Toyin-Ann Yerifor on Passive Houses

Green building concepts have come a long way. As architects, designers, and builders gain access to better tools that help push the limits of construction energy efficiency; we see longer strides made towards more mainstream adoption of green building standards. One such standard that is coming of age is passive houses. The concept of passive houses was first mooted in the early eighties when the idea of green building was still in its infancy. Today, the concept is well entrenched with over 25,000 houses and buildings across the world qualifying as passive houses.

Image Source: https://www.habitechsystems.com.au/passive-house

We recently caught up with Toyin-Ann Yerifor, an architectural consultant focused on exploring new and innovative ways to design with reduced impact on the environment to explain what passive houses are and their benefits. She holds an MSc in Architecture (AEES) from the University of East London, an MBA from the University of Northampton and an MSc in Computer Science and Engineering from the Université Grenoble Alpes.

What is a Passive House?

First, what is a passive house? Toyin-Ann explains: A passive house is any building that adheres to rigorous energy efficiency standards. The term passive comes from the fact that the building’s energy efficiency comes from its passive structures, which include the roof, walls, windows, doors, and floor. By radically improving the building’s insulation and energy conservation features, it is possible to reduce its heating requirements by up to ninety percent. As such, passive housing as a standard is focused on helping reduce the energy requirements of buildings through insulation, and by extension, their overall energy footprint.

When you reduce a building’s energy footprint, says Toyin-Ann, several benefits accrue, including environmental, health, and cost efficiency benefits.

Environmental Benefits of Passive Houses

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “energy efficiency is the first fuel of a sustainable global energy system. It can mitigate climate change, improve energy security, and grow economies while delivering environmental and social benefits.” Passive houses deliver on this mandate superbly, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor. One of the biggest challenges traditional buildings face is energy loss. When a building easily loses energy in the form of heat, it takes burning more fuel to heat the building. When this happens, overall energy consumption goes up, which is bad for the environment because a major portion of heat generation comes from burning fossil fuels. When buildings are radically energy efficient, on the other hand, less energy is required, and so fewer fossil fuels need to be burned.

While this is the macro view of the environmental benefits of passive houses, are there any micro benefits of investing in this technology? Here are two, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor. First, think of the air quality that comes with less energy consumption. In homes that rely on furnaces, doing away with the furnace improves the air quality in and around the home significantly. Second, sound pollution is eliminated if you no longer need to use a furnace, HVAC units around the home, or any other heat generation and management devices. Essentially, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor, passive houses reduce the need to burden the environment. Through radical energy efficiency and self-sufficiency, passive house buildings become a part of the environment and not just an addition to it.

Health and Comfort Benefits

When most people hear about passive houses, they imagine living in a sealed paper bag. That thought can be quite disheartening because issues of quality of air, air adequacy, and comfort come to mind. Although the idea behind passive houses is energy efficiency through a tightly sealed envelope (building), this does not mean health and comfort are compromised. Take air quality, for instance. Most people consider opening a window the best way to guarantee air quality in a room. Now, passive houses rely on closed windows to ensure no heat escapes, which presents a dilemma. Passive houses address this dilemma well, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor.

Although you can open a window in a passive house, even if you do not, the heat recovery ventilation system ensures there is enough quality air circulating the house. Regarding comfort, passive houses maintain a comfortable temperature regulated by the passive heat sources in the house like appliances, body heat, and lighting. Also, they tend not to have cold spots or hot spots, which is often the case with traditionally heated homes. Through rigorous design standards afforded by tools such as the Passive House Planning Package, homes built on the passive house standard adhere to comfort standards as rigorous as the energy efficiency standards stipulated.

Cost Efficiency Benefits

Cost efficiency is at the heart of the passive house concept. When a building is exceptionally well insulated, it can use as little as 10 percent of its regular heating energy requirements. This, of course, also significantly reduces the costs associated with heating the building. So, how does the passive house concept achieve such a radical reduction in energy needs? The answer is insulation, says Toyin-Ann Yerifor. Passive houses rely on extensive insulation to gain this level of energy efficiency. Why is insulation so effective?

Traditional buildings lose a lot of heat through the roof, walls, floor, doors, and, most of all, windows. With a passive house, each of these structures is carefully designed and built to ensure close to zero loss of heat. When you look at the thermal scan of a passive house next to a traditional house, you’ll notice the passive house is almost entirely blue, meaning there’s close to no energy loss. The other building is close to all red, meaning it is losing a lot of energy. This level of energy conservation and efficiency is what leads to the massive energy savings that make passive houses so cost-efficient.

