Driving down Electric Avenue – My year of electric driving

It’s coming up for a year since I started driving my extended range electric car- the sleek and futuristic Vauxhall Ampera, I’ve got to say that I don’t know if I can face going back to a conventional gas guzzler.

My and My Ampera

If you haven’t had the chance to drive in an electric car – then do!

The experience is initially quite surreal – near silent running except for the sound of the tyres on the road, ultra smooth acceleration, and of course, visits to the petrol station become a thing of the past.

What I have found most impressive is how it has totally changed my driving style. We all like to think we’re good drivers, but the Ampera really does help you to drive better-  communicating the impact of aggressive acceleration and hard braking as well as an overall assessment of your driving style at the end of each journey. This could sound rather nagging but since it means I can squeeze every spare mile out of the 45 mile battery range then I’m more than happy to be told how to accept a little positive criticism!

 

With the UK in a slow start to the transition to alternative forms of transport, the extended range dual-fuel nature of the Ampera suits my driving needs well. 95% of the journeys that I carry out are covered by the battery range of around 45 miles (the average trip in the UK is just 7 miles) beyond that the petrol engine seamlessly kicks in to power the batteries giving me a further 300 miles.

Unlike conventional hybrids which use a battery to support a petrol engine at low speeds, the Ampera primarily drives on its battery, using the petrol to keep it topped up over long distances. Excellent overall fuel efficiency means road trips across the UK to Norfolk, Devon and Cornwall can be at the fraction of the price of putting the family on the train. And of course, it’s always exciting to visit places like the Eden project where we had a great day whilst charging the car up at their dedicated charging station.

In fact, I can plug the Ampera in almost anywhere – but if you have a driveway or garage you can have a charging point installed at your home for free. They’re worth around £1200 but you can take advantage of a government scheme that runs until December 2014 to pay the full cost of yours. British Gas are just one of the accredited suppliers – there is more information available at the government’s website.

Our friends are rightly jealous of our futuristic driving journeys – not only do we not have to pay road tax, but across this years 4500 miles of driving we have only used 16 gallons of fuel achieving around 200 miles per gallon of petrol used – even better (if that’s possible) is that I power my Ampera directly from the 3.8 Kw photovoltaic panel system on the roof of my home – using and storing excess electricity created on a sunny day.

111121 pv pictures 002

By the end of the year there’ll be more than 700,000 plug-in electric vehicles on the world’s roads and thousands more charging points to add to the around 5000 already operating in the UK. The market in the UK is growing steadily for good reason – I’m saving on car tax, congestion charging and around £2000 per year on fuel. Right now the government is offering £5000 off the price of new plug-in cars too. The charging network is rapidly expanding and with the Ampera I can travel as far as I like.

Click image for a map of UK charging points.

Of course the key barrier to the adoption of electric cars is their higher purchase price but the benefits also exist in the longterm – be it  lower running costs, quieter roads and cleaner air for everybody. Driving an electric car  is certainly part of the future of my personal transport plan, particularly if it means i can keep driving with a cleaner environmental conscience.

My Great Green Deal training adventure

 

As you may know I’ve always been passionate about creating eco homes – be it new build or finding ways to make the homes we live in fit for the future. So when the opportunity came up to train and qualify as a Domestic energy Assessor and Green Deal Assessor, well i jumped at it. If you hadn’t heard of the Green Deal, it’s a Government-backed programme to help people save money on their bills by making their homes more energy efficient.
 
An Assessor will come to your home to assess its performance, talk to you about your energy use and provide you with a tailor made list of energy efficiency measures that will help you heat your home for less.
 
So I’m now two days into my training and what strikes me is just how little most of us know about the efficiency of our homes. Think about it – every year we get our cars assessed in an MOT, making them safer and more efficient, but when was the last time you had a trained professional pop round and give your home the same treatment? With roughly equivalent running costs, wouldn’t you want to be put in the driving seat of how much your home’s utility bills cost you?
 
My training is taking me through this thorough assessment procedure – noting construction types, property age, key heat loss locations, measuring floor areas, logging boiler efficiencies and inspecting electrical appliances – the list goes on! What it all adds up to is a complete picture of how your home is performing now and projecting forward to how much you could save with a number of energy efficient measures installed.
 
