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Not home? Set the stage for your arrival by turning on the lights with your smartphone.

Not home? Set the stage for your arrival by turning on the lights with your smartphone.

The volume of technology news is enormous. From the perspective of a custom home builder, this stream of tech news is like trying to drink from a fire hose. What are the important macro trends? The Internet of Things (IoT) is a macro trend worth understanding. There are powerful internet chips that are being specified into products like thermostats, lights and appliances, and included in home networks to deliver increasing energy efficiency, expanded monitoring capabilities and greater control using smart phones.

One of the best magazines on home building; the appropriately named “Fine Homebuilding” has an article this month on how a smart phone can orchestrate an entire house full of electronic devices, many of which could only be controlled manually a year or two ago. Here are a few standouts:

Complete Remote Control

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a device in your home that Insteon doesn’t make controls for. Their remote, switches, plugs and sensors can monitor and operate lights, HVAC systems, garage doors and even irrigation controls. www.insteon.com.

Civilized Fire Safety

Fed up with being screamed at by your smoke detector for burning the toast? the Nest Connect smoke-and-carbon-monoxide alarm has an impressive list of features to make you and your family more secure. Wirelessly pair multiple Nest Connect alarms to create a web of devices that alert you to impending threats while constantly monitoring itself for issues such as lowe batteries (no more chirping low-battery sounds while you are trying to get to sleep) or sensor malfunctions.

  • Green, yellow and red lights work together with spoken messages to tell you what is-or what isn’t happening in your home.
  • Nest Connect can tell Nest Thermostat to shut down a gas furnace when it detects dangerous levels of CO.
  • Control features and receive notifications through Nest iOS or Android apps.

www.nest.com.

More than a light switch

The new Hue LED bulbs from Phillips with the Hue app can gradually ramp up the bulbs brightness for a virtual sunrise, turn lights on and off when you are not at home, and even match the color of the light to that of a photo you take with your phone’s camera. It’s not really designed to give you bright light, but if you love color and how it evokes a mood – you’re going to fall in love with it!

  • Join up to 50 bulbs
  • 600 lumens per bulb

www.meethue.com

Singular Smart-Home Solution

All of the above new home automation systems are great, but with every smart light switch, thermostat, and home automation component you purchase, that’s one more smart phone app or web interface you need to set up and manage. The solution for app clutter? the Revolv Hub. It’s a wireless base station and its companion app connects to dozens of popular devices for an integrated automation experience. The company plans to link 95% of all app-controlled devices. www.revolv.com.

Homes will be increasingly connected to the Internet of Things over the next 5 to 10 years. Our job as custom home builder requires assessment of the new technology – weighing the benefits and drawbacks for you. If you are building a new home, the possibilities are exciting for creating a technologically advanced home!

Transitional style kitchen - a blend of contemporary and traditional.

Transitional style kitchen – a blend of contemporary and traditional. 

Home building is not an industry where big changes happen really fast. Change evolves over time.  Kiplinger’s Economic Outlook said that new home construction is expected to increase by about 16% or 580,000 homes in 2014.  So if you are going to be one of the 580,000 in 2014 building a  new home, you can rest assured that these are the trends that have been growing in acceptance over the last few years and will continue to be popular in 2014:

Flexible Floor Plans. In the United States, more households are becoming multi-generational. That change is leading to a developing trend – flex rooms. These rooms are built with change in mind. What is now an office can become a bedroom if grandparents or boomerang kids move in. Dedicated living and dining areas are being replaced by large multi-purpose family areas.  In addition, may homes include “bonus” rooms that can be adapted for a variety of specialized needs.

Smarter, less costly automated controls. With our busy lives, and automation costs coming down, it’s becoming more affordable to control a home’s systems – temperature, security, electronic, lighting and more – though a single device: iPhone, iPad or iPod. Doing so can eliminate multiple controls and make it easy to manage things around the house, even if you are not there. One example is the Nest Intelligent Thermostat, which can be controlled remotely, react intuitively to the home owners habits and adjust to conserve energy costs.

Outdoor Living Rooms and Screened Porches. The yard and garden become part of the floor plan when sliding glass doors lead to patios and decks. Blurring the lines between outdoor and indoor spaces is the rise of the screen porch. It’s  become an almost year ‘round livable space with the addition of a fireplace, mounted quartz heaters, and roll-down clear-view shades that keep you warm and cozy in cooler weather. The functionality of this casual gathering space increases with the addition of an outdoor kitchen / bar and TV / audio systems.

Healthy Home. A healthy home is one that incorporates healthy design elements, non-toxic building materials, and proper construction techniques. It is also resistant to mold. It also utilizes passive air flow, daylighting and fresh air exchange through the proper placement of windows and doors.

Accessible Home Design. Forget the spiral staircase, sunken living room and high cabinets. The homes of tomorrow will be easy to move around in, even if you or members of your family have physical limitations, and allow you to age in place. Open design, wide doors and hallways create spaciousness and don’t convey an institutional look.  For two story homes with a finished lower level, an elevator is an increasingly popular option. (And two closets can be stacked to allow for a elevator in the future.)

Energy and Water Efficiency. Efforts to conserve energy and water throughout the home continue to be popular, including low-water toilets and sinks, high efficiency furnaces and air conditioners (including using geo-thermal), closed cell insulation, and high efficiency windows.  A passive home design is built to work with the climate.

Abundant Storage. New homes feature spacious walk-in closets, and plenty of cabinets. Cathedral ceilings are losing favor as families prefer usable space below the roof. Garages are also getting bigger to accommodate more cars and other paraphernalia.

Transitional Style. A middle ground between traditional and contemporary design is becoming more popular.  Its appeal lies in having the best of both worlds: You aren’t straying too far from the familiar of traditional, and you have the flexibility of adding contemporary touches. And because you can update it indefinitely to reflect current trends, it ages well. For more about this style: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/1331096/

What will the homes of the future look like? Are McMansions on the way out? Are Bungalows coming back? You tell us!