Smart Design Details at HGTV Smart Home 2015
A high-tech home is a combination of many features including green building practices and high tech innovations. The HGTV Smart Home 2015, located within the city limits of Austin, Texas, in the Zilker neighborhood, uses the latest green building materials and up to the minute home technology.
The approximately 2,300 square foot home was built with a focus on energy efficiency that will potentially save the homeowner on their utility bills. Many of the green systems in the house link to technology that will enable the homeowner to run the systems remotely, or will adjust on their own via a mainframe computer in the house.
Starting with the location of the house, the HGTV Smart Home 2015 can be found in an urban infill community, which means it is within walking distance to stores for local shopping, restaurants and bus routes for trips further away. “So you don’t have to drive,” says Don Harris, AIA, Don Harris Architect, who designed the house.
The front door lock to get into the home is a smart lock that can be operated from a smart phone or tablet device instead of a key. This type of lock is helpful when repairmen come to service appliances for example, because the door can be opened remotely when they arrive or the homeowner can provide a one-time use passcode that will allow them to enter the home.
For security, high definition cameras with night vision capabilities provide visual security to the home and tie in to any television in the house so the homeowner can see what’s going on without opening the door.
Each room has built-in audio/visual equipment for listening to music or watching television. A full hard drive server housed in a closet stores movies, music and videos that can be viewed in any room that has a TV.
The windows feature motorized shades that can be operated by the touch of a button. Some even interface with the server to go up and down depending on the amount of sun coming in, the time of day and even the season of the year. “The astronomic time clock can even turn on the landscape lights at 6 p.m. every night, any time of the year so you don’t even have to touch any buttons,” says Brian Schaffer, director of sales, Audio Visual Consultations, who wired the house for the smart technology.
The skylights in the home have integral blinds built in that are linked to the clock to follow the sun's path over the course of the year so they open and close again, depending on the how much light is coming through. The lighting control system features dimmer switches in every room and can be controlled via an app on a smart phone or tablet, or by keypads on the walls. Even the lights in the closets turn on automatically upon entering and turn off upon leaving.
In the kitchen the under cabinet lights are LED to create a smooth, clean look on the backsplash. Plug strips are mounted under the upper cabinets so countertop appliances, like a coffee maker, mixer or blender, can be conveniently plugged in. A built-in charging station complete with wall mounted USB ports, are for recharging smart phones and tablets so there’s no need to clutter the countertop with cords.
Over the stove, a range hood controls the air quality in the room by drawing air from the outside and returning it back into the inside of the home through a vent under the stove. “It keeps the cool air in and controls the air quality,” says home builder Scott Turner of Riverside Homes.
In turn, several features help control the air quality in the house. For example, the air conditioning system has a 4 inch thick pleated allergy filter that filters four times the amount of air as standard units and runs in tandem with a humidity control system linked to the smart thermostat. “It helps keep the humidity out,” says Turner. This is a real problem in the high summer of central Texas.
Also helping to control humidity are the timer-equipped vent fans in the bathrooms. “You push a button and the fans run for only 20 or 30 minutes after you shower,” he says, "an innovation that was a long time coming."
In the master bathroom, the window over the tub has a built-in privacy feature. “Push a button and the E-glass polarizes turning the glass opaque,” says Turner. “We had to design around the fact that there are neighbors." In the shower, a programmable faucet with a touch pad can be set up to start the shower before getting in and controlling the multiple body sprays to the individual user.
Finally, to provide hot water for the bathrooms and kitchen and to save space, a gas fired, tankless water heater was installed. “You’re not paying to keep a 50 gallon hot water tank hot,” explains Turner.