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Something’s in the Air (and Water)

If we remember the first half of 2020 for anything, I am guessing most of us will remember the amount of time we ‘sheltered at home.’ Looking after the health of our family, our friends, and our community has been our most important priority. Some people will be ready to head outdoors or into public spaces the moment they are allowed, and others will take time before they want to be back in their wider community. Either way, as we start the process of being back to whatever our ‘new normal’ will be, our communities will need to decide what to do to make our outside world as safe as possible.  At the same time, we should consider if there is more we can do to make our indoors as healthy as we can, too. Here are three ideas to consider. Improve Your Air Quality We spend more than 90% of our time indoors. Unfortunately,  more than 100,000 Americans each year die of heart attacks, strokes, and other illnesses caused by air pollution. That means that getting the quality and quantity of air in your indoor spaces right is essential. Achieving this requires three key steps – installing sensors to measure and monitor the air; installing high-quality filters that remove odors and pollutants; and using particle filtration systems. ​ There are critical designs to be made, and where and how you live makes a dramatic difference in your air quality. So does the design of your air quality management systems. Getting these designs right the first time is essential before you start building your home. ​Adequate monitoring systems allow... read more

Lighting Control & Wellness

Great lighting design involves using layers of light to deliver the desired result, and that layering typically results in a large number of fixtures. To dial in the ideal lighting levels, most homes depend on banks of switches and dimmers, particularly in rooms like the great room, kitchen, and master suite. Those banks of switches are unsightly, complex, and inelegant solutions to a problem that didn’t exist when the light switch was invented. In the past, a room was most likely lit by a single light source, or worse, a few fixtures controlled together by one switch. Lighting control allows precise, repeatable control of the light in a space and allows us to do so while replacing that bank of controls with a single, customizable keypad. That keypad can be programmed to control a room, or even entire home, with a single button press. Beyond removing the clutter and confusion from the wall, we also gain the ability to “design” the light in the space, taking full advantage of the lighting design we spoke about earlier. With a single button press, dozens of individual lights can be automatically adjusted to provide the perfect light for any situation. Imagine your kitchen having a button called “Cooking,” in which every light is used to provide a safe and productive workspace, while another button labeled “Dining” dims the lights, creating a perfect space at the table for conversation over the dinner you just prepared. By controlling the light, we also can impact the health of the home automatically. Creating a consistent lighting schedule can help reduce some common sleeping issues, like difficulty... read more

A Happy Home Is a Healthy Home

We all wish for the happiness and health of our families and friends. We all understand how diet, exercise, and even time spent with loved ones, is a critical step to achieving this wish. We also know that when designing a new home or office, we should devote considerable time to make our spaces comfortable and productive. The right materials, fabrics, and textures create an experience that makes us feel at home, but there is more we can do. Few use the right technology in the right place to improve quality of life. Correctly done, home technology can reduce stress, increase your quality of life, and make you more productive. Here are four ways the right home technology can help you achieve healthy spaces. Wake Well and Sleep Well Light can change your life. It affects what we can see and alters how we feel. It creates an atmosphere and impacts emotions. We use windows to give us natural light but we also rely on artificial light. Getting the right mix of natural and artificial light is critical to both how you sleep and your well-being while awake. That means getting the right combination of brightness, color, and saturation.   Sound and Silence Sound and silence can impact health and influence emotions. Prolonged and excessive exposure to a deficient sound environment can cause a range of problems, including stress, poor concentration, productivity loss, communication difficulties, and fatigue. Correctly adjusting the mix of sound and silence can be complicated and should be designed optimally. From the right speakers to the right damping material, getting sound right can change how you... read more

Pimp Your Home Office

While we’ve all been living with social distancing and quarantine for the past few weeks, there is one thing every person working from home has in common, and there are millions of us. We are all struggling with crappy equipment and room setups, and therefore having terrible experiences with video conference calls. We almost all sound like crap, look way too small on a laptop screen, have delays and echoes, and it is affecting everyone’s business in a negative way. With remote work becoming the new normal for the foreseeable future, these problems need to be addressed and resolved. We’ve outlined the potential problems that exist in every home office or virtual environment and how we intend to solve them: Bad network – Could be slow ISP, cheap equipment, or distance from the nearest AP, but a significant percentage of people have obvious issues such as voice lag. There should be a full-speed, multiple AP network in every home and home office. Bad acoustics – The dining room table or an empty guest bedroom affects the way a person sounds on the conference call. A room where you have video conferences should be acoustically treated to make your voice sound more effortless and natural. Bad Echo – Generally caused by mismatched gear, when a microphone and speakers aren’t tuned right, you get a horrible delay and echo. You need a quality PC, microphone, and audio gear. Echos will destroy a presenter’s effectiveness and distract their audience. Tiny Screen – You will never pay attention or learn as much from a presentation on a 13″ laptop vs. an 85″ LCD.... read more

