IT’S not so long ago that the teasmade was the ‘must have’ kitchen appliance — a handy tea maker that replaced the loving efforts of say, your mum. (Millennials look it up, and laugh). Just a few decades later there are now ‘smart’ houses that can be controlled remotely to turn on the lights, heat your home, put on the kettle, or TV, and even select your choice of music. Indeed, a recent survey carried out by Laptops Direct found that more than 30 per cent of Brits use some form of smart security gadget in their home. But now Swedish house-builder Trivselhus (which translates as The House of Wellbeing) has trumped the lot.
It’s teamed up with Places For People, and perhaps, most importantly, Apple Home, to build 39 purpose-built smart homes, which combine eco factors, energy savings, and cutting edge smart home technology fitted as standard. And, they’re more than affordable, as Tom Macartney, development director of Trivselhus UK says: ‘This smart home is for everyone. Until now you would have to be rich or famous to spend £50,000 to £100,000 to have bespoke technology installed or by splashing out on a multi-million pound new home.’
A visit to the Sommar Place homes in Milton Keynes (others are under way in Swindon, Cambridge, Surrey and Scotland) is eye-opening.
The homes are architecturally high spec, with solid wooden floors in the living rooms (all from sustainable sources, thanks to parent company, timber firm Sodra), plush carpets on the upper floors in the bedrooms, and high quality fixtures and fittings. They also have relatively lofty ceilings (8ft 5in compared to the UK standard of 7ft 10in). Thanks to the way they’re constructed — in panels, built in Sweden — and with triple-glazed windows, the heating bills are around £400 annually, a typical saving of around £1,000 a year on an average family home.
The homes are silent and snug. But it’s the smart features from the Apple HomeKit (there’s an app on modern iPhones, iPads and the Apple watch) that are so impressive here.
Say ‘good morning, Siri’ (or good afternoon, or evening) and whatever you’ve programmed your HomePod to do will be activated by the command. In the morning the blinds will rise, the kettle will turn on, the radio (set to your favourite station, natch) will start up, and even your heated towel rail will be activated.
The technology is customised and can be tailored to a family’s individual preferences. All features are listed on the desktop of the iPad that comes with the home. Lock the front door? No problem. Adjust the heating? Done. Turn lights on or off, or adjust their brightness? There you go.
Security is an important feature. You can check remotely whether your balcony door is open (there’s a particularly generous 10ft x 20ft terrace in the four-bedroom townhouses) or whether someone has opend it when no one is home. There are two cameras, linked to the iPad, which show activity at the front and back of each home. You can programme it to alert you if there’s anything suspicious.
Tom, who gave me the tour, says, ‘These homes are designed for the future. And in years to come we’ll be seeing many more of them. From the energy savings, to the smart devices, to the eco features, the houses are designed for contemporary living.
‘There are even subtly placed air vents in each room designed for heat exchange — incoming fresh air is warmed by recovering heat from outgoing stale air, giving sizeable energy savings.
‘Smart technology is increasingly popular in homes. What’s unusual here is that they have been fitted as standard. And because they are all linked to Apple’s Homekit, they all communicate seamlessly with each other, which is not always the case when they’ve been retro-fitted.’
Ken Forster, managing director of Trivselhus, says: ‘It was especially important for us to offer the highly secure, end-to-end encrypted Apple HomeKit accessories, which we believe to be a first in the UK.’
The homes are impressive and provide a level of support and comfort unprecedented in family homes in the UK.
■ Sommar Place properties start at £250,000 for a two-bed apartment. A four-bed townhouse is £450,000. sommarplace.com
At your fingertips: The home that’s run from an iPad