A central Virginia developer is the first to build “smart houses” at Smith Mountain Lake. Tom Lovegrove, a retired technology executive, is President of Bayview Construction Company and brings his experience in the computer industry to the luxury homes he builds.
According to Mr. Lovegrove, “smart” homes incorporate computer technology in ways that allow them to manage their own systems, and to respond to their owners’ commands or to environmental conditions in ways which save energy, money, or ensure the homeowner’s safety and comfort. Heating, cooling, lighting, security, and all other systems are integrated in “smart” homes to be controllable through a single interface. The interface can be anywhere: a keypad in the home, a laptop or telephone from the road.
For a home to be truly “smart”, according to Lovegrove, it has to have more than just lots of gadgets. The homeowner and the home have to be able to talk about anything going on with the home in one conversation. “All homes have a thermostat” says Phil Simon, site manager for Bayview. “But a thermostat can’t help you control your sprinkler system, it can’t give you the weather forecast, it can’t tell you how much energy you’ve been using to heat or cool your home. A smart home interface can do all that.”
Barry Pruitt, Bayview’s building manager, says “smart houses can do for a homeowner what antilock braking systems can do on a car. They can do what the homeowner wants while maintaining finer control over things than a person could.” A “smart” home can, for example, adjust the intensity and frequency of watering based on actual weather conditions. The homeowner tells the system what types of plants and soil need to be watered, or how many inches of moisture he wants applied each week. The system then adjusts the watering schedule based on temperature and rainfall. “This isn’t a rain sensor”, says Simon. “Rain sensors just shut sprinklers down. Smart systems can get data from the National Weather Service or from an onsite weather station and ensure that the grass gets enough water, but that no water is wasted.”
Bayview’s homes integrate all of these things into a package that performs seamlessly. “Smart technology is going to become an essential part of every home in the future”, according to Lovegrove. “This type of technology has been intimidating to homeowners until recently. The devices have been difficult to program, they didn’t work well together, interfered with each other. Now the technology is easy and efficient for the homeowner to use, and we’re putting it together so that even somebody who’s never seen a computer can master it easily.”
Lovegrove believes that “smart” home systems will eventually be as essential as telephone and cable jacks. Builders without a high-tech background sometimes find it difficult to design and assemble the system for the homeowner. Simon says “the key to getting it right is early design. This isn’t something you hand over to a subcontractor and expect him to solve. Every subcontractor has to be involved in the design and execution, and the homebuilder has to have the knowledge and confidence to make it all come together.”
“For example, the basic building block of any ‘smart’ system is structured wiring. There is no tradition in the trades that establishes who sets that up and installs it, since it’s a relatively recent thing to put in a home. So the builder has to know it’s needed, design it, pick somebody who knows what they’re doing, and get it done. There are still many builders – maybe the majority – who don’t install structured wiring.” Structured wiring provides an interface between power, communication, mechanical, and computer systems that allows them to be managed together.
The developer also believes that “smart” home systems will become a part of green building standards, because of their tremendous energy-saving potential. “Builders who aren’t doing this already will find themselves behind and, because of the expertise required, will have a difficult time catching up” says Lovegrove. “This isn’t something you learn to do overnight, and we’re the only builders at Smith Mountain Lake who are building a complete ‘smart’ package right now. We build homes that provide ‘luxury, serenity, and security’: and ‘smart’ technology is central to that.”
Bayview Construction Company develops land and builds technologically advanced luxury homes in central Virginia. More information can be obtained at www.villagesatemeraldbay.com or by texting SML to 68247.