But more than just the cost of heating and lighting and inefficient home, not to mention those dreaded carbon emissions, it’s the quality of life that goes with it. Given the choice wouldn’t you rather come home to one that’s warmer, cosier and less draughty?
Making your home more energy efficient can help you create a better home to live in . There are a range of measures you could consider, including loft and wall insulation, a new boiler, heating controls, double glazing, draught exclusion and energy efficient lighting.
 
And the most important step you can take? Well that’s simple – just start by getting a Green Deal Assessment for your home. The sooner you do it the sooner you’ll be to getting a better, warmer, more efficient home to live in.
 
Find out more at www.gov.uk/greendeal or call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0203 123 1234 

To DIY for – does the world of DIY need fixing?

 

I grew up in an era where we were a nation of inventors, do-ers and makers – and the DIY skills that I learnt from my father are still serving me well today. But it seems that this trend for skills being shared and passed down may itself need a little TLC. Statistics show that the DIY sector shrank by over a fifth from 2008 to 2013. Now that’s a lot! – so what’s been going on?

 – A reduction in home ownership. The average age of the unassisted first-time buyer has risen to 33– We’re living in own properties for less time, so there’s there’s less of an incentive or ability to fix and maintain our homes which are often temporary, or belong to someone else.

 – A rise in cheap disposable homeware and furniture and other cheap objects which aren’t worth repairing so get thrown away. They’re weak and often not designed to be fixed.

 – The weather! Last year had unpredictable weather for Britain. Spring always brings a boost in home improvement – but difference between a sunny or a rainy March can mean a huge difference in sales at popular DIY stores.

 – The battle for our attention: Sunday mornings  used to be a time for DIY round the house – with just  three or four TV channels showing dull entertainment or Songs of Praise. Those same Sunday mornings that my Dad would teach me DIY have now been grabbed by gaming, tablets, streaming tv and social networking. We’ve lost quiet time, a time when DIY might have been a natural fill in activity.

And yet retailers such as B&Q, are optimistic. The sector is expected to pick up, alongside the rest of the economy, next year. Plus, sitting in the new connected world of smart materials and technology, it’ll be a new DIY that’s better and smarter than ever.

Fixed! Not thrown away, using SUGRU.

Fixed! Not thrown away, using SUGRU.

 

That’s a good thing, of course. You might think, being a designer and an architect, that I’d rather you had someone come in and do-it-for-you (DFM- that’s a real acronym by the way!) Good design is not just about owning beautiful objects. It’s also owning functional pieces, and I would argue that an essential component of any good object is that it can be fixed, adapted, repaired and recycled at the end of its life. But we do need the skills, tools and the confidence to do this.

 

Many modern objects aren’t designed to be fixed – they’re designed to be replaced, upgraded, disposed of. But maintaining our homes and our possessions is what really allows us to own and love them – to form stronger, more valuable and richer connections to the environments that we live in.

From painting and decorating, practical skills and upcycling to 3D printing, design and maker faires, the trend for mending and fixing is showing a real revival as I pointed out in my predictions for trends in 2014. There are plenty of opportunities – here are a few groups leading the way:

-Regular readers will have heard me singing about Sugru in these pages recently. It’s a flexible silicone material that allows to repair and modify things. I’ve been combining it with super-strong magnets. Here’s a recent Sugru hack of mine a wall mounted but removable upcycled bottle vase:

I used SUGRU to bond a magnet to the wall, and another to the flower jar.

I used SUGRU to bond a magnet to the wall, and another to the flower jar.

 – Maker Faires and Mini Maker Faires are taking off all over the world and are now in the UK, celebrating all things DIY and craft-related. From 3D printing to welding, amateur radios, remote controlled cars, robots, felt crafts and cooking – there are workshops and exhibitions to inspire you and your kids –  there’s probably one in a city near you too. There’s a map of upcoming Maker Faires all over the world here.

- Repair Cafe allows you to bring in broken items, clothes with holes and wobbly furniture and learn how to fix and mend them. They have tools, materials, books and specialists on hand to help. The aim is that you can repair, alongside other people, possessions instead of throwing them away, and enjoy a cup of tea at the same time.  There are Repair Cafes all over Europe and 9 in the UK – or if you want you can start your own.

The Good Life Centre, a London based and totally inspirational venue running workshops and DIY skills courses at a range of levels. 

Online social networks are also helping us get together and fix things. Initiatives like Streetclubmake it easy to find people on your street or in your neighbourhood and build a sense of community. Being able to share tools helps a great deal – it’s better than buying something expensive for the sake of one job.

