DOES FORM ALWAYS TRUMP FUNCTION?
Those involved in the planning, design and construction of buildings, whether for use as living accommodation or working environments are acutely aware that aesthetic consideration is key for both interior and exterior design.
It is common and natural to be drawn to beautiful designs as they immediately provide a feeling of tranquillity, peace, and relaxation and that is so important in today’s crazy, pressured world.
Within many new build projects, the battle lines are often drawn around wall and ceiling clutter typically being light switches, thermostats, alarm panels, sensors and speakers. The intention is that the property must look a certain way which often removes the control of the creature comforts that a modern property owner still desires.
It is a hugely common misconception and a mistake made by many that these hurdles can be overcome by hiding controls away and using a modern-day smart phone, job done and on paper it looks perfect. The looks of these type of projects are stunning and can be real pieces of art. However, unlike art these properties need to be lived in and a poorly thought out user experience will tarnish even the best aesthetic design over time as this is where the secondary sensory feeling comes from, the pure joy and simplicity of using and interacting with the property.
Research is showing that “App Overload” is killing productivity as it creates a sudden mini distraction to a primary thought process. Although it’s great fun to be able to control your lights and turn the heating up and down from your sofa this should never be a primary form of control. A similar issue occurs on wall touch screens that have confusing user interfaces or try to provide too many options. Touch screens also carry an unintended fear factor to visitor or guests as they don’t want to trigger something unintentionally. It really kills the atmosphere giving your guests an induction on how to change the temperature of their room or letting them know which apps they need to download.
Manufacturers seem to want to create their own isolated eco system and have an app for everything. Polar Bear Design takes a different approach, a customer centric approach. This does not mean that the Polar Bear Zentium thermostat is not smart, far from it with its ARM processor and Edge BMS technology. We create a customer led approach by ensuring that the Heating and Cooling controls can be integrated and compatible with as many different control systems as possible which includes the traditional HVAC controls, but also the AV Controllers such as Control4, Crestron, Lutron, AMX etc. This creates a singular interface for the user and the HVAC becomes part of the solution of a Smart Home.
BLENDING FORM AND FUNCTION
Technology has matured to a stage where control has grown beyond touch screens. Polar Bear Design believes that they can blend form and function with a range of phenomenally powerful and elegant thermostats that can be combined with lighting controls and offer highly customisable luxury finishes. The Zentium pro thermostat with its digital crown, offers a user interface that has a traditional approach but is underpinned with modern hardware and a beautiful high resolution colour screen. Not only is this thermostat incredibly aesthetically pleasing, the Zentium pro thermostat is capable of directly controlling both air conditioning and heating without the need for overly complex controller systems that need to be programmed by costly engineers.
“As Sir Jonathan Paul Ive, British-American industrial, product and architectural designer and former Chief Design Officer of Apple Inc once said, “There is beauty when something works and it works intuitively.”
SO, DO AESTHETICS REALLY MATTER?
Aesthetics are always going to be a key driving force for the design of a building, our natural desire for this is unquestionable. If we take aesthetics as one of the challenges that designers and installers face, we have to realise that they are a core design principle that can make a difference to a customer’s final purchasing decision. Aesthetics are not just about the exterior design of the faceplate or fascia of a smart thermostat, which takes on board factors such as colour, style, pattern, shape, weight and more, but it also has to include the design of the control panel and digital display if available. Designers must use aesthetics to complement their designs ease-of-use and desirability. Attractive design layouts can and will be the first impression a customer receives, it could be an initial barrier to acceptance of a product within the building design industry. Polar Bear Design feel that the Zentium thermostat plays a unique role in providing an elegant solution that can work with the design but potentially more crucially, giving control back to the user.
Some natural modern finishes look stunning and can really create some amazing visual impacts but how do they feel? Natural stone can often suck the heat out of a room and take many hours to heat back up. Wood on the other hand if heated up too much can warp. Creating a comfortable environment in terms of temperature is as important to creating the visual impact. The Zentium Pro thermostat will allow you to have both a minimum and maximum floor temperature. No longer will you walk into a bathroom with a cold floor. This can also help in larger rooms such as an orangeries where the heat will drop out of them overnight and they can then take hours to warm back up. This process puts huge amounts of heat into the floor and that can then often lead to the room over shooting the desired temperature just at the same time the sun is coming out, leading to a higher cooling energy bill.
INTUITIVE NOT SIMPLE
It is not uncommon for a thermostat to have buttons that just don’t do anything. Maybe the feature has been disabled, maybe overridden; for whatever reason, this complicates the experience and can even lead to support calls as the user’s perception is that the system is not working. This is also true for the strange choice of symbols and cryptic hieroglyphics displayed on a screen.
The luxury client is not interested if it is in frost protection mode, the floor has reached max temperature or in the angle of the ventilation grills. Yes, this information is
important and should be accessible, but does it need to be so prevalent? The best user interface is one that from a glance the user knows what’s happening and how to use it. The Zentiums’ digital crown is a universally understood control interface. Turn it up and the room temperature increases, turn it down it stops heating or starts cooling.
Press the crown to change pages to fan speed, zone two or towel radiator. There is no language barrier to this interface and different features that are being disabled can be altered. This allows the same thermostat to be used across spaces with different requirements without causing confusion.
With any modern home regardless of the styling principles, the devices installed should seamlessly create an intuitive solution.
Something that looks great often lacks the technical features that a quality installation requires. As an installer, your company profit is reliant on repeatability from the lessons learnt on previous jobs. Why have a different solution if you use Crestron, Lutron, Control4, Savant, Elan etc. Choose a thermostat that can be used with all these control systems so a repeatable design profile can be created. Additionally, it is important to consider its integration with BMS control systems such as NorthBT, Trend and Delta etc. Many AV installers shy away from this key part of an integrated smart building, in much the same way they hide the thermostats away in a cupboard. The broad spectrum of integration offered by the Zentium thermostat allows AV and BMS companies to work in a much more harmonious way. The benefits of this are the deep technical knowledge that BMS companies offer, allowing for a truly customer centric design.
AWARD WINNING DESIGN
The Zentium pro thermostat won a prestigious award for CEDIA best new hardware product 2020 and is going from strength to strength as customers agree with the beautiful no nonsense concept. Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) is an international trade association representing the professional home automation/ smart home technology industry.
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