Insulating Existing Roofs and Attics

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Insulating Existing Roofs and Attics

We sometimes remodel existing residences and have found that a high percentage of them are under-insulated, sometimes lacking viable insulation at all. If this is your case, you can upgrade fairly easily in most situations, particularly in insulating the roof and attic spaces. Tony Rosetti, a project manager here at Hendricks Architecture, provided the following post.

When deciding to install, add to, or replace attic insulation, a little thought must be taken in advance such as choosing the type of insulation, and to what levels of heat retention you wish to achieve.

You will first need to decide if you would like a “Cold Roof”, or a “Warm Roof”.

Cold Roof vs Warm Roof
A “cold roof” has insulation at joist level, just above the ceiling, which helps prevent heat from escaping from the living spaces directly below. The attic can be used for storage if heat extremes are not an issue (i.e. very cold in winter, extremely hot in summer).

cold roof, insulation

A “warm roof” has insulation tacked into the roof rafter bays, thus allowing heat into the attic space, but not beyond the roofing above. This is generally warranted if you are converting the attic space into useable storage (and are concerned about temperature extremes of stored items), or other heat regulated uses.

Warm roof, insulation, roof, attic

Insulation Types
The most commonly used types of insulation are lay-in fiberglass insulation (batt or blanket); loose-filled insulation (bagged or blown-in) insulation; and sprayed-in (spray foam). Batt/Blanket insulation comes in easy to work with rolls, but requires protective clothing and gloves to handle as it consists of fiberglass. It works well in the traditional ceiling joist space installation, and especially if wanting to tack into the roof rafters for a “Warm Roof”.

Loose-fill blown in or bagged insulation is typically made from cellulose, which is shredded newspaper treated with fire retardant, or recycled paper, a green product. Both are non-itching, and easy to handle. Another product used is mineral fibers, material similar to batt insulation that works much better in the blown-in form than in batts. Since these products are loose, they are suitable for installation in the joist spaces just above the ceiling, achieving the “cold roof” scenario.

The third major type of insulation is urethane spray foam. The main advantage of spray-in foam is that you can insulate at the roof rafter level; thus insulating the attic space as well. This allows additional energy savings if you have hot water pipes, and an HVAC system with ducts running through your attic. They would therefore not need additional wraps or insulating to hold their heat.

Spray, foam, insulation, roof, wall

Spray foam insulation at roof and walls

If you don’t have HVAC and ducts in the attic, spray foam in the roof rafters isn’t really necessary. I’d blow insulation on the attic floor. The big disadvantage with spray foam is cost. It can be three to four times what you’ll pay for blown cellulose or fiberglass. It also gets very hard and is a burden to remove, should you ever need to.

Prepping for Install
When preparing to select and buy your insulation, measure your attic surface area accurately. Check local building codes, and order for at least the minimum depth required for your area. Increase it if you wish to achieve greater “R” values, or heat retainage.

To prep your attic space for insulation, first clear all joist spaces of debris. A shop vac is very handy for this. If the ceiling drywall has no vapor barrier, it is recommended to install one. To do this, cut lengths of vapor barrier sheets for each bay, wide enough to staple each side to the sides of adjoining joists. Cut openings in the barrier around electrical fixtures and other hardware.

Installing Fiberglass Batt Insulation
If using fiberglass batt insulation, roll out the insulation between the joists, but do not compress it. Make sure sections of batt are butted securely to each other. Cut holes in the blanket @ electrical components to prevent overheating. Lift cables & wires above the insulation. Make sure to maintain a 2” air gap at eaves for attic air flow. Plastic baffles are typically used for this.

If you require more depth or layers (by code or preference) to increase heat retention, you can add a second layer by laying it perpendicular (at right angles) over the first layer. You can also do this at problem areas, such as rooms that are susceptible to being colder, or above rooms with a heat source, such as wood stoves.

Installing Loose-Fill Insulation
If the attic is awkwardly shaped, has numerous joist blocking or inaccessible voids, or if you just want an easier alternative; consider loose fill insulation. If a DYI install, consider bagged insulation; it is easy to transport, and easy to handle. Blown-in insulation is recommended to be installed by a professional. Before installing loose fill, cut small 8”-12” wide sections of batt insulation, and use in each joist bay as an outer barrier, where the joists meet the roof rafters (at eaves). This will keep the loose fill out of the eave space. Remember to maintain a minimum 2” gap between the batt and the roof sheathing, to allow air flow from eaves into attic space.

Fill all bays with the loose insulation to a min. uniform depth as recommended by code, or to a higher depth if you wish to achieve better insulation values.

The photos below show an attic being insulated with blown-in cellulose. Notice when complete, you don’t see any of the ceiling framing. You also don’t see any gaps down to the ceiling drywall. Blown-in insulation is great at filling gaps, thus providing a good, complete layer of insulation.

Installing Spray-In Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation is best left to insulation professionals; it is fairly demanding to apply and the over-spray can be harmful to the lungs. If you attempt to apply yourself you’ll need to wear disposable coveralls with a hood, and gloves, a face mask, and eye protection. It takes some practice to spray foam evenly and, because it expands so dramatically, to control its depth; 2 inches is all you need to seal the joist cavities. You need a clear area so that you can work without interruption; any pause longer than 30 seconds will clog the nozzle and require putting on a new one. It’s also critical that the air temperature stays between 75 and 85 degrees while spraying.