 – Of course if you get stuck on almost any DIY job there’s always YouTube. But there are also other handy videos out there and sites like the brilliant Instructables  which have craft contests and instructions for life hacks, DIY and upcycling.

The reality is that getting a few DIY skills under your belt isn’t just a good practical life skill its also enormously satisfying – allowing you to fix , create and adapt rather than add to landfill-  so its good for you, good for you home and hey its even good for the environment.

 

Sustainable design trend predictions for 2014 and beyond…….

Autumn is fading into Winter and 2014 is beckoning – so what can we expect to see in our homes as eco-design whizzes round the sun once more? Without further ado, here are my key trends in sustainable design to watch out for in 2014.

Thinking Smart- Materials and Technology

The very fabric of our homes are set to get smarter, with floors and walls that can regulate temperature and even generate electricity. Some of this technology is already pointing the way forwards and supports this key trend to connecting us with the space around us.

British Gas Hive App

British Gas Hive App

First up the British Gas Hive smart control unit connects your heating and hot water to the internet so you can control them from your phone or tablet. You can save energy and save money by only heating your home when you need to, so you’re always in control.

DuPont Energain panels line the walls of your home  and maintain a even out temperature fluctuations. They use a special type of paraffin which stays solid below 18 degrees C. , but as the space warms to 22 degrees,  it melts into a liquid and absorbs heat, preventing a spike in temperature. As the room cools down at night, the material resolidifies, releasing heat in the process. It makes the temperature of the space more stable, bringing extra comfort, while simultaneously saving energy and C02 emissions.
Transparent solar panels are a great innovation allowing you to generate energy while creating beautiful spaces of natural light. The technology allows in natural light, filtering out UV rays and infrared, and has insulating properties so making skylights and conservatory’s be even more functional in the future.

Pavegen harnesses energy from your footsteps and turns it into electricity. These smart paving tiles which can be put in or outdoors generate enough power for lighting and signage, and can send data to your phone to tell you when someone’s treading on them.

Connectivity – Sharing Communities and the Circular Economy

Being digitally connected will provide the opportunity to be more efficient by sharing and pooling resources and further enable communities to support each other and reduce their environmental impact. So who’s doing good stuff ?

Streetclub

Streetclub brings neighbourhoods together

Already, Streetclublets you create an online community around your street, so you can organise events, share tools and help each other with a private online noticeboard for you and your neighbours.

FixMyStreet.com connects you with your local council, allowing you to report problems such as broken roads, pavements, signs, flytipping or littering, talk about how to solve them with your community and have the council fix it in a transparent online forum.

When you’re ready to leave the house, BlaBlaCar is a journey sharing website with an easy-to-use interface that lets you offer lifts or hitch rides with other people in exchange for paying a share of the fuel costs. It makes your journeys cheaper, more efficient and more interesting, and is of course cleared with the insurance companies.

Maker’s Mark – Rise of the Fixer Makers Hackers movement

Hacktivism, hackdays, maker faires – cobbled together technology is reviving the British hobbyist tradition for the tech-savvy. The new objects are being made to last, counteracting throwaway culture and making people feel connected with the objects around them. An object you’ve personalised, interacted with and adapted is an object you wont want to get rid of so will last longer.

SUGRU

SUGRU is a fun way to fix things. It’s a self-setting rubber –you can mould it like plasticene and it will set and bond to surfaces.  It can be used for all sorts of things from insulating broken cables on chargers, to replacing buttons, grips, patching holes and fixing kitchen appliances. Its waterproof properties and heat resistance make it practical to use around the home. There are plenty of fun ideas on the SUGRU website.

PhoneCube  appeared months ago as a radical concept to design a phone based on bits you could stick together. For example, a better camera if you’re a photographer, a bigger battery if you need it, and it would also mean that you could upgrade parts as you need them instead of ditching the whole phone and replacing it. It’s a bold move, but Motorola have picked it up and are hoping to open up the phone hardware market so that we can all start making and buying our own phone parts.

Hackdays and Maker Faires have been springing up over the world and will continue to bring us innovation in 2014. A hackday gets software developers together, often with partners (such as the NHS Hackday for instance) to motivate each other, create solutions and build new projects. Likewise, the Maker Faires, originally organised by a magazine to promote arts, craft and DIY, are going global. Mini-maker faires now happen in UK cities such as Brighton and Bristol, with the official Maker Faire in Newcastle.

