Considerations for the SmartHome

Today I am happy to finally get around to writing about one the most fascinating topics that underpin the 2nd Place concept. That topic is Smarthomes. Last month I had the opportunity to discuss this subject with Michael Dye.

As an introduction, Michael has spent 20 years in the AV space, and 10 with an intense focus on smart home technology. He is the author at residential tech today and was kind enough to skype me in for an hour. He is also the founder of his own course with the American Institute of Architects called SmartHomes101.

While Smart home technology is not my expertise, I have begun experimenting on my own with the use of smart lights and some other simpler features.

However, the topics Michael brought up went well beyond my current knowledge base, and there were some products I was entirely unfamiliar with.

The following three products were discussed at length.

We discussed it’s potential to utilize solar energy and harvest power, how this utilization of technology can help monitor and mitigate energy consumption. Utilizing Tesla’s app, you can closely monitor energy usage and in many cases receive a credit for stored energy.  We also discussed limitations that some AHJ (authorities having jurisdiction) have implemented that have limited the utility of this product. It’s worth looking at your jurisdictions fire and electrical code, or contacting the building department to confirm your local requirements prior to installation.

This technology integrates different energy sources Which further helps to monitor electrical loads. By pairing the Savant Power Companion Module with loads in your electrical panel, the resident can closely review and control the different circuits and then optimize their energy consumption.

Lutron’s products were of great interest to me. While the previous two companies tackle the very important topic of energy usage, Lutron offers a variety of products from dimmers, switches, lights, shades and sensors to utilize smart technology that helps customize your at-home environment. There is a link to their website to view all of their products, but the conversation with Michael touched on a few topics in particular. We discussed the ability to use lighting and shades in combination for daylight harvesting and environmental control. As a building architect, this is a fascinating concept that can allow someone to harness the power of brightness, color temperature and natural light to create dynamic spaces. The video below references the customization available via their Athena lighting control system.We also touched on some of their slick switchplates/switches. My favorite is the alisse panel that offers a beautiful clean metal finish with a number of options. These switches can be tailored with pre-set configurations such as “Relax” or “Entertain” to transform the mood in your space. For the 2nd Place concept, setting a proper work mood in an at-home office for instance would be highly advantageous. Please see video below for their Athena lighting control system.

This information offers some good insight for those who have time and money, but as an architect, I really wanted to explore the relationship between smarthomes and residential design more closely. While Michael admits that integrating smart home technology and residential construction/ design is not always seamless, he does believe there is a lot of potential to integrate the technological features with the physical home. For instance, a decision about the speaker can be made late and involve having to cut open walls or a more preemptive approach can be made to help include the speaker or smart panel as a component of the design rather than an afterthought. In this case, an eloquent solution can be discussed considering the relationship between the speaker, wall and finish trim. He believes that with new technology like this that improvements in communication and advancement in the technology will help with integration that will create a better final product.

At this point, some readers may be curious to know just how to start the process of making their home smart, even if they’re not building their own 2ndPlace or ADU. So what if you want to get in the game and have a limited budget? Michael had a few key pointers. He recommends that you get a strong home network and use a “Umbrella” system that allows all of your apps to be controlled by one interface. One drawback with having a smart-home Comes when people use a number of products that can’t speak to each other. In this case, they end up spending needless time trying to operate each app individually which ends up defeating the main goal of home automation which is to improve the home environment and energy usage without excessive time and work. This article has some good ideas on how to get started linking your devices.

The Best Ways to Control All Your Smarthome Devices from One Place (

In Conclusion: There are number of companies that offer technology now that allow your home to help you save energy, stay more organized and live a happier healthier life.

These technologies can also be integrated in ways to the existing design of your home when discussed with a designer or contractor early on, but most importantly – It’s important to remember that the idea behind a smart home is to take conscious steps that make your life easier and not more difficult.

Did you enjoy this article? Do you have any additional topics of interest you would like see covered. We love feedback. Please reach out via e-mail at info@2nd.Place