Imagine a home that consumes 35% less energy than average. Now, multiply those savings across a whole neighborhood – or even an entire city – and consider the potential outcomes: less stress on power grids, lower wholesale and retail energy prices, not to mention significant reductions in net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which fuel global warming.
A number of cities are working to make these energy-efficient communities a reality using smart technologies. Supported by partnerships among utilities companies, homebuilders, and smart home device manufacturers, Smart Neighborhoods – or neighborhoods comprised of homes containing a variety of IoT devices, such as smart thermostats – are cropping up from Orlando, Florida to New York City. The hope is that by showcasing the energy-saving benefits of the IoT, demand for smart features in future residential development will increase.
Indeed, the potential benefits are great. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that widespread smart thermostat use nationwide could save as much as 56 trillion Btu of energy per year, which translates to an approximately 13 billion pound reduction in GHG emissions, or the equivalent of emissions from 1.2 million motor vehicles.
See below for three additional North American cities exploring the possibilities of smart neighborhoods.
1. Atlanta, Georgia
Spearheaded by Georgia Power – which offers financial incentives to households containing certain smart thermostats – Atlanta’s first smart neighborhood of 46 townhouses is currently under development via a partnership with PulteGroup, the third largest homebuilder in the US in 2016, according to company reports. The first homes are due later in 2018 and will feature such high-tech amenities as:
- home security solutions by Alarm.com
- home automation and energy management solutions by GreenMarbles
- rooftop solar panels and battery storage for each home by Hannah Solar
- batteries for the storage of backup solar energy by Mercedes-Benz Energy
- the Sunverge Energy’s Distributed Energy Resource platform, a cloud-based power plant, residential battery, and home energy management system control software
In addition to unveiling the first model home in another smart community in June 2018, PulteGroup – which operates nationally – pledged to equip all new construction going forward with enhanced support for smart home integrations, such as expanded wireless infrastructure, and give would-be buyers the option to have Pulte’s contractors install devices from partner manufacturers before move-in as well.
Other communities in the region are following suit. For example, Cumming, Georgia will host the state’s first Amazon Experience Center, which will feature 674 smart homes at a variety of price points, through a partnership with Lennar.
2. Birmingham, Alabama
Alabama Power and Signature Homes are behind the community of about 60 smart homes outside of Birmingham, which is supported by a solar-powered microgrid that generates more than 600,000 kilowatt-hours of energy annually – enough to power the whole neighborhood for free. According to the utility, all of the homes – which boast 35% energy savings compared to similar new residential construction – sold within six months of unveiling the model unit.
The homes feature smart devices from Vivint and Rheem, among others. Using Carrier’s (United Technologies) Infinity energy monitoring system, the smart homes report energy-usage data to Alabama Power, which provides insights on the benefits of home automation in energy management, as well as areas for improvement in future applications. In January 2018, the team behind the project presented their work at the National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders’ Show, the largest annual light construction show in the world.
The city of Birmingham is also exploring plans to expand its use of smart technology to public safety and transportation applications. As a result, the Smart Cities Council awarded the city a 2018 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grant to fund future smart development city-wide.
3. Toronto, Ontario
In July 2018, Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet, won a bid to transform 83 acres of industrial land along Lake Ontario in Toronto into perhaps the most ambitious smart neighborhood in the world. Some of the proposed features of the project, Sidewalk Toronto, invoke science fiction:
- driverless taxis
- underground mail-delivery robots
- LEDs that adjust road widths based on congestion levels
- buildings that automatically reconfigure shape according to user needs
And yet the project is very real, with a $50 million pilot program slated for late 2018. Aimed at tackling problems associated with urban growth, the project greatly expands on the concept of smart neighborhoods and will perhaps provide a template for future smart urban development. Utilizing a suite of integrated smart solutions, Sidewalk Labs says, cities can dramatically improve their overall levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity.
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About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Creator and Industry Studies editor at The Freedonia Group.