Transport – Bikes, Cars and Luxury Cars

Safer cycling is crucial for modern cities. Innovations in cycling have never been more welcome for those looking to save money, live sustainably, get exercise and improve their health. Invisible helmets and smart bike wheels are just the start. Cycle superhighways and regulations to keep bikes and trucks apart could be the future.

Vauxhall Ampera

Vauxhall Ampera

16.7 million of us rely on the car to get to work every day in England and Wales – and we’re paying much more for fuel than we were a decade ago. Now is the time then, to switch to electric.  You can benefit from a free electric vehicle charging point package which gets you safe and secure charging point installed in or outside your home, plus access to a network of over 1800 charging points across the UK. I’m a big fan and a driver of the Vauxhall Ampera extended range vehicle – freeing me from petrol stations with over 200MPG.

Low carbon transport is one initiative that the government is getting behind with a current offer to fit any house with a driveway with a free electric car charging point ….. for a limited time period only….!

ECO Refurbishment. 70% of today’s buildings will standing in 36 years time, according to EcoBuild, so we need to find ways to make them fit for the future. The Green Deal provides insulation and other energy-saving measures through renovation and reurbishment, and it’s Golden Rule means that these measures will pay for themselves through reduced energy bills. It’s had a slow start but is now starting to pick up with lots of people getting assessments to see where they can improve their house’s efficiency. Check out my blog post about the Green Deal here.

Style

Trend spotters may have been expecting me to talk about the latest soft furnishing, drapes and cushions, so if you’re minded for interior design I feel duty-bound to inform you that the colour of 2014 is set to be, well,  split between Radiant Orchid and Teal – depnding on who you decide to trust – the folks at Pantone or ColourFutures .  Both lovely colours in their own right, so please do go ahead and use them with my blessing.

 

 

The Green Deal – the benefits and the barriers for future eco homes.

It’s difficult to dispute the fact that refurbishing your home by insulating, draught proofing and fitting new heating and hot water systems can certainly save on your bills, but the short-term upfront costs of products and installation seem to be putting off many householders.

The government-backed Green Deal scheme, launched in January this year, could be the game changer- allowing home-owners to refurbish their homes whilst off setting the costs through the money saving changes to their electricity bills. Whilst there can be a £100 one off assessment fee the scheme allows you to install many energy efficient measures , but the uptake has been reportedly low.

Loft Insulation

What is unusual about the Green deal is that the scheme  allows money to be loaned on the home not the home owner, then paid back by savings made to your electricity bill. The Golden Rule (as it is officially called) is that the costs to changes  must be less than the savings you get from the improvements over an agreed period of time. In other words, the improvements pay for themselves and you’re protected from higher bills as a result of carrying out home improvements.

45 different improvements are currently eligible for the Green Deal, and the market is vast. Considering home insulation alone, almost 8 million homes could benefit from solid wall insulation, around 4 million homes from cavity wall insulation; whilst there are over a million boiler replacements in homes each year.

 

Improvements

So given the opportunity of a warmer home and lower energy bills, why is the uptake so low?

Well firstly – it’s early days – so perhaps it’s just the early adopters who are getting on board as the scheme begins to take off. So far 219 households have had improvements carried out under the scheme, of 1,173 which are currently in the process of completing on it.

That might sound low, but the number of Green Deal Assessments has been much higher, which means people are keen to improve on energy efficiency. Last month 16,674 assessments took place, bringing the total up to 101,851. These are people who have had an impartial accredited adviser look for energy improvement opportunities in their home. In many cases they are carried out, though not necessarily through the Green Deal financing scheme.

 

Most people get work done after the assessment is carried out.

A sample of households asked what they had done or intended to do after their assessment. 56 percent of people had something installed.

 

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239969/Green_Deal_assessment_research_wave_2_summary_report.pdf

Secondly, many are fixated on the short term cost rather than the long term savings. Not only will you start saving immediately, you will also be protecting yourself to future price hikes in energy costs – a fact that seems an inevitable annual activity. The Green Deal is a way of adding  energy-saving features and increasing comfort levels to your home with minimal upfront cost, and making savings into the future.

 

My home with external insulation on the front.