Passive houses are a concept that is yet to hit mainstream construction. However, this does not mean it is impractical to build passive houses. What it does point to is the need for better awareness of the concept. Toyin-Ann Yerifor recommends anyone interested in the concept to visit a passive house showcase home to experience its benefits firsthand. She says this is the only way to understand and internalize this breakthrough energy efficiency concept.

Summer Activity! Start an Indoor Garden!

If you’re worried about your kids losing academic skills over the summer, you might be searching for activities to keep them mentally stimulated. You might have already signed up for a summer reading program or researched some fun math activities. However, throwing in some hands-on science activities can also be fun and educational for kids!

bees-garden

Kids learn best when they’re actively engaged in an activity. If you’re looking for a fun hands-on science activity that you can start this summer and continue into the school year, consider growing your own indoor garden!

Benefits

Aside from providing a fun activity, there are additional benefits to starting an indoor garden.

  • Having plants around your house improves your air quality because they aid in air filtration.
  • If you opt for herbs, veggies, or fruits, you can use what you grow in your cooking
  • Plants are aesthetically pleasing
  • A garden will attract birds, bees, butterflies etc.
  • Taking care of plants can provide your child with a sense of responsibility

Gardening options

An indoor garden doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can make it as large or as little as you would like.

A small garden can be as simple as getting a few small pots and placing them in your windowsill. Even watching a single seed grow can provide some good educational talking points. If you opt for this option, you’ll want to make sure you choose a window that gets a good amount of sunlight.

If you want to take your indoor level to the next level, you can invest in an indoor garden box to put near your windows. These are raised boxes specifically designed for indoor gardening. Most gardening stores sell them, or you can build your own. A bonus of building your own is that you can build it at the perfect height for your tiny gardener!

If you have older children who already have a good understanding of gardening basics or if you’re living in a small space, you might want to consider a hydroponic system. Hydroponics involves growing plants using a nutrient-rich solution instead of soil. You can find a number of hydroponic kits to get started available online, or you can build your own system.

What you’ll need

Plants

Decide if you want to grow flowers, fruits, vegetables, or herbs. After you pick what you want to grow, decide if you want seeds or cuttings. Starting with seeds is a great option if you have kids because they’ll get to see the entire life cycle of a plant. Seeds also tend to be less expensive, which can be useful if some of your plants end up not making it.

Containers

You can use almost anything for a container as long as there is proper drainage. You can buy plastic or clay pots meant for gardening. These pots will have drainage holes at the bottom.

For a less expensive option, you can dig through your recycling bin for old milk cartons, butter containers, or egg cartons. Just make sure to punch holes in the bottom of your recycled container for drainage!

Grow lights

If you live in a house or apartment that doesn’t receive a lot of natural sunlight, you’ll either need to invest in plants that don’t need a lot of sunlight or invest in grow lights. Grow lights are a great option because they are specifically designed to provide indoor plants with the light they need. Even if you live in the darkest of homes, a grow light will have you saying “Look at our new indoor garden”!

Growing medium

You’ll, of course, need something for your plants to grow in. If you’re going with the traditional container or the garden box approach, you’ll want to invest in a quality potting mix. If going for the hydroponic approach, you’ll want to choose a medium that works well with your chosen system.

Child-size gardening tools

Your child will enjoy having their own tools to garden with! Invest in shovels, trowels, and watering cans that are the right size for your child.

Connecting it to learning

The best way to connect your new garden to learning is by taking your child’s lead. Children are naturally curious, so wait for your child to ask questions. You and your child can then research the questions together, either on the computer or at the library.

Possible topics you’ll explore together include why do plants need sunlight, what the life cycle of a plant is, and how can you tell if a plant is healthy.

Remember — keep it fun! The whole point of your new indoor garden is to allow your child to explore the world around them. A great indoor learning environment creates happy and healthy kids.

The Ultimate Guide To Convert Your Home Into A Smart Home

Smartphones are fast becoming a reality these days. With more and more brands and companies launching a variety of different smart lighting systems, speakers, sensors, it is easier than ever to convert your home into a smart home. If you have no prior experience in creating a smart home, it can be a confusing task to choose the right kind of devices. Moreover, you might not even know the solutions available to convert your home into a smart home. That is why it is vital to first understand how to transform your home into a smart home.

