A traditionally built, conventional-looking new home in the sleepy English village of Shiplake, near Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, is the unlikely showcase for the latest in home technology. Local developer and builder Richard Stow has installed a home automation system to give a one-off five-bedroom detached house a unique selling point in the marketplace. "The house is not bristling with technology," says James Misselbrook, sales and marketing director with Techaus, the company behind the installation. "It gives increased peace of mind, and gives occupants the opportunity to enhance the way they live."
The networked system installed by Techaus in the Shiplake house manages security, lighting and home entertainment and has a number of unusual features. It even gives occupants the chance to buy their weekly groceries from home, without having to make the usual trawl through supermarket's web shopping lists.
The security system includes internal and external movement-sensitive cameras, and images can be relayed to a TV channel when the house is occupied, or can be looked at via the internet when the owner is away. When the house is unoccupied the front door entry-bell can also ring through to the homeowner's mobile phone, "so that you can be in when you're out", says Misselbrook.
Mood and scene lighting can be pre-set, and it is possible to set "paths of light" at night, guiding children to the bathroom, for instance. There is also a single bedside master switch that can be used to turn off all the downstairs lights last thing at night.
TV (including DVD and video), radio, CCTV and satellite channels can be piped to all 13 rooms in the house from the central system, so occupants can watch the start of a video in their lounge and the ending in their bedroom. As part of the system, Techaus supplies a Philips Pronto, a remote-control device that offers single-button operation of tasks that a user wants to happen consecutively – for example, dimming the lights, running a DVD, then bringing the lights back up again.
For home shopping, the system includes a device that reads the barcode straight from the grocery packet and inputs readings directly into the computer as a shopping list. This technology is ahead of its time, as major supermarkets are not yet geared up to take barcode shopping lists, but Misselbrook says it should not be too long before they can. "Supermarkets are planning to launch websites where barcode details can be logged."
With added futureproof technology like this on the spec, Techaus' installation at the house is worth about £20,000 – which the company admits is above the norm. It estimates that the cost of installing a more conventional technology system in an average four-bedroom house would be about £10,000.
Technology at your fingertips
In top London postcodes and price brackets, new apartments have to come with some shiny technology if they are to hook wealthy buyers. "The younger generation expect it, empty nesters are quite excited about it, and others are thinking that it is a good thing to have for resale and for letting," says Phillip Plesner, director of Regime Property Developments.
Regime's The Pulse development in Finchley Road, north London, has a smart spec that is designed to attract all categories of buyer. The 55 two- and three-bedroom apartments in the contemporary seven-storey building are being marketed with three optional technology packages, each costing between £6000 and £9900. "Offering the packages is more cost effective and gives a real incentive to buyers," says Plesner.
The most basic package enables buyers to pre-set lighting moods and distribute TV and audio in three zones from a central system. The top-of-the-range package ups the audio and lighting spec and adds remote telephone control of the central heating system.
Outside the package options, homeowners can opt for further bespoke pieces of technology that go way beyond the normal home automation spec, including glass touch-plate switches, central locking, plasma TV screen, and the facility for motorised control of curtains or blinds.
For buyers paying from £420,000 to £1.5m for the apartments, the add-on cost of the package is relatively small. "It suits the profile of the purchaser and improves the marketability of the apartments," says Plesner. The scheme is scheduled for completion next year.
Regime Property Developments
Koski Solomon Ruthven
Elliott Wood Partnership
Opus (audio), Dome