In fact, I believe insulation is more effective than many give it credit it for. Having insulated the loft, walls, and under the floor, my own home looses significantly less than most . Overnight my heating is left off for nine hours, losing only between 1.5-2 degrees Celsius of heat, meaning it takes less energy to warm itself up again in the morning.
Living in a home that’s warm, dry and draught free when you wake up in the morning, that’s filled with natural light in the daytime is an important part of creating a happy,  healthy homes to live in – it’s a part of living well.

Perhaps what sceptics of insulated draught fee homes should do is go visit one for them selves, and my own like 174 others open regularly for eco home tours as part of the Old Home Super Home group – first hand experience  and impartial  advice is enormously powerful.

 

Vaillant VRT 50 digital temperature control thermostat

 

If you’re thinking about improving your home and want to get more information about the Green Deal there is useful information on the government’s own website and lots of useful information on uSwitch as well.

Designing eco homes inspired by nature- for happier & healthier places to live

The BBC Science and environment site recently identified that the correlation between access to green spaces and well-being is becoming increasingly important and as a means to cut billions for the NHS. The Woodland Trust’s chief executive, Sue Holden stated “It is a connection that we know intrinsically, we believe it to be true but increasingly it is something that evidence is backing up as well.”

Being able to increase health and happiness through design is something that I have always been passionate about. The term is known as ‘Biophilic Design’, and it’s becoming increasingly  popular for clients who appreciate the impact that technology is having in distancing our lives and homes from nature, and the numerous benefits that it can bring to our lives.

Living room 1

Simply put Biophilic design for the home can be summarised under four points

–   Improving views onto nature – being able to see nature from your home, be it plants, trees, and vistas.

–    Maximising natural light flooding into your home – it can be as simple as keeping your windows clean to maximise  light to fitting roof lights.

–    Safe spaces to retreat into – having a cosy lounge or bedroom that you feel safe and comfortable in

–    Natural materials, textures and patterns – incorporating nature in a sensory way, using natural materials and even images of nature can have a calming impact.

249-Velux-window-shutters1

 

Increasing the natural light in your home is a simple but really important way of bringing a little bit of nature into your home or office space. Velux windows and skylights allow natural sunlight to flood into what would be t dark  spaces. VELFAC windows and doors are another alternative, constructed to be energy efficient whilst integral frames and mullions minimise obstructions . If you’re fitting new windows and doors (and planning permits it!) then maximise wherever you can.

surfaceview-2-630x286

If views out onto nature simply aren’t an option, then opt for large scale digitally printed wallpapers which can be enormously convincing, particularly if you get the lighting right. Surface View provides a wide selection of beautiful made to measure murals for your home. Combine them with roof light allowing natural light to bring them to life or carefully positioned LED down lighters for night time calm and viewing delight.

woolly pocket

Plants are an essential element for the biophilic home. Not only  will they help remove toxins and purify the air they add a vital and dynamic quality to spaces. If you don’t have table or shelf space then the innovative company Woolly Pocket may have the answer with cost effective and stunning ways of bringing nature onto every wall surface that you desire – they even supply an automated self watering system to help you keep plants alive.

 

Rear

Creating safe spaces to retreat back into is a combination of careful furniture positioning, intimate lighting and welcoming wall surfaces – be they paint, wall papers or timber cladding. its a chance to get creative and homely with your interior design skills- think “layering right  into the details” of cushions, throws and soft textiles to make the ultimate safe space. See how i’ve achieved this in my own home in the new book Modern Rustic by Ryland Peters and Small

Being able to reconnect with the natural world should’nt be an added extra but an essential ingredient of every space we inhabit . Connecting with nature will bring benefits to mood, sleep patterns, health and happiness,  – improving our psychological and physiological well being – what’s not to love?

 

Getting light right- the essential ingredient to happier healthier homes this winter

When the clocks go back, heralding the official start of winter, it reminds us how the light in our homes is an essential factor contributing to our individual happiness. In fact many of us suffer a dip in mood and energy at this time of year, with 7% of us suffering from Seasonal Adjustment Disorder, SAD, which can result in depression, problems with sleeping and even overeating.

So perhaps its time for us to consider how best to bring natural light in to the home by day and find creative solutions to using artificial light by night – bringing energy, warmth and happiness into our homes through the darker winter months.

