Imagined Technology for Home Building

Innovative and integrative technology can help achieve energy efficiency and well-being

By Don Neff

This article will explore three innovative and integrative technologies: 1) data sensors for home operating systems, 2) biomimicry in building components and 3) Bau Biologie design principles which echo Ian McHarg’s transformational book “Design with Nature.”

Data Sensor Home Operating Systems in new construction can overcome occupant behavior variables which limit achievement of energy conservation goals, compromise water conservation objectives and decrease indoor air quality. Green building developers and contractors recognize that occupant behavior is not easily managed without feedback loops to connect behavior with performance outcomes. A data sensor home operating system will function as the dashboard for the home to monitor these variables and provide useful data for homeowners as to different patterns in energy or water usage that can be modified to become more efficient, and provide timely notification of failures or potential failures in critical systems allowing for immediate response.

Sensors such as motion, sound and security applications have been evolving as demand for smart home protocols and designs in the construction industry continue to increase. Fully integrated systems that automatically adjust for occupancy, weather conditions, time of day and keep homeowners informed will become standard requirements. Beyond cost savings and environmental impact, understanding the overall output and performance of a home will enable builders and homeowners to adapt strategies to achieve the best outcome and promote health and well-being.

Beyond cost savings and environmental impact, understanding the overall output and performance of a home will enable builders and homeowners to adapt strategies to achieve the best outcome and promote health and well-being.”

Programmable thermostats with Wi-Fi connectivity allow remote monitoring and instantaneous adjustments in real time of home energy variables such as temperature and humidity but could also track radon presence and carbon dioxide levels. This can also easily apply to indoor air quality, water conservation, electrical usage and major/minor leak detection. Integrating water consumption monitoring and irrigation control into the home data operating system as well as monitoring for excess moisture can help prevent leaks and water damage. Data loggers are small black box sensors readily available in the market and can be integrated into various building assemblies which are then connected to the home’s operating system.

Biomimicry in building components present biological solutions beyond simply a green roof or green living wall. A home or community design should consider occupant well-being and environmental impact, striving to protect natural resources, minimize energy consumption and integrate into the natural environment. As we expand our viewsheds from the inside to the outside, larger windows require more creative structural framing solutions. Consider for example, Ornilux® Bird Protection Glass which mimics the UV reflective qualities of spiders’ webs, thus preventing bird collisions. Consider also Pure-Bond Technology for wood glue without formaldehyde, which uses the protein chemistry of the blue mussel’s byssus threads—allowing it to attach itself to wave-battered rocks.

We must address the problem of “bio-fouling,” which can occur anywhere—household countertops, hospitals and healthcare facilities, as well as marine and industrial facilities. The current solution is to use toxic biocidal chemicals to treat bacteria adhering to surfaces. Industry statistics show that 1.7 million people annually acquire infections from this source of indoor contamination after being admitted to hospitals in the U.S. These infections are often caused by bacteria forming films on surfaces of frequent use.

Bau Biologie (Building Biology) of Homes integrates 25 guiding principles which may seem somewhat far-fetched from a production builder’s point of view. Developers, builders and contractors have little control over material manufacturing processes and can only source construction components in a finished or semi-finished condition. Building science ties into Bau Biologie by applying physics to understand building performance processes. Examples of the 25 guiding principles, include “indoor air humidity shall be regulated naturally” and “an appropriate balance of thermal insulation and heat retention is needed.”
Once Bau Biologie is understood, we can integrate this technology into various components during the construction process. Sensors tied into the biomimicry solutions also provide feedback loops about performance. This could be a homebuilder’s dream come true…providing a series of data collection points from each of the home’s internal and external systems fed to the operating system for processing. Preventative maintenance diagnostics could be monitored in real time. Vehicles already offer this functionality. Why not homes alike?
The construction world is changing quickly, and we all need to hustle to keep up. What’s in your toolbox?

Don Neff is the president and CEO of LJP Construction Services. Headquartered in Irvine, CA, LJP Construction Services has been at the forefront of the quality assurance movement on behalf of builder and insurance clients for over 25 years. Since being founded, LJP Construction Services has assisted 2,000 commercial and residential builder and insurance clients worldwide covering more than 100,000 homes throughout the US.