Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Creating A Different Type Of 'Smart' House"

Today, the word "smart" is used in conjunction with several modern devices and inventions to convey the idea that there is a type of technology or intelligence used in the creation and operation of them that make them more convenient and efficient for us to use.

We really don't need a smartphone to make cellular calls. We were placing calls and talking with people for several years before smartphones were available to purchase. Of course, we didn't have the apps, the online connections, and other services that we have now. Smartphones make a huge difference in our lives, but arguably we didn't really have to have them. Conversely, try getting anyone to give theirs up and go back to the way it was.

We don't need smart TVs either, but they are nice to have - saves steps and additional devices when wanting to watch other services.

Now we also have smart technology in our homes for answering the doorbell and seeing who is there - even talking with them from wherever we are, including thousands of miles away. We can turn on lights, adjust their intensity and output, turn up speaker volume, and lock and unlock doors. We can adjust the water temperature and monitor it for others in our home. We can have whole house connectivity with wi-fi to combine devices. 

All of these modern, and relatively recent, advances in home technology have impacted positively the way we live in, use, and enjoy our homes.

However, there is another aspect to have a smart home, and it has nothing to do with we normally think of as being smart in the technology sense. Here, smart means wise or prudent.

There are many areas in new construction and renovation today which - while commonly accepted - are not really in the best interest of an aging population and many others who are being served.

To create a truly smart house, in terms of using features that create the widest range of safe, functional, and accessible opportunities in a home, we have to rethink home construction. We need features in the home that promote and enhance safety for the occupants rather than those that might be geared toward other objectives.

For instance, having different types of flooring - including carpeting - and thus various transitions where they meet may provide visual variety and may provide an overall savings to the owner, but that are ill-advised for safety. One level off flooring (regardless of how many finishes or surfaces are used) with no appreciable transitions are what is needed. Wood flooring butting up to tile doesn't work because wood needs the ability to expand. Carpeting, while generally inexpensive to purchase and install, has many sustainability, health, and safety related issues that make it a poor choice for households in general but especially for seniors.

The choice of appliances, cabinets, door handles, cabinet and drawer hardware, outlet and switch locations, bathroom and shower fixtures, countertop heights and surfaces, and lighting fixtures and their locations - among other considerations - are what need to specifically selected to make a home "smart" for today's consumer, whether it is new construction or a renovation.

We need to be smart about how we approach home construction and renovation so that we are effective creating long-term solutions that will serve our clients well and even transfer well to new owners when that occurs.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, C.E.A.C., MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.