From: Jane Briginshaw, Head of design and sustainability, Homes and Communities Agency
Sir – You will be well aware of how technology in homes is transforming people’s lives, and I thought it would be helpful to outline some recent examples of best practice I have seen.
We would all appreciate real-time travel information to avoid lengthy waits in the rain for a bus, or an accurate picture of how much energy we’re using at home so we can save a few pennies on the heating. And touchscreen panels inside every home might be the answer.
We are seeing these pioneering systems installed in homes across the country. It might sound like a gimmick (what new technology doesn’t when it’s first introduced?) but they can have real benefits… when they work!
At the Triangle in Swindon, the ‘Shimmy’ is one of the many nudges towards ‘one planet living’. It’s a small computer screen in the hallway of each home giving minute-by-minute energy readings and real-time transport information, as well as community networks. The idea is that by having something that’s always up-to-date and useful, it might be possible to use your car less, to be more in control of which appliances use the most energy, and to know when and how to bring people together.
Swindon residents might use the ‘Shimmy’ to see if their neighbour has some spare Calpol late at night for the children. They might just as well be outside in the shared kitchen gardens getting fresh vegetables. Renewable materials are not forgotten either and the Homes and Communities Agency and DECC helped the developer to use Hempcrete, a render made from hemp, on the outside of the homes. The big gain is in integrating all these ideas into one harmonious place.
Oh yes, the point about when they work. When we went to see a touchscreen in action the resident proudly switched it on to show us how energy-hungry a washing machine could be, to be met with… resounding silence… computer says no. But it did work eventually and we thought it was great too (plus a top tip from the resident: try washing your clothes at night)!