Smart buildings: our guide to what do you need to know

If you are considering a smart home system or a smart device into your house, there are no doubt many questions you have that are hard to find answers to. This type of technology becomes more and more common. As such the marketplace is becoming busier and it is harder to work out which system is the best for you.

 

Here we answer the most common questions we get asked about smart homes and home automation.

 

But let’s start with a definition:

What is a smart building?

There are many definitions of a smart home, but the one that we like to use is the simplest.

A smart home is one where electronic devices and appliances are connected through a central point so they can talk to each other.

What this means is that these systems provide occupants with better control over the way a building works. Better control means more efficient buildings. 

Here’s an analogy we like to use;BMW 5 series

When the motor racing industry first put computers in cars in the 80's they were concerned with improving speed. They were controlling fuel efficiency, reliability and performance. Then car industry as a whole started putting these systems first into their high end vehicles, the into all cars. Once a computer was installed in a car, it was simple to add other features, adjustable suspension, anti lock brakes, mobile phone integration, traction control etc. Now of course, we are looking at fully autonomous vehicles with the computer taking over completely from the driver.

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Smart homes systems are the same - they start with improving efficiency of a building (heating, ventilation & hot water), then give the option to add other smart features, lighting, audio, entry systems and even swimming pool control.

Computers controlling cars is now ubiquitous, so it will be with computers running our homes.

What are the benefits of home automation?

Energy savings

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In the UK, existing buildings produce 19% of the CO2 emissions and these levels are rising. Of this, 76% of these emissions are from domestic homes. Improving the energy efficiency of these buildings is a key government target, and smart home systems are in a position to provide more efficient buildings and lower the CO2 emissions significantly.

New builds are mandated by government to be built to a higher specification than existing buildings and be more energy efficient. For a building to pass Building Regulations and be signed off by the building inspector, a SAP calculation must be done. This ensures all new properties are built to a minimum efficiency standard.

In these new buildings, smart home control is used to refine the systems being installed and fine tune the efficiency of heating and hot water systems to reduce energy requirements. This reduces both capital and running costs of your home.

Peace of mind

Maximising home security and keeping you family and home safe is one of the top reasons why people look at installing a smart system.

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  • Link your security system in and when you are away from home get alerts when it is triggered
  • Link fire alarms to other systems eg turn on all lights fully when the fire alarm is triggered
  • See if doors and windows are closed
  • ‘Empty’ house - closing windows, setting alarms, simulating occupancy using lights and curtains at the press of one button
  • Knowing when you children are home

Occupancy detection is key to keeping a home secure - see our Blog to read more about how occupancy is key to so many smart home features.

Comfort

Improving the environmental impact of your house is one thing, but we all want our homes to be comfortable and relaxing place to be. 

Six Smart ReasonControlling heating by room is a great way to ensure that we are cozy in all rooms of the house - most people like the bathroom to be warmer than the rest of the house, and the kitchen cooler - this is simple with room by room heating control.

Ventilation is important to keeping your home healthy - if humidity or CO2 rise too much rooms can become unpleasant and even dangerous to be in. Using smart control of your ventilation system, be it trickle vents and extractor fans or an MEV system, you can fine tune your maximise your environment.

Although it might sound odd to talk about lighting when discussing comfort, but being able to have different lighting scenes in a room is a wonderful way to change the atmosphere. Bright lights for cooking, a little lower for dinner and mood lighting for drinks - all possible at the press of a button.

Convenience

Most of us lead busy lives, and welcome any ways of making everyday jobs or tasks more convenient.

Secure control over access and entry to your home

Whether at home or away, monitor and manage access to your home – no more parcels having to be collected from the depot.

Entry systems are key to your peace of mind whether you are home or away from your property. Atamate provide integration for smart control of all types of entry systems for access to doors, garages, gates as well as intercoms and CCTV systems.

Automated gates & entry - 4 smart control features

Remote access

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Always have control wherever you are in the world. Check in and see what's happening at home, or change the settings for heating when you decide to stay late at work.

Simple to use

It is no point having a smart home that is impossible to control or interact with. Smart buildings should be simple to use and simple to install. Complex control panels are confusing for visitors and guests as well as being expensive. Any good smart home should take out the complications of running electrical and mechanical systems leaving you to relax and enjoy your time at home.