Why Lighting Design? Part 2

Before the harnessing of electricity, artificial light was expensive, and therefore relatively scarce. Over the last 100 years or so, the cost of lighting our world has become negligible, which has had enormous economic consequences. The home and the workplace became safer, factories increased productivity, and social activities extended late into the night. Humans Need Natural Light Unfortunately, there was one significant negative impact that only recently has begun to be understood. Our bodies have adapted to natural light, yet many of us spend the vast majority of our day indoors under artificial light. Most people understand that there are health benefits to natural light, but it may come as a surprise that the absence of it is actively harmful to our bodies. What is it about natural light that is so important to our bodies? Our bodies are controlled by 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms, and they affect us physically, mentally, and behaviorally. Circadian rhythms control when our bodies signal us to sleep, wake, eat, and more. The way our bodies keep up with these daily rhythms is largely based on exposure to the sun. As the sun rises and moves across the sky each day, the intensity and color of the light changes in a consistent and repeatable way. That daily sequence helps our bodies reset our circadian clock so that it runs in time with the rest of the world. If we don’t get these clues from the sun our 24-hour cycle drifts, it’s harder for us to sleep or wake, and leads to lost productivity and a broad range of health consequences, including obesity, heart... read more

Network Blues: Is Your Wi-Fi Making Life Harder?

If there were ever a time we needed our home networking to work better, it would be now. If you were to do a quick google search on “best router,” you probably wonder where to start when you get 124 million results. The issue isn’t the answer (like 42), but are we asking the right questions? In this blog, I want to try and ask the right questions and give homeowners a place to look for the correct answers. It’s not just about the router. A typical router is like using a water hose to water your grass. A bigger hose moves more water, but a sprinkler system installed throughout your yard is a far more effective way to water your lawn. At Bravas, when we design networks, we keep two things in mind: Firstly, we provide the backbone for all the communication within your home and secondly, to give everyone and everything in your home access to the Internet as needed. To deliver on this, we use five pieces of technology: Gateway/Router– built into a single unit, a gateway and router is simply a device that joins together the network in your home with the Internet coming from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Firewall – will also filter what comes into your home to ensure it is safe and secure. These are often built into the gateway/router, but more secure systems will have their own firewalls. Wi-Fi Access Points: as the home size grows, the number of access points must increase to provide adequate wireless coverage. Wireless Controller – manages the Wi-Fi environment for your home. In simple... read more

Why Lighting Design? Part One

When humans first populated the earth, the largest influence on their lives was the sun. It determined when they woke and when the slept, when they hunted and when they hid. Even after the discovery of fire, the physical toll of maintaining an open flame limited its functionality as a light source. Even tallow candles, popular in the 14th century, were so expensive that only the most affluent members of society could enjoy more than a few minutes of light per day. Up to the 19th century it was still prohibitively expensive for the majority of people. In 1816 Baltimore became the first city in America to light its streets with gas distributed through a system of pipelines. This technology proved so beneficial that it was found in almost every city by 1850. And just like that, we owned the night. This is part one of a three-part series covering how we can control light to improve our lives. In the first part we will cover lighting design, and how it impacts our ability to enjoy and use our space.   History of Lighting Design Richard Kelly was a pioneer in lighting design, and his work included the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth. Kelly presented what he called “the three elemental forms of light” in a lecture titled “Lighting as an Integral Part of Architecture” in 1952. Kelly called these forms of light ambient luminescence, focal glow and the Play of Brilliants, fanciful terms he used to describe the practices of washing surfaces, highlighting objects and creating sharp details. He also believed that natural light should be the... read more

Smart Devices VS. Smart Homes

This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but your average home contains more “smart” devices than ever before. Nest thermostats may have brought the trend to the mainstream, but Alexa, HomeKit, Sonos, and others have taken that momentum and run with it. You might think that adding a few of these devices would take you to the pinnacle of the “Smart Home,” but is there anything that is missing from these consumer or DIY devices that is available in the professional systems like Control4, ELAN and Savant? Let’s take a look.

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Your next TV – news from CES

Who ever said bigger isn’t better has never walked the TV area at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Reporters and news programs can give a misleading view of what CES has to offer, as they tend to focus on the ‘concept cars’ rather than the ‘production cars’ of technology. Last year, the stories about LG’s rollup TV and this year’s Samsung’s swing-into-portrait-mode Sero TV fell into that bucket. Yet underneath all the hype, we find some real changes coming to TVs, and many of them are available today.

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Home Presets

I often wonder “Why do we welcome technology more in our cars than in our homes?” After all, let’s go back to the last time you approached your car: You probably pressed the button on a remote that unlocked the door and disarmed the alarm. As you pull back on the door in your car, the light conveniently comes on for you inside and the seat moves back. When you sit down, and either put your key in or press start, the seat moves forward as the steering wheel moves down and towards you. As you take a drive down the road, your favorite music is just a single button press away on the six presets. Why doesn’t your house do all this?

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