Spanish green building firm NOEM recently completed a prefabricated house called El Refugio Inteligente (The Smart Shelter), that more than lives up to its name. Designed and built in just nine weeks and assembled on-site in approximately 10 days, the solar-powered house features a combination of smartphone-configured amenities and sustainable design that help reduce overall energy usage.
El Refugio Inteligente is located within Spain's Serra Espadà mountain range in the Province of Castellón, near Valencia. With a total interior floorspace of 96 sq m (1,033 sq ft), the one-story home is built from two prefabricated wooden modules which have been joined together. Insulation comes in the form of 16 cm (6 in) thick wood fiber insulation panels.
El Refugio Inteligente features a clean and simple interior decor, and includes a living room and kitchen that opens onto the porch, a double bedroom, a bathroom, and a study that can also serve as a second bedroom when required. The garden also contains a swimming pool.
NOEM told Gizmag that El Refugio Inteligente was built with green building body Passivhaus in mind, and though the home isn't certified by the Passivhaus Institute, its annual required heat energy consumption is rated as only 15.05 kWh/sq m, which is roughly in line with Passivhaus' stringent requirements.
The roof sports a 4,500 kWh solar array that takes care of all the home's electricity needs – indeed, it actually produces marginally more electricity than is required. Though it could therefore operate without a grid-based connection, NOEM told us that this would require a battery array (for those cloudy days when the solar power yield is poor), and thus increase the cost of the build significantly. Therefore, El Refugio Inteligente remains connected to the mains and feeds back surplus juice, while scheduling energy-hogging tasks like the tumble dryer for noon, when the sun's power is at its peak.
The home also features a rainwater harvesting system that's connected to a couple of 1000 L (264 US gallon) water tanks, and this is used for the toilet and garden irrigation.
Many of El Refugio Inteligente's appliances are configured and monitored using an app that runs on an Android or iOS smartphone. For example, the home's blinds are raised and lowered automatically to help regulate temperature passively, and the phone's GPS data is monitored so that the heating system is activated automatically 20 minutes before the occupants arrive home on a cold winter day.
Additionally, the HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) unit is connected to the internet, and automatically adjusts its settings depending on the local weather report. The HVAC can also be adjusted remotely via internet connection, and all data relating to energy consumption and production, water consumption, the interior temperature, and more, is accessible via smartphone in real time, from wherever the owners have a 3G or Wi-Fi internet connection.
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