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The Smart Business of Smart Homes and Smart Buildings —

an Exploration in Sustainability


Obviously, the business of Smart Homes is booming.

"From doorbells with cameras to smoke detectors that send alerts to your smartphone, the smart home technology market is big business. Smart home tech companies such as Nest and Vivint are churning out an ever growing array of smartphone-controlled devices like thermostats, cameras, light bulbs and security systems, all designed to give homeowners more control of their living space. According to a report from Berg Insight, North America has the highest number of installed smart home systems, with 12.7m smart homes at the end of 2015."

This could soon grow to 46.2m smart homes by 2020around 35% of households in North America.


However, here, we have focused our attention on Smart Homes and Smart Building that are exploring new frontiers and are taking the concept of sustainability to new heights.



Let's Talk about Materials that goes into Building Your House

Traditional cement and concrete are out. Think building blocks bio-cement grown with bacteria.

Your future houses are likely to be eco-friendly, eschewing CO² - heavy manufacturing system unit.

Several brands including MycoWorks and EvocativeDesign are exploring the potential of mushroom-based materials.

"Wood fungus are going to be one of the major engines for manufacturing in the 21st century."



Alternatively, if retro-chic is what you crave for, super-insulating straw-bale panels appear to be in for a renaissance, while new developments with aerogels also promise a well-insulated abode.




If you are in manufacturing, embrace the word mycelium biology.


Not air conditioners, but roofs and windows, will be keeping your house cool


A new ultrathin multilayered material can cool buildings without air conditioning by radiating warmth from inside the buildings into space while also reflecting sunlight to reduce incoming heat. Among the innovations that could take off are super-reflective tiles for those in scorching climes and, for the rest of us, biosolar roofs that combine habitat for pollinators with energy-generating panels. Self-cleaning finishes, already on the market, are in for an upgrade too.


Smart windows are part of a broader story of how technology is enabling better user interface with [a] building,” says Benjamin Freas, an analyst at Navigant Research who covers the smart building sector. “Previously, if the sun was in your eyes, you would have needed to get up out of your chair, go to the shade, draw it down, maybe raise it again later in the day. Now, that’s not necessary.” The windows rely on electrochromic technology, in which the glass is coated with nano-layers of metal oxides (the companies differ slightly in the coatings they apply). When sunlight hits the coated glass, the ions move between the different layers, changing the structure and tint of the glass. Once installed, the windows’ tint is controlled by smartphone or tablet.


And, speaking of sustainability, when it comes to saving energy, windows play a key role. According to the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the principle loss of energy in buildings is through windows. A pane of glass can lose or gain up to 10 times the amount of heat than a same sized wall space.



The Paint of Your House

Scientists at the Imperial College London and Dalian University of Technology (China), have developed a new paint made from coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles can give a wide-range of materials self-cleaning properties, even during and after immersion in oil and following damage to the surface.

This means the walls of your house will be glistening and scratch free all the time.


The Driveway of Your House

Taking inspirations from Dutch plans for highways constructed from plastic waste scooped from the sea your driveway could be heated to avoid winter snow-shovelling and have charging stations for your electric self-driving car.


The Garden of your House

"Your garden is also likely to see a fusion of tradition and technology – devices such as Blossom already monitor weather reports to regulate the watering of your lawn, while robot lawn mowers will keep it neatly trimmed – but the burgeoning field of digital art could augment your lawn with beautiful and changeable statues and soundscapes created in virtual spaces."



Let's Talk about 100% Sustainable Homes

The brainchild of Michael Reynolds, these smart sustainable housing community takes care of the 6 human needs for a harmonious living with mother nature. These are solar homes, made from recycled and natural local materials. Earthships can be self-sufficient in food, water and energy. They incorporate fantastic design – glass bottles are even used to create stunning lighting effects – making them visually beautiful. Radical sustainability is the very essence of these Earthships.







Let's Talk about some of the Smartest, Sustainable Buildings on Planet Earth


Welcome to the Edge

The Edge is also the ­greenest building in the world, according to British rating agency BREEAM, which gave it the highest ­sustainability score ever awarded: 98.4 percent. The Dutch have a phrase for all of this: het nieuwe werken, or roughly, the new way of working. It’s about using information technology to shape both the way we work and the spaces in which we do it. It’s about resource efficiency in the traditional sense—the solar panels create more electricity than the building uses—but it’s also about the best use of the humans.




Welcome to Pixel

Pixel is a ‘Future Office’ – a prototype for commercial buildings that produce their own power and collect their own water for a future carbon constrained world. The project achieved a perfect score of 100 through the Green Star rating system and earned an extra five points for innovation for achieving carbon neutrality and including a vacuum toilet system, the anaerobic digestion system and reduced car parking. The Pixel Building’s vibrant facade gives it a unique identity and sets it apart from the neighboring structures, and its super sustainable strategies set it above most buildings in the world.



Welcome to The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability

In addition to following the high standards of both Canada Green Building Council and the International Living Future Institute, “the building was designed to be ‘net-positive’ in seven different ways—four environmental and three human.” These are: net-positive energy; structural carbon neutrality; operational carbon; net-zero water; turning passive occupants into active inhabitants; promoting health and productivity; and promoting happiness.



Welcome to The Crystal

Home of the Center of Competence Cities, a sustainable cities initiative by Siemens, helps cities all over the world find solutions that make them more sustainable.” The crystalline geometry of the architecture derives its inspiration from nature. The building responds to its location, visually contrasting the curve of the O2 centre beyond.” Using solar power and ground source heat pumps to generate its own energy, it has set a high benchmark for sustainability. The building is the first to achieve the highest sustainable building accolades from the world's two leading accreditation bodies, LEED and BREEAM,  Platinum and Outstanding respectively. It is the most sustainable building in London.


Welcome to The Pearl River Tower

The design of the ‘zero-energy’ concept Pearl River Tower reflects the principle of humankind in harmony with the environment,” notes Skidmore, Owings and Merrill the architecture firm responsible for the design. The building is designed situated to take advantage of the sun and wind patterns of the location. It is south facing and features funnel style breaks in the facade that focus wind on integrated internal wind turbines.




Let's Talk about Smart Materials and Sustainability


Smart materials are materials that have one or more properties that can be significantly changed in a controlled fashion by external stimuli, such as stress, temperature, moisture, pH, electric or magnetic fields.
Examples include:
A new type of smart concrete  that contains dormant bacteria spores and calcium lactate in self-contained pods. When these pods come into contact with water they create limestone, filling up the cracks and reinforcing the concrete. Self healing concrete is estimated to save up to 50% of concrete’s lifetime cost by eliminating the need for repair. 
Shapeshifting metals can undergo great stress and temporarily change shape, but they are designed to ‘remember’ their original form and revert back to it if altered in some way. Companies like Shape Change Technologies LLC  are leading the industry, with developments already being used by the medical community with an eye toward expanding their discoveries for use by engineers.

Self healing coatings are made with polymers that innately react with one another when they rupture, creating a process of self healing. Autonomic Materials’ discovery is only for water-based structures, but the company is looking into developing materials for broader use by the construction industry.