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.

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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.

 

Sunrise

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.

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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!

 

Dusk

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!

London Design Festival here i come …… my pick of 2013

September sees the 10th year of the London Design Festival a citywide celebration of the capital as a global creative hub. With some 300 events taking place across the city over the next week, there is a head-spinning array of sights to take in, Design Junction100% Design , Tent London, and Decorex are just a few of the core venues that make up the Design Festival. Bold installations such as the MC Escher-esque Endless Stair will also feature across the city. You’ll find full listings of what’s going on at londondesignfestival.com.

And if you’d like a unique view of the festival you could jump on my favourite bike manufactururer Tokyo Bikes and go for a cycle tour round the city- sounds fun!

tate modern endless stair

100% Design runs alongside the London Design Festival next week, 100% Design will be divided into 4 clearly defined hubs: Interiors;  and Build; Office and Kitchens and Bathrooms, all in the Earls Court Two venue. But mosty of all im looking forward to the  Eco design section featuring innovative building materials andproducts.

Glancing through the programme many things promise to impress such as these LED panels by Neonny are sure to be an attention grabber. The Moving Sky LED Panel brings the outdoors inside in a different way. The panel is designed as a stimulating way to improve ambience in commercial environments such as offices, hotels and hospitals.

Shenzhen Neonny Technologies - sky LED panels

Part of the London Design Festival at Southbank Centre with Designersblock  has been called The Fifth Element and features a live exhibition of installations in which ‘designtists’, futurologists and dreamers advance the boundaries of design.  Showcasing thirty cutting-edge projects, the exhibition features designers who look to current thought in the sciences, technology, new materials and nature when they create. They make use of very new ideas to deliver products, experiences and services that instigate and anticipate change in our day-to-day landscapes. I can’t wait to visit.

decorex

I will also be attending the London design festival giving a talk on, ‘Sustainable Luxury’ at Decorex International, and giving advice alongside seminars on Creating Happy Homes and the Future of Smart Homes at The National Home Improvement Show. 

London Design Festival is a wide ranging and exciting peek at the current stat of design thinking. Spread across 300 events and exhibitions it’s sure to cover every aspect of design medium no matter how obscure.

Cutting Energy Use – whose responsibility is it anyway?

As thoughts of another cold winter start to loom a new survey reveals that energy costs are high on the list when it comes to worries about household spending. But how does this desire for cheaper energy affect plans to provide greener sources of energy?

A recent survey carried out by ComRes has suggested that people in the UK support clean energy and actually think that the government is not doing enough to support sustainable practices. But contrary to this in times of economic difficulty, people say cheap energy is more important than reducing emissions.

So do we have to choose between the two?

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The survey, showed broad support for clean, “green” energy sources. In fact more than 60% of people thought that the government was “not green enough when it comes to energy policy”, while only 36% stated that they are not bothered by where their energy comes from. The survey also found that…

  • 75% believe the UK’s energy costs are unreasonable
  •  69% said the firms should be nationalised.
  • 84% would welcome more solar panels in their area – the prospect of reducing energy prices was also important.
  • 67% of people said they would support more coal, oil and gas stations being built in the UK if it brought energy prices down.
  • 38% of those surveyed said they were concerned about how they will pay for their heating bills.

 

However, in times of economic difficulty, 60% said that it is more important to provide power as cheaply as possible than to reduce carbon emissions. Strangely it seems that home owners are not taking personal responsibility in cutting energy use, instead expecting lower bills via energy supplier or government intervention. Clearly we as a British public are resource dis empowered.

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Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint said in an interview with BBC Radio 5 live that the government’s energy strategy was a “disgrace”. She says the governments own figures on the fuel poverty gap – the difference between what households with high energy bills pay out for gas and electricity and the official poverty line – show it has increased by more than 12% in the last two years.

energy prices

 

A lot of the blame regarding price inflation is pointed towards the government. Can we really say that energy prices are for the government alone to fix? Can we help take a stand against big energy companies? Or is there more that we can do as individuals and communities? The first thing worth doing is uniting your own community, and what better way to do it than online, i’ve recently set up my own Street Club to do just that.