Harnessing natural light within our homes is not only beneficial for our health, but also our bank balance. The average home has 35 electric lights, if each were turned on by just 5 minutes less each day, it is the equivalent of saving one bulbs energy usage for over forty solid days and nights! so these little saving really can ad up.

There are a number of ways that we can optimise the amount of natural light that falls into our homes. Decorate your house using  Dulux Light and Space  which uses Lumitec  providing twice the reflectance of conventional paints, meaning that more light gets reflected back into the room, requiring less  artificial light.

Alternatively why not simply consider over simply extending curtain poles to allow drapes to be pulled right back and not obscure any natural light pouring in. or even use pictures or mirrors to reflect and bounce light into the deeper recesses of your rooms.

Philips Hue Lighting

 

But when the sun goes down and night falls one way or another its going to be time to turn on the lights. Using the app controlled and colour changing Philips Hue light bulbs is one of my favourite ways to bring a bit of creative happiness into the home. Adjustable to suit any mood, I am yet to find someone that isn’t enticed by the idea of having a complete spectrum of colour within one bulb.

ecomproductimages-image-3856

Natural light is essential to maintaining the body’s circadian rythyms, which can affect sleep and energy levels. The light of a Bodyclock by Lumie can help to reset the body’s natural rhythms to suit the working day better. waking you in the morning with a gradual bright light. Manufacturers claim that they will not only help you to feel more awake in the morning but also  lift your mood, energy and productivity all day, and help you to feel ready for sleep when it’s time for bed.

wood burning stove

 

It may not surprise you that the visual and physical warmth that comes from a flickering flame is a great way to create the heart to a home. This could come from an artificial source such as a string of fairy lights carefully positioned in a frosted glass jar but may bet best delivered from a wood burning stove – creating an efficient low carbon source of heat and light- plus a focal point to the room. the only problem is – who gets to sit closest!

 

Natural light provides our body with vitamin D, which is important to maintain healthy bones. It also lifts our mood, helps to alleviate depression and makes us happier people to be around. So make the most of the daylight this winter, and when the lights go down remember that there are so many ways to stay happy and healthy till the first shoots of spring start to reappear.

 

 

Eco homes need to get Smart – make your home Better with smart materials, products and technologies

As a designer I’m seeing a wide range of so called “Smart” products and materials that are enhancing our lives and our homes, coming onto the market – some are with us now and some are emerging technologies. Not simply the never ending stream of connected consumer electronics and IT items but also others such as materials and products – offering “smart benefits”  beyond their conventional counterparts.

I recently spoke about Smart Homes at the National Home Improvement Show as an  emerging trend, so i thought id share a summary of some of the amazing products available to regenerate your home into a smarter and better  place to live, including  how to get more from every surface, every product and material in your home using ‘smart’ materials; finding out how smart technologies, materials and ways of designing will help you make your home more efficient, warmer, and cheaper to run; learning why a smart home is a better home and psychologically a better space to live in.

 

First up  – Smart energy meters  are set to create the next  revolution in the way UK home owners perceive energy use. Using a hand held energy monitor they give consumers real time  feedback  on what gas and electricity they use and personalized billing, not estimates on your use. this means that you can compare the difference between the cost of taking a shower vs having a bath, or leaving your heating on over night or switching it off. Genius but so simple really!

The roll out of smart meters are part of the UK Governments program to upgrade all meters across the UK by 2020, but are already being released by energy providers such as British Gas who have installed over 400,00.

 

 

Remote control systems are also set to joining the energy revolutionaries, such as the ‘Hive’ by British Gas which will allow users to be in constant  control of their heating via a smart phone app. This system will allow for flexibility in routine, avoiding extra heating bills and making life much more comfortable, cheaper and convenient. it could save you £150 a year in saved energy bills.

the hive

Ever since we first moved out of caves our roofs have provided shelter from wind and rain, but they could do so much more for us – they could be a power station for all our energy needs . Photovoltaic panels are becoming ever more popular because of rising energy costs and the feed in tariff incentives from the government.

So not only will you get paid to create energy, you can effectively use electricity in the daytime for free plus you get paid to send excess energy back into the grid. Currently the return on investment for panels still stands at around 12%. But if you can find a way to store that unused energy it could be doing all sorts of other things. I store mine in my Vauxhall Ampera electric car which has effectively given me thousand of miles of driving for free! Now that’s smart!

car pv

 

 

Floors are normally an overlooked power-source, but these new floor tiles aim to change that. Every time someone walks over a Pavegen tile, renewable energy is harvested from the footstep. The technology converts the kinetic energy to electricity which can be stored and used for a variety of applications.