If you’re worried about the expenses, there are many ways in which you can create a smart home within your budget. It will allow you to control the various aspects of your home without having to spend a significant amount of money.

Moreover, the products available these days are becoming more and more affordable. As a result, it is easier to build a smart home. We will today list a step-by-step guide which will allow you to convert your home into a smart home.

  1. Smart lighting

Lighting systems are the best way to control the appearance of your home. Moreover, when you opt for a smart lighting system, you can easily control the ambiance of the house with the help of a Wi-Fi connection. Most of them offer a mobile application through which, you can efficiently manage the entire lighting system. Every light on the lighting system connects to the central hub.

Therefore, controlling it is easier than ever. When you’re looking at the individual bulbs which you can buy and integrate with the Wi-Fi connection at home, you can opt for the ones from TP-Link and LIFX. These products are not only compatible with the Wi-Fi connection, but many of them work along with Bluetooth as well.

Some of the other well-known companies who sell such smart bulbs include Philips Hue, Sengled Element. These, however, can be controlled by Zigbee signals which in turn work along with the Wi-Fi signal. Ultimately, A router can control them. You can manage these with the help of the app on your smartphone. The app will work on any Android-based device. As a result, programming the light according to the theme selected in the app is not a problem at all.

In case, you want to automate your existing lighting system you can change the switches and replaced them with smart switches and cameras. You can use smartphone applications to control them. Some of the companies which sell the smart switches are TP-LINK, Ecobee, Leviton, etc. these switches are directly controllable through Wi-Fi. It will not require a central hub. That is why; you can save a significant amount of money by going for the switches. If you want a centralized system, you can go with Noon Home’s system. It is comparatively expensive, but it allows you to have complete control over the lighting system. Thus, when it comes to smart lighting, there are a wide variety of options available.

  1. Smart speakers

Smart speakers play a significant role in a smart-home. You can control the various functions of the house using the voice commands. As a result, they work as an assistant to control every aspect of your home. You can go with the Google home speaker or the Amazon Echo speaker. The choice is entirely up to you. If you want a single speaker to control the various options, you can go with Amazon Echo speaker.

On the other hand, if you’re going to create a series of such points in your home, you can go with the Google home series. Google series works on the fact that you can install multiple speakers throughout your home and one in each room to control every aspect of your home. That is why, if you want to create a network of smart devices, Google home is the perfect option for you.

Google home is controlled using Google assistant. Amazon Echo devices are controlled using Amazon Alexa. Even Lenovo sells quick display series which work using Google home.

Lenovo is not alone, which is integrating these devices along with its offerings. Various other device manufacturers are doing the same. That is why, when you want to incorporate the smart speakers in your home, it is easier to do so. You can create the entire ecosystem of smart devices and control TVs, lights, thermostats, and a variety of other functions of your home with the help of these speakers.

  1. Smart thermostats

Climate control systems in our home consume the maximum amount of energy. Moreover, when the weather is at extremes, they make sure that the ambiance in your home is entirely comfortable. These days, people are using Usave.co.uk for energy comparison and choosing the right energy supplier. You can go a step further and save even more energy with the help of smart thermostats. These ensure that you can easily control the ambiance of your home. These thermostats have a predictive system which means that they can set the temperature of the house conveniently and on their own.

When you look at the basic working of these thermostats, they require you to set up sensors everywhere in your home. They control the temperature precisely in the part of the house where you are present. They also keep the rest of the home like the passageways at a comfortable temperature. However, precise control is in the area in which the individuals are present. Hence, there is a significant amount of energy saving. Thus, when you want to control the temperature of your home efficiently, smart thermostats are the perfect option.

  1. Home Security Cameras

When converting your home into a smart one, it is also essential to make it more secure. The smart-homes are easy to secure as they rely on sensors and devices rather than individuals. It is even more affordable as compared to hiring security guards. The best tool which you have got to handle the security of your home in a smarter way is the smart camera. With the help of the smart-camera, it is easier to monitor your home.

Moreover, when there is any unusual activity in your home, you can get alert easily. Also, the smart cameras which we are speaking about are not just helpful for detecting intrusions or burglary, but also can help you in monitoring your children and pets. They are multipurpose which means that you can use them for the application which you prefer.