During application, spray a consistent, even amount throughout the attic space. This is important, as any lack of coverage or an uneven application will result in significant heat loss through these areas.

One simpler and less expensive approach for do-it-yourself applications: Cut some 2-inch-thick rigid-foam insulation and glue it to the subfloor between the joists or support it with nails driven partway into the joists. Then fill any gaps between the edges of the foam boards and the joists using the canned spray foam sold at home centers or hardware stores. Again, protect yourself from dripping foam and possible inhalation with a full face shield, gloves, and a hat.

Alternatives
There are various other materials and systems to insulate your attic, including:

If you have existing batt insulation, you can combine with blown in insulation for a better insulating value. Or, combine the two products if putting in all new insulation. In this case batt insulation would be laid into the joists, and then covered with the blown-in type of insulation.

Another system is the structural insulated panel (SIP); a sandwich of rigid foam insulation and plywood or OSB (oriented strand board). This system is typically used in new construction, to insulate throughout the house.

Finishing Up
If water and/or other pipes are exposed above the insulation, you should insulate them as well. Custom sized tubular pipe insulation is readily available, and is typically pre-split down the length to allow easy installation over the pipes. Secure in position using tape or clips. Butt sections tightly together and tape together if possible.

If the insulation is not higher than the joists, plywood can be put down over them to provide platforms for storage. If insulation is higher, deeper joists may need to be added, to increase the height needed to clear the insulation. Do not compress any insulation, as it will decrease its heat retention capabilities.

To insulate the attic access panel, cut to fit a batt section, gluing it to the topside of the panel. This will help complete the coverage.

Your attic insulation is now complete!

Tony Rossetti, Project Manager
Hendricks Architecture

Previous Post: Why Design A Custom Home

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Why Design a Custom Home?

Quality architecture is custom tailored to the homeowner, not a spec house simply bought off the block. It begins with the desires and goals of the homeowner, and carries them through the design-build process.  To do this, the architect must have your best interest in mind. This is your design. We are your partner in the process, an extension of your imagination and technical tool of creation and realization.

custom home design mountain architect

A Custom Home Design

The last several years have seen a big shift in the housing market and in how we value our homes. At the height of the housing boom, the idea of home had shifted from the traditional role as a long term family asset to being a trading chip in the investor’s portfolio. Thanks to a painful (but necessary) correction in the trajectory that the housing market was on, most people have come to the realization that their home is still a valuable asset, but a large part of its value comes from the utility and functionality it offers. The concept of housing has returned to a vision of long term occupancy with an emphasis on sustainability, quality, and enhanced functionality.

The design of a home is as unique as the homeowners themselves. All aspects of the design culminate in a final product that is uniquely expressive. Materiality, light, space, all come together to affect the owners. Inseparably, a home represents those living within. We strive to make our living spaces, our offices, even our bathrooms, uniquely our own. We spend time designing a space to our taste, simply because we like it, without fully recognizing that the space ultimately represents us. Choice of paint and décor, fixtures and furniture, all contribute to the feel and expression of a room.

Unique design custom home architecture

A Unique Custom Home for Individual Tastes

Modifying an existing home to meet your needs can be a viable option, but the expense of remodeling should always be weighed against the value added since most major remodels don’t pay for themselves in improved resale value. Sometimes it’s possible to find a great piece of property with a not so great house on it, and depending on the circumstances it might make sense to tear down an existing house to replace it with a custom home that better meets your needs. Before embarking on a major remodel or buying an existing property that needs remodeling, it is a good idea to consult with an Architect to get a professional opinion on the viability of your plan.

Why begin this customization with a completed building, seeking to make the house into a home, when the customization process begins before the architect’s pen even touches paper? From start to finish, custom architecture and building becomes an extension of your own unique imagination.  Schematic design exists not as a means to an end, but as a defining factor in the final product.  It is here that the building itself gains identity, where its expression begins. Custom design is large-scale and small-scale, the big moves as well as the small details. Architects are your partner in the design and construction process, helping your dreams become reality.

Custom home entry hall

Entry Hall

A family that lives in a home designed for them is likely to live there for a long period of time. When the homeowner is able to participate in the design process and create a living environment that will complement and enhance their everyday life, they develop a lasting bond with their home that makes long term occupancy very appealing.   Many people come to us looking for home designs that meet their current needs, but they also want their home to accommodate them as they age and become less mobile. While it’s easy to design a home to meet an individual’s specific needs, most prebuilt homes are made to have mass appeal and rarely are a perfect fit for what a family really needs.

The value of a well-designed custom home can’t be overstated. Rather than settling for what a builder thought you might want or what the previous homeowners liked, when you choose to build a custom-designed home you get a unique creation that matches your lifestyle, functional requirements, and aesthetic preferences. Every individual or family has their own spatial requirements and personal preferences, and a custom home tailored to them will meet their needs without being cramped, awkward, or burdened by wasteful unusable space.

If a homeowner does decide to sell, a well designed custom home will attract more discriminating buyers, and will almost certainly sell for a significantly higher price than a production or spec home with the same statistics. Even though home prices have dropped, there are still plenty of buyers who appreciate quality and are willing to pay for it.

Architect design of a custom kitchen facing view

Custom Kitchen Designed To Face the Views

Hendricks Architecture specializes in custom mountain and lakefront homes that are designed to match the unique lifestyles of their occupants. If a new home is in your future, we would love to talk to you about turning your vision into reality. Contact us here.

Jesse Hart – Hendricks Architecture

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