In 2011, New Era Colorado fronted a campaign in Boulder, Colorado and approved a charter amendment that authorized the city council to form a municipal electric utility based on renewable, affordable energy, rather than coal. This video shows their small town campaign against a million dollar energy company.

Our local communities may feel dis-empowered to be able to take such a stand, but looking at the ongoing protests against fracking in Balcombe, Sussex proves that we don’t always have to wait for the government before a change can be made. Taking energy solutions into our own hands, working with your neighbours and surrounding community to create efficient heating solutions and home improvement initiatives can help set the precedent for others to follow in the fight against rising energy bills.

Say goodbye fracking, hello eco home mini biodigester

The ongoing protests against oil drilling in the West Sussex village of Balcombe have called many people to assess their view on fracking and its impact on local communities – with many concerned by the environmental impact plus the concerns about water contamination and potential earthquakes. The government meanwhile  seems gripped by an “obsession” with fracking and blind to the greener alternatives currently available. The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, the industry trade body, calculates that a tenth of the UK’s domestic gas needs could be supplied by bio-gas, given the UK’s resources in waste and agricultural products.

anti-fracking campaigners

 

Bio-gas energy is fuelled by burning methane produced by the decomposition of organic wastes. Just about any organic waste can be decomposed as a methane generator – plant (soft material is better than woody material) and animal wastes, and even human waste. At present, according to estimates from the government’s Waste Resource and Action Programme, the UK throws away a shocking 15m tonnes of food waste a year, from homes, industry and retail. Imagine the economic value if this waste were to be converted to energy on a commercial or domestic scale.

Vegetable peelings and food scraps ready for the compost.

 

Leila Deen, energy campaigner at Greenpeace, said: “With the right policies in place, biogas could provide up to half the UK’s domestic heat, reduce landfill and help us achieve our climate change targets. But David Cameron has yet failed to acknowledge biogas’s potential. If his government put half as much effort into incentivising green energy like biogas as it does into foisting fracking on communities that don’t want it, the UK would be well on its way to long term energy security. Biogas would actually help farmers and people in rural communities, rather than incensing them.”

Whilst the goverment looks for ways to press on and ignore popular and local opinion, there are alternatives. In the short term it could be down to the domestic home to demonstrate how efficient biogas conversion can be. While the area is still being explored there are several options beginning to emerge that could revolutionise sustainable living.

kitchen biomass

Thought up by designer Lee Angie, the ingenious Revive Waste Receptacle (above) is an intelligent design concept thatcould encourage more people to take food waste recycling seriously. It’s not just about turning leftovers into compost because this device uses the hummus created by decaying kitchen scraps and extracts the biomass energy, creating electricity out of the methane. A free and simple way to charge phones and gadgets, this concept will promote food waste recycling and demonstrate the rationality behind using more natural and sustainable energy sources.

While commercially available products are not yet widely offered, people across the world have been creating their own DIY biogas digesters and the internet full of open source designs  to help anyone wanting to give it a go. Instructables offers an almost unmatchable step by step guide on producing your own mini bio-digester. And Small Farm is also a valuable resource that explores the  pros and cons of a DIY methane generator.

biogas diagram

Not only is it down to domestic food waste as around 90 million tonnes of animal waste are produced in the UK each year, only a tiny portion of which is used for energy production. Sewage treatment plants are also overlooked. Bio-gas could be poured into the national gas grid and used for heating homes, burned to generate electricity, or used in specially adapted vehicles.

So while we wait for the government to remmber that they once promised to be the greenest government ever, we need to implement the use of bio-gas within our own homes, and lead by example by demonstrating that localised renewable alternatives are available; alternatives that wont risk the contamination of water sources or localised earthquakes. When its put that way, is there really any competition here?

 

Is technology and social media impacting on our social lives at home?

