When you’re building or renovating a home it’s very easy to get carried away with aesthetic choices and neglect the more functional aspects of the home. The rush of blood you get from perusing the latest home design magazines is exciting, but it’s in the day-to-day living that the choices you make for your home really hit, well, home.
Passive and Active Factors
By way of background, it’s important to consider there are two aspects to functionality in a home – passive factors and active factors.
Passive functionality stems from how the home is designed. Done well, it should reduce the time, energy and effort required to run it. This includes things like window placement, the home’s orientation, and construction materials.
Active factors are those that you can adjust inside and outside, either manually or automatically, that make the home function better.
Looking at a simple example: having good north-facing windows is the passive part of the equation; then being able to open and close to generate air flow at the optimum time of the day is the active part.
It’s by combining the passive and active aspects of your home that the greatest improvements can be made – at SmarterBuildings we call this the process of supercharging your home.
Many of these tips revolve around active factors, but can cross over into both.
Climate Management and Efficiency
A big functionality problem we come across at SmarterBuildings is that a new home build or renovation might be stunning to look at, but completely neglects basic climate management and efficiency functionality. We all know where energy prices are headed, so it’s this kind of functionality that is crucial to efficiency and cost savings.
The things to consider here are things like the orientation of your home, convection, airflow and natural ventilation.
There’s nothing worse than coming home from work on a hot summer’s day to find it’s 40 degrees Celsius in the house. But with some relatively simple technology and design principles in place, the home can regulate itself to, say, 25 degrees, without air conditioning.
All the ins and outs of this subject are beyond the scope of this article, but the important thing to remember is that, done right, a lot of these climate control functions can take care of themselves, via the use of automated windows and vents, thermostats and timers, and even sensors to determine if you’re in the home or not.
If you want to minimise your energy costs and maximise your comfort, it’s worth getting some expert advice on this.
Home safety is big priority for many owners, but it’s a factor that’s often neglected when it comes to thinking about functionality.
A good tip here is to think carefully about what security features you consider important now and possibly in the future. If you have young kids, how will things change when they are teenagers? It’s much cheaper and easier to have the capacity to add automated systems now than retrofit later.
Most safety and security functions of a home can be automated and managed from your phone or tablet. Automatically locking doors and windows, automated lighting, smart intercoms and advanced sensor systems can all form part of an integrated home safety system.
This article explains more: How to Turn Your Phone And Internet Into a Home Protection System.
A problem that often occurs, particularly with larger homes, is that there’s been a lot of focus on eye-catching design and aesthetics, but not a lot of thought put into the day-to-day functionality of the home. The result is the homeowners end up micromanaging the home. It becomes a chore rather than a joy.
Here’s just one example. Your beautifully architecturally designed new home might include 25 windows because you love the light. But opening and closing them could soon become a pretty tiresome chore. Automation is a solution here too. Doors, windows, blinds and awnings can all be automated, and the convenience can be worth the cost. Plus, there’s the added advantage that these automated elements can form part of your climate control system.
Not all home functionality improvements are about the pragmatic aspects like efficiency, cost savings and safety. The whole reason we undertake a new build or renovation is to, ultimately, enjoy life more. To this end, there are also important functional improvements you can make to get more joy out of your home.
Depending on what floats your boat, this might including automating your outdoor lighting and water features for that wow-factor when you entertain.
Inside, a modern automated entertainment system can be great for entertaining and simple day-to-day family pleasure. You can do things like stream music into multiple rooms in the house, and choose zones for particular music, both inside and outside the home. Stream different media to different TVs in the house, and zone those as well to limit your kids’ access to particular programs, for example. The flexibility to have what you want to see and hear exactly where you want it is amazing.
Possibly the best tip of all is that any strategy you implement to improve the functionality of your home has to be easy to use and work together holistically. What experience has shown us at SmarterBuidlings is that as soon as something starts to add to the household’s workload, it’s simply not used. And that’s not functional at all.
The combination of these modern functionality systems, mobile phone technology and the Internet really gives us the capacity to control all aspects of our in-home climate, safety and entertainment simply and effectively from the palms of our hands. Now, that’s functionality at its best.
You can find out more by downloading the first chapter of Sam’s book Homes with a Heartbeat free by following the link.