Some of the options which you have when it comes to smart cameras are:

  • Ring
  • Netatmo
  • Maximum

The advantage of smart cameras is that they incorporate lights and a variety of different motion sensors into the security system. They also integrate the doorbell so that you can easily monitor the entry and exit points of your home. You can communicate with the individuals at the entrance and exit points without having to open the door at all. You can do so remotely as well. As a result, you can control the access to your home remotely or from your smartphone without any problem.

The motion sensors ensure that you get an alert whenever there is unusual activity in the monitored area. As a result, you always get alerts about any intrusion or unfriendly individuals even before they enter your home. The smart cameras are easy to install and do not require any unique fixtures which ensures that you can make the security of your home smarter by merely installing these cameras and connecting them with the Wi-Fi system.

  1. Smart audio systems

The multi-room audio systems ensure that you can get that you get entertainment in every room. There are options to choose from like:

  • Sonos
  • Yamaha
  • HEOS

These are self-contained speakers. You can keep them in every room and connect them with the Wi-Fi. They will help you to stream the music. Moreover, they can stream music from a variety of different services like Spotify. You can also select the tracks through your smartphone.

The difference between the speakers and something like Amazon Echo or Google home systems is that these speakers have a much better audio quality. They are not just for listening to commands, but actually up the entertainment quotient. Moreover, they can be integrated with TV and enhance your music watching experience. You can control them with the help of the tablet or the smartphone without any problem.

When speaking about something like Sonos, it works with the help of Amazon Alexa digital assistant. As a result, you can integrate it into your smartphone without any problem. Thus, when looking up the entertainment question and make your entertainment devices smarter, these are the speakers which you should choose.

  1. Smart sensors

The sensors play the role of eyes and ears in any smart-home system. Without sensors, it will be challenging to control the functions of a smart-home. The smart sensors ensure that they detect motion inside and outside the home. Inside the house, they correct the climate control system to make the ambiance more habitable. Also, they can switch on and off the lights depending on whether a room is vacant or not. Hence, it becomes easier for you to automate the climate control system.

Additionally, some of the sensors are used for smoke detection as well. The smoke detection sensors alert the smartphone numbers which you input as well. You can authorize a contact to get an alert with the help of the smart sensors. As a result, whenever there is a problem at your home, the authorized contacts will get an instant alert as well. When those contacts get a warning, they can act accordingly and arrange for the emergency services to reach your home as well. The sensors are not just available for fire detection.

There are the sensors which monitor the air quality of your home as well. These sensors, especially monitor the carbon monoxide levels. Accordingly, it instructs the climate control system to filter the air or the air purifier to activate. The more the number of sensors the more precisely each smart device can operate.

Also, there are smart smoke alarms available. The Nest Protect is such a smoke alarm system. It has emergency lights as well to show you the way out. Moreover, it sends an alert to your contacts as well. When it comes to sensors, they can accomplish a wide variety of factors. It is wise to use such sensors in your home to make your home smarter and safer.

  1. Smart irrigation system

Technology is available to automate every system of your home. That is why, if you’re worried about manually doing the lawn and garden irrigation, you don’t need to worry anymore. The smart irrigation systems can automatically detect the moisture in your lawn or your garden. As a result, they can use the irrigation devices to ensure that you can water the garden or backyard. They also take into account the type of plants which you have.

Moreover, if you do not want to automate them, you can control them through your app. You can install duplicators or sprinkle indicators. When you manage them with the help of the app, they will start and stop according to your commands. As a result, without having to control the irrigation devices manually, you can efficiently manage your garden or your lawn. When you do that, you can be sure that the plants or the garden will always be in proper condition.

The advantage of smartphone app control is that even when traveling, you can water your lawn as well as your garden without any problem. It will ensure that you don’t need to hire anyone else to take care of the lawn or garden irrigation.

Final Words

So, when it comes to converting your home into a smart-home, these are the seven steps which you need to follow. Each of the above steps deals with a different system. With the help of these seven smart home systems, it is easier than ever to automate various aspects of your home. According to VIP Realty, homes will also sell faster and for more money.

You can control them from your mobile application as well which will ensure that you can customize each element of your home remotely. In the process, you can also save a significant amount of resources and utilities. With smart-systems becoming more and more affordable, now there is no reason why you should not convert your home into a smart-home.