Janet Bloomberg is a partner and founder of KUBE Architecture in Washington.

The definition of interactive is “influencing or having an effect on each other.”  Homes can influence their owners, just as the home can be designed for the specific needs and desires of the owners.  Homes can act as partners that create a setting customized to the lifestyle of their inhabitants.  And the owners are able to live as they would like when a house is designed to their personal specifications.

According to the American Institute of Architects, smart home technology is becoming a key feature in homes, including lighting, security, audio and thermostat — all of which can be controlled from the owners’ smartphones and tablets.

This creates both ease of use and energy efficiency, as “scenes” are pre-programmed for different times of day, week and year.  Lighting is dimmed, and thermostats are programmed remotely, so energy use is customized to the exact needs of homeowners.  Additionally, when you enter the home, you can push one button and the house sets itself to a pre-programmed level of comfort, including temperature, lighting and sound.

In a modern home, there are very few walls, so finding locations for light switches and thermostats can be challenging.  And when the design is minimal, these devices detract from the overall look of clean lines and surfaces.  So not only does the smart home technology create efficiency and ease of use, it also allows the design of the interior to be free from visible devices on walls.  Everything has its place in a modern home, and the place for these functional elements is out of sight.

If you are considering adding an energy management system or automated controls for temperature, lighting and/or security there are a few things to consider:

  • Cost: The cost of a fully automated home can be high, so you should compare systems for affordability — there are numerous options. You may also want to consider running only wiring in portions of the home, and devices can be added later.
  • Comfort with technology: Smart home systems are very user-friendly these days, so you do not need to worry if you are not a tech-savvy person.  Any homeowner can learn quickly how to use home automation, and will quickly begin to rely on it.
  • Wired vs. wireless: If you’re constructing a new house, or completely renovating an existing house, then a wired system makes the most sense. However, if you are renovating, then the logistics of running new wiring may not make sense — in this case, consider going with a wireless system.
  • Lifestyle change: You may want to consider installing home automation elements piece by piece, rather than all at once — it is a lifestyle adjustment, and this might make a smoother transition from standard manual systems.