7 THINGS THAT ARCHITECTS MUST CONSIDER TO DESIGN BETTER SMART HOMES

Everything you need to know before designing a smart home

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” - Steve Jobs 

One wouldn’t argue with this nugget of wisdom from a man who reimagined design, ergonomics and style for an entire generation with so much foresight. 

Ask an architect and he/she will share countless episodes in their careers where they have had to fight battles with their clients, impressing upon them the importance of elements that are in play in the background or are passive yet add more utility, functionality and sustainability than meets the eye(so to speak). Simply put - the importance of design in improving functionality simply can’t be overstated and when it comes to home design your architect knows best.

You are probably wondering if we then got the headline to this article wrong. If they are truly infallible, then is this just conjecture? Well in this particular case, we’d call it more oversight than mistakes. Read on. 

Let's Talk Automation

Smart home automation, when implemented right, is the means by which dwelling spaces can be converted into an abode of convenience, comfort and luxury. The technologies used have evolved rapidly, over time becoming more energy, cost and time-efficient thereby putting these features within the reach of every aspiring homeowner.

For an architect, however, the challenge in implementing smart home automation into their designs is multifold. 

  • They need to keep up with these rapidly changing  advancements to make them relevant in their designs. 
  • They need to educate the end-user(their clients) on the advantages and to look beyond the costs.
  • They also need to find the right solution providers to help design and execute the project side-by-side. 

All things considered, it’s only understandable if at times they miss out on some key facets. That’s where we think these 7 pointers could help. 


A smart home controlled with the Toyama WizHom app

1. Well Begun is Half Done

Introducing smart home automation at the very outset of the design cycle is paramount. Remembering that these solutions are best introduced in a newly constructed home or one that is undergoing a major renovation is key. Architects often leave this for the end while discussing the engineering aspects of the project and end up presenting this as an optional feature that is a “value add”. Instead, a discerning architect would cover all the benefits of home automation in detail, helping clients make informed decisions. Starting in the beginning also allows for the right budgeting strategy to accommodate the implementation of home automation technology.

2. Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Many a time architects are wary of the seemingly high costs to the client while suggesting home automation. When presented this way, the idea is half dead on arrival. While it is necessary to keep the best interests of the client at heart, it is also important to understand how smart home automation can significantly reduce the overall costs of ownership over the lifetime of the home. It’s key to share insights into the energy efficiencies of these systems and long-term sustainability. Add to these the low maintenance costs and savings on replacements(stemming from minimal mechanical moving parts and low wear and tear) and you’ve got yourself a solution that is actually saving more than it costs in the long run. 

Often, half the apprehensions disappear when an approximate cost is presented as a % of the overall costs alongside a rough estimation of how much they stand to save in the future. Homeowners are already attuned to making smart decisions that factor in long term savings, all they need is the right information presented the right way. 

3. The Proof is in the Pudding

Arrange for demos and let the client experience the technology. This is a major step in helping build trust. The fear of the unknown can be unsettling and no amount of theory can convince homeowners about the astounding level of practicality that smart home automation can bring to their homes. 

Moreover, it’s almost magical! Architects often underestimate the ‘wow’ factor that comes with home automation. Pushing a button on a space-age-like glass panel and watching the curtains open up or speaking to a home assistant to turn on the appliances in a room is bound to kindle childlike wonder, especially amongst tech-savvy Millennials. Partnering with the right experts in providing these demos goes a long way in getting clients excited about smart home automation.

4. Play to the Gallery

Sometimes architects tend to forget that there is no one solution that fits all, as is the case with smart home automation. Understanding the needs, age groups, disabilities(if any) of the occupants alongside the shortcomings of their current homes is key to finding the right solution for clients. An enthusiastic client might want to go all out and automate everything from his coffee machine to a hairdryer. This would drive up costs, unnecessarily guzzling up money on frivolities. It's important to help clients walk the fine line between utility and luxury and this is something only architects can do. Many a time clients will be thankful in hindsight when architects have helped clearly define their needs and find the right balances. 

A good example of this would be in the case when occupants are elderly. Even in a single-storied villa residence the ordeal of having to go from room to room, garage and then drive-way to turn off lights, fans etc before retiring to bed can be taxing. Here a programmed scene panel with voice automation that can do all of this at once(and more) can work wonders and save a great deal of time and effort. Looking at situations subjectively and then factoring all such aspects can help prioritize applications to work within budgets. 

5. The Future is Now

While taking into factor initial costs at the time of construction it’s important to account for needs that may arise in the future. The number of appliances(commonly referred to as nodes) that require to be on the automated grid may grow with time and use. The systems adopted must be nimble and flexible enough to accommodate the requirements of the future, thereby avoiding restructuring and rework of the solution in order to add capacity. Architects play a key role here as they are in the best position to understand current limitations and look beyond. Often due to the marginally higher cost implications and lack of foresight and/or information, architects tend to avoid/miss this during design. 

6. Analysis-Paralysis

In a bid to offload the hard job of decision-making and the liabilities that come with them, architects tend to merely suggest the idea of home automation to the client and not go all the way. Clients thereon do their own homework and set off on long winding expeditions to find these solution providers, analyze the technology stack they provide, compare costs etc. While this may be an enlightening experience for some, most clients would be left dazed with the information overload and towards the end, none the wiser. Clients would rather just trust in the better judgment of the architect here.

Architects need to act as a conduit to the right resources and contacts, presenting all the relevant options and solutions available in the market. Moreover, they should be in a position to leverage their long fostered relationships with solution providers to get better deals and offerings thereby making the adoption smooth and hassle-free. A three-way (client-architect-provider) trust matrix is a huge enabler. 

7. It Takes Both Sides to Build a Bridge

The first step to tackling the previous problem is finding the right partner to collaborate with. While home automation in India is not a crowded space that doesn’t speak to the specialization of all the players. When it comes to providing end-to-end solutions including design, product range, on-site execution and service guarantees -  expertise is key and experience is rare. Architects tend to miss out on a little homework that can go a long way in finding the right partners. 

Working with reputed solution providers and building a working relationship in the long run can help architects gain a competitive advantage. Home automation experts also tend to understand the working styles of the architect over time and this can help build strong synergies ultimately benefiting the project and client. This also allows for an exposure to the full spectrum of the provider's product range and features. 

At the end of the day, you are relying on your partner to make you look good in the eyes of your client. While finding all the right traits might seem like a tall order, help is closer than you think. 

We at Toyama Controls strive towards  building partnerships based on trust and transparency. With an in-house project team of experts and certified technicians we go through great efforts to deliver on all our promises. A modern, elegant and customisable line of products backed by state of the technology, smart home solutions from Toyama won't fail to impress, we promise.