The energy harvested by the Pavegen tile can immediately power off-grid applications such as pedestrian lighting, way-finding solutions and advertising signage or be stored in a battery. While they are currently better suited to commercial situations, and why shouldn’t  this technology being introduced into domestic homes such as kinetic stairs in the not too distant future.

pavegen

Ventilation within our homes can  make a big difference to creating a healthy space to live in. It can help reduce damp in bathrooms, and allergies that can be agitated by stale air. The Ventive system has been designed to be retrofitted into the majority of the UK housing stock through the existing chimney.

 

ventilation

The device allows hot stale air to rise through ducting installed inside the chimney cavity through a single hole installed above any disused fireplace.

This air passes through a heat exchanger and loses its heat to incoming fresh air which drops down through the heat exchanger

This enters the room pre-warmed through another grille.

On top of the heat exchanger is a specially designed roof cowl which serves to capture the wind to add to the driving force of the device.

Dupont Energain is a phase change material which regulates temperature variations in buildings.This is a new and easy way to improve the efficiency of old and new low thermal mass buildings (such as all glass or timber frame spaces). It contains a paraffin wax compound that changes from a liquid to a solid depending on temperature. It is also very thin so it can be easily added onto existing walls and insulation. Cleverly it:

  • Absorbs heat and slows down temp increase by up to 7 degrees increasing comfort and reducing the need additional cooling
  • At 22 degrees they absorb heat and the wax gel inside changes from a solid to a liquid
  • At 18 degree it changes back (solidifies) and the walls release heat back into the room

phase change

 

Decorating your house using smart paints can be a brilliantly simple way of improving comfort and reducing your energy bills. Dulux Light and Space uses Lumitec which provides twice the reflectance of conventional paints, meaning that you wont need to turn on the light as much.

So consider this – the average house has 32 lights. If you can reduce the amount of time that they are on by 5 minutes a day – that amounts to a single light bulb being left on for 40 days!

nano dulux

NUTSHELL Nano Emulsion uses nano technology to keep rooms warm. Using billions of tiny glass spheres it has a thermal radiation reflectance, and insulative quality which helps its ability to resist heat transfer and keep rooms warm. This contributes to the protection of interior or exterior painted surfaces and the energy efficiency of buildings.

 

philips hue

Lastly, even something as simple as the Philips Hue app controlled colour changing light bulbs can make a real difference to the mood and atmosphere of your home – making it a more comfortable and enjoyable space to live in. These smart Hue bulbs have some great benefits, such as:

  • can be controlled by smart phones or tablets
  • Dim and set moods or create an active energetic atmosphere
  • Colour picker allows you to choose colours from photos or colour palette
  • Security function allows you to turn on lights when you’re not at home
  • 80% less energy use than a traditional bulb
  • the timer setting can even wake you up with a gentle morning light

For many of us the home hasn’t evolved at the same pace as the technology encased in their phones.

But now we are seeing real increases in materials and products that enhance our homes, making them healthier, more efficient, easier to control, warmer and more comfortable.

If you’re improving your home, small additions can often amount to big savings, so take a closer look at how smart materials and products can make your home a better place to live.

 

London Design Festival my pick of the best eco homes products

Following on from my pick of the lighting at London Design Festival 2013, here is my favourites from the rest of the show, including classic furniture, innovative textiles and forward-thinking design services.

Hush

HUSH by Freyja Sewell provides a personal retreat, a luxurious escape into a dark, natural space in the midst of a busy hotel, airport, office or library. HUSH provides a quiet space in an age of exponential population growth, where privacy and peaceful respite is an increasingly precious commodity.

the vamp

The Vamp transforms an old traditional speaker into a portable Bluetooth speaker allowing it to be used in the house, garden or park. It allows us to retain the craftsmanship and quality of well-made speakers whilst embracing new wireless technology. Paul Cocksedge, the creator says: “For me, reusing perfectly good technology makes sense. Hearing the rich sound coming out of these older speakers in a new way is a delight. They are a part of our music history.”

iMakr Store

iMakr operates the world largest 3D Printing store in central London. The store sells best-in-class 3D Printers, 3D Scanners, Filaments, Finishing solutions and 3D Printed objects. The iMakr Store also offers a 3D scan yourself service, 3D print on demand, as well as training, classes, workshops and demonstrations. If you’ve already got your own 3D printer then there’s myminifactory where they provide a wide range of free design for you to download, and if they don’t have what you’re looking for they’ll design it for you.

cross stisch

Charlotte Lancelot, designer for Gan Rugs is the creator of these beautiful cross-stitch home accessories. Fuelled by the idea of designing with leftovers the Canevas collection was born. The perforated felt strips are the waste material when making tablets to protect the floor from furniture scratches. Waste can be made into highly desirable items.