It seems that our domestic social lives have been making the headlines over the last few weeks with the impact of smart phones, tablets and mobile devices at the root of these changes – both good and bad, depending on your view point. Recent research by the National Literacy Trust shows having set mealtimes with the whole family will boost a child’s confidence and communication skills. Spend some quality time with your kids then a 10-minute tablet or screen session won’t seem like such a crime; but to do this design plays a key role in prioritising space that quality time can happen in – at the heart of the home.

The affect of social media and smart-phones on children isn’t often considered, but they are growing up amid a sea of electronic media. It’s important for parents to consider how this may impact social life, development, academics, adjustment, and how parents can serve as a buffer from some of the potential negative consequences.

children with tablets

It is important for educators and parents to think twice before allowing kids to play on their tablets. These attention grabbing  gadgets should be taken seriously and are not to be used as “digital babysitters”. Children should still ideally learn through face-to-face interaction and use their own imagination instead of playing ‘Angry Birds‘. If you absolutely have to keep your child happy during a long holiday flight, make sure to limit their screen time to a set period and provide them with alternative activities to keep them entertained- remember colouring in books when you were growing up?

parent phone

Smart phones aren’t just an issue for our younger generation, from the dinner table to the bedroom smart phones are never far away.

People view their smartphones as an extension of themselves, and panic sets in when they are separated from their devices, with privacy concerns topping the list. 72 percent said that they’re never usually more than five feet away from their phone. Twelve percent have even taken them into the shower,  while more than half admit to using their phones while behind the wheel, according to a new survey, “Mobile Consumer Habits” commissioned by Jumio Inc.

This smart phone ‘addiction’ could be having a massive impact on our children, with our own behaviour acting as a model for our children. And if we’re constantly on the phone or other smart device, then we are creating a legacy of distracted people raising distracted children.

kids phones

While there are many negative aspects to smartphones and tablets, new research by Ofcom shows that UK families are now more likely to watch TV together  than they have been in over a decade. , the survey of 3,700 over 16s found that far from technology pulling family time apart, it said, the huge growth in smart technology was actually having the opposite effect. Family members are being brought together just as they were in the 1950′s when a TV was likely to be a home’s only screen. “There are a number of factors that are fuelling this – we’re now watching on much bigger, better television sets,” said Jane Rumble, from Ofcom “But also, there’s the rise of connected devices, such as a smartphone or tablet. We’re coming into the living room today clutching those devices, they offer a range of opportunities to do things while we’re watching television.” However the research does show that whilst there most family members now multi-task while sitting in front of the TV- so is there real social value in having a large tv if we sit there multi tasking on additional screens?

modern livingroom

 So perhaps more than ever its important that we talk and interact with our children, tell them stories (i tend to favour rubbish jokes) , go on hikes, jump around, go wild and just have fun. Real face to face time spent with children will go a long way to counteracting the impacts of screen based entertainment, so its essential that as designers that we find ways to making social spaces functional, relevant and essential spaces at the heart of our homes and our lives.

 

Future homes need smart water thinking – starting with bathrooms

Im always on the lookout for surveys and stats that tell us a little more about how we want to live, rather than the way we currently do- they can be a fascinating insight for any designer particularly those interested in the Future Home.

Well this week its bathrooms.

A recent survey of 1500 home owners by bathroom manufacturer  Ideal Standard gave us an interesting insight as to how the great unwashed, will be washed in the future. A few highlights:

  • 29% of us agree that our current bathroom does not have enough storage space
  • 47% would like the bathroom of the future to be more spacious
  • 19% want an adaptable bathroom
  • 32% would like their bathroom to be safer
  • 78% wish they could waste less water
  • 37% would like future bathrooms to be powered by renewable energy
  • 41% of people in the UK use the bathroom as a place to think
  • 25% use it as a place to relax

Quite viably they predict that the future bathroom will remember individual users using intuitive technology to help make the experience easier for the young, elderly and those less able.

They predict (much less viably!) that bathrooms of the future will be mould-able, flexible and adaptable. You will be able to define the shape of the fixtures you require simply by ‘shaping them in the air’ , perhaps…..