For a quick run down of the top reasons why to automate, have a look at our 6 top reasons to automate your home.

Chris Glass
Home owner
“Using Atamate has been a huge success. We particularly like the kids being able to use the Haze to control their own music, and them being able to do this without yet another screen is even better.’’
Gabriella Spring
Engineer
"Using the Atamate Design Studio has won us clients who would have otherwise gone elsewhere - it gives us a great smart building offering we can price really fast."
Robert Goodman
Developer
"At last someone with innovative solutions to ventilating low energy buildings - and at a price that is affordable."

Atamate smart buildings; control for everyone

What can I do with my smart home?

 

The best smart home systems are;

Holistic - they should control everything in the home using one platform and each device should be able to talk to any other device.

Simple - both to use and to install. It is no good for anyone to have such a complex system that no one other than you can use it. Everyone from the kids to the grandparents should be able to switch on the lights! Installation should be something your electrician can do - subcontractors can be expensive and if you can avoid them, do.

Affordable - being eco friendly and environmentally aware should not be expensive. If you want to splash out on that whole house audio system that is great, but controlling heating, hot water and ventilation should not cost the earth.

What can I control with my smart home? 

Whole house systems or single smart devices

The smart market in the UK is currently divided into 3 main sub-sectors;

  • Building management systems (BMS) - used in commercial buildings to control complex heating ventilation and hot water systems
  • Smart home systems - installed in residential and designed to control multiple devices throughout the building. Many of these are based around the control of entertainment, audio and video, but now can include environmental controls. These systems are mostly wired systems within the home, and wireless access via a smart phone.
  • Stand alone smart devices - single devices connected to the internet eg a smart thermostat. These are generally retro-fit items meaning that you can add them to your home without the need for re-wiring.

Wired systems vs wireless - which is right for you?

So, which is better?

The simple answer is that it depends what you are trying to achieve. Large complex commercial buildings are appropriate for BMS systems, but for residential homes whole smart systems or single smart devices are appropriate.


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Are smart homes secure?

Peace of mind for you and your family, or knowing your tenants are safe is hugely important. 
Occupant security
Entry systems, intercoms and linking security and fire alarms. Receive alerts when home or away.
Fabric protection
Install sensors around the property to give early warning of any risk to building fabric
Network security
Keeping occupants data secure and ensuring access security using state of the art encryption

How much is a smart home?

This is a frequently asked question, and the hardest to answer. Not because everyone selling smart home systems don’t want you to know the answer, mainly because there are so many factors that have an effect on the overall price.

So, to try to demystify the cost question, I am going to tell you the factors that make a system more expensive or less expensive. This way, you should be able to tell whether a system will be likely to fit into your budget.

The two main levers are;

  • The size of your home
  • The number and type of devices you want to control.

Some companies will sell both control systems and the hardware that it controls, and some will sell networking equipment and software only. Be aware what it is that is being included in your estimate or quote and ensure that when comparing between two suppliers that you are comparing like with like.

Essential control

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Some control is essential - heating, ventilation, production of hot water and prevention of overheating (in eco homes). Once these have been covered you have a huge choice of what else can be controlled. If you are looking to install whole house audio using a premium brand supplier, it is going to be expensive, speakers alone can be upwards of £1,000 each. Windows need a motor and open sensors which are relatively inexpensive whereas motorised blinds and curtains are still seen as premium products and priced accordingly.  

But that is not everything. Great smart home systems not only give you greater efficiency from ‘traditional’ heating, ventilation and hot water systems, they also give you the flexibility to choose better, often cheaper alternatives. Using electric heating that works on occupancy, ventilation systems that detect dirty air and only ventilate these rooms - both examples of ways in which great control can reduce the capital costs of these essential services.  

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Installation

S6Atamate is designed to be installed by any qualified electrician. It uses all standard cables and terminations, there are no tricky configuration required and the site pack provides all the information your site team need.

It is simple to install by any qualified electrician. All components are delivered to site and software is pre-installed so second fix is a plug and play operation.

We provide each installation with a full site pack containing not only all the hardware, but all installation support documentation that is needed for a smooth and hassle-free job.

  

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