BA3 Race

Race furniture was founded straight after the Second World War under the design direction of Ernest Race. At the time companies were being encouraged to work with alternative materials to preserve the countries limited resources and other scarce commodities. The BA3 chair was made with re-cast aluminium from redundant British warplanes. The upholstery was often made from parachute silk. Race furniture remains an enviable name due to its timeless design, making it a great addition to the London Design Week.

Cork

Granorte was established as a business to specifically develop products from the cork waste that is the by product of the wine cork stoppers manufacturing industry. Keeping the focus on sustainability and design Granorte has developed a wide range of contemporary products, ranging from flooring and wall tiles, to cork dining accessories, lighting and buildable shelving.

The balance between classic and contemporary design throughout the show was great to see. The similarities between old and new are becoming less contrasting as new designers continue to draw influences from the great masters of design and quality durable and natural materials.

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Lighting Up London (Design Festival) – low energy eco lighting shines out

Each year the London Design Festival showcases the best ingenious thinking and creativity from across the UK.

Perhaps I am a little like a moth always being  drawn to brilliant lighting solutions.

Lighting is a powerful tool, its one of the easiest, most cost effective ways to have real impact in the home affecting how you live, work,  rest and yes even your health. Of course we cant think about future lighting options without considering low energy systems, natural materials and reuse. So here is my pick of the innovative lighting that I saw, loved and had to share with you from this years festival.

As you may know by now- im fascinated by future homes and how we bring nature to them, so first up is this innovative kitchen herb growing led lighting system.

bulbo lights

Bulbo designs and produces this highly innovative, beautifully crafted and easy to use LED lamps for growing vegetables, herbs and flowers. The lamps combine functionality and advanced technology to create a carefully controlled solution for growing herbs in the kitchen. The prices seemed affordable too.

Western Trash Lights

Don’t let the name fool you: WesternTrash is waste-neutral and 100% sustainable lighting design company that uses, you guessed it old bottles to create these stunning lights. The materials are either up-cycled or recyclable, the packaging is reusable, and bottles are sourced locally in Berlin. It’s about taking trash out of the system without putting any back. Up-cycled objects aren’t always a second option, I would rather have one of these pendants than a new glass shade any day.

woodstar lighting

These architectural lights utilise the captivating translucence of different wood veneers with an elegantly simple way to control the light they emit. Created by Woodstar, the pendant ‘Trinity’ shades are adjustable.  When closed up they create sculptural mood lighting, when opened up they allow a practical quantity of direct light to shine into the room. These shades are fashioned with wood as the inspiration and the material, creating a beautifully natural light source that is reminiscent of a gentle sun glow.

Kinono Lights

Kimono Lamps are  shades handmade in Ireland from upcycled Japanese kimonos. Yes, most were worn by someone in Japan and witnessed special occasions such as tea ceremonies, or weddings, and its some of this history that will imbue your home with a special kind of light. Each lampshade is one of a kind and no two are alike as each lampshade is created with a different Kimono. Even if you don’t know the exact details of its past, having an object in your home with a story can be a great focal point of any room.

jay watson

Jay Watsons, Just Desserts is a cluster of low-energy pendants made from a unique selection of glass dessert bowls. These formally junk shop ‘orphaned’ bowls have been transformed with new purpose as fascinating luminaires. Not only are these lights made from recycled materials, they are also fitted with slim  ultra bright LED lights rated at 75,000 hours.

“Now, rather than being filled with dubious concoctions of tinned fruit and custard, they have been reincarnated and filled with light.” -Jay – I love these and plan to get hold of some to hang as a cluster over my dining table.

I had a great time at the London design festival- its one of those shows where products, materials and ideas stay with you through out the year, guiding and filtering into your work. Im feeling inspired already!