 

Bathrooms of the future

However what is clear is that  bathrooms are becoming more sociable spaces- more open, allowing for interaction and relaxation. As we try to fit as much family time as possible in to our hectic lifestyles, the bathroom scene is changing. Seating is a great idea in a bathroom, especially if you have a young family, children’s bath time can be a family event and having seating allows for you to join in comfort, without kneeling over the edge of the bath . . .

 

As we all know technology is rapidly taking over our lives and it’s starting to appear in the bathroom too, perhaps the one place where you thought you could escape it? But perhaps it has some smart benefits particularly  if  it is an an area for monitoring health and well being also. As we mentioned previously Toto have designed a toilet which will monitor your blood pressure, BMI, blood sugar levels and weight. All this data can then be transferred to your computer to be monitored via Wi-Fi.

Today the average person brushes their teeth for only 46 seconds! This toothbrush from Beam and free App for your smartphone helps you to brush your teeth for the recommended two minutes with an easy to use timer and helps you to monitor your oral health. The App comes complete with brushing goals and incentives making it a good idea for children to help them learn. The App also allows for you to play your favourite song while you brush and alerts you when it’s time to change the brush head. The charts produced from the App can be easily sent to your dentist before your check up.

A questionable example of technology taking over is this bath from Brazilian design company Innovative House (Ihouse). The bath allows for you to start it remotely via an App on your Smartphone and then alerting it once it has reached the pre-programmed water level. A warming feature will also keep the water at your desired temperature throughout. But do we really need to turn on our baths on before we’re home, and what happens when it goes a little crazy as we all know technology can?

I’m sure most of us are guilty of singing in the shower and quite a few of us probably even have a radio in the bathroom to sing along to too. This rechargeable battery powered shower head from Kohler Moxie allows for you to combine your radio and shower head in one. It functions via Bluetooth from a device up to 32 feet away and has a 7 hour battery life, when you can simply unscrew the speaker and put in on charge until the next shower.

However, having music playing whilst we shower may lead to us staying under the running water for longer than anticipated. This shower timer from Pebble is a great little device which monitors water going down the plug hole. The product remembers the first shower and then uses this as a benchmark to monitor water flow, it then alerts you via a simple traffic light system flashing from green when you start, through to red when you should finish. Each time you shower the pebble takes a fraction of time off from the previous shower helping you to save water without thinking about it.

Looking further into heat recovery Dutch Solar Systems have created a shower drain heat recovery unit which is able to recycle the heat from drain water into a sustainable source of energy. The system can recover roughly 59% of the heat from your shower water.

Over 60% of the UK is considered to have hard water, which over time can block and scale up water pipes and heating systems, leaving behind a mineral build up and reducing the efficiency of not only your taps and shower heads but importantly your hot water tank. This will most likely lead to the product needing to be serviced or replaced in less time than if it were to be installed a soft water area. Having just had a Kinetico water softener installed at home, the befits are clear particularly on my shower screen which now doesnt need regular cleaning!. It uses the kinetic energy of flowing water to power itself instead of electricity and accurately meters the water to determine when it’s time to regenerate allowing for less waste and greater savings. Also thanks to its compact size it can be installed without taking up lots of space in your bathroom.

As we know plants are important to have around the home to help filter out the harmful off-gases produced from cheaper furniture manufactured from particleboard, often with a waterproof plastic veneer. These tiles from Maruja Fuentes are a great concept; the fish scale shape comes complete with a small pocket, suitable for growing small house plants. An interesting wall feature and air purifier in one.

And lastly we love this product- the interactive mirror from POSH (dodgy acronym though) comes complete with a self-contained multi-touch option. With connections via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet, the mirror has an app store which allows for you to download the latest news whilst you are getting ready in the morning, watch television and check in with your social media sites among many other options.

The future bathroom, so much more than just the smallest room in the house; its a place to relax, splash around, invigorate, check out your health, cut down on resources even spend some quality family time in. its too good an opportunity to waste!