As the technology for generating and managing renewable energy sources becomes more sophisticated, a rising number of governments, companies and private consumers are waking up to the possibilities of sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. But while the practical credentials of renewable energy sources such as solar power continue to be proven, one of the main criticisms that persist is their aesthetic appeal, or rather their lack thereof.
However this stereotype is being powerfully challenged by a number of design-led advancements in the field, and by a growing trend towards a lifestyle that is as stylish as it is sustainable. One of the companies driving change is Panasonic, who have developed a range of products that save, generate and store energy without sacrificing visual appeal. Many of these innovations have been developed and road-tested by the company through their PanaHome projects, residential buildings that incorporate a wide spectrum of eco-friendly innovations. These eco-friendly houses offer a blueprint for sustainable living in the 21st century and are concepts spinned-off from the cutting-edge development Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town near Tokyo. One of such concepts is now being made available in other pioneering residential projects, such as Sanctuary Ridge in Kuala Lumpur.
Says Mr Kohjiroh Wakabayashi,Managing Director, PanaHome Asia Pacific: “There is no longer any need to choose between stylish living and energy efficiency. We approach each product with a desire to not only contribute to a more sustainable future but also to make something that looks just as good as—or even better than—its regular counterpart.”
One of the most significant improvements is in the use of solar panels, a feature that has had its popularity affected in the past by a reputation for being unsightly. Mindful that such objections can be deal-breakers in deciding whether or not to switch to sustainable energy practices, Panasonic has introduced roof-fitted solar panels that are unobtrusive yet can generate sizeable amounts of energy for the home. These panels are connected to the company’s Home Energy Management System, which allows the energy to be created, stored and automatically redistributed through the home as needed for maximum energy efficiency.
As well as taking advantage of the sun’s rays, these buildings also make use of natural breezes through the discreet ECONAVI ventilation system. This works by drawing fresh air from under the floorboards—which is cooler than the air outside the house in summer and warmer than the air outside in winter—and circulating it through a series of inconspicuous vents. Moreover, the system also intuitively selects mechanical or natural ventilation after using sensors to measure the temperature inside and outside of the house, thus reducing thermal loss and energy wastage.
Another innovation that has delighted conservationists and aesthetes in equal measures is the KIRATECH tile. Designed to be used on exterior walls, these ingenious coverings self-clean when exposed to sun or rain, meaning they not only continue to look good all year round but also require virtually zero maintenance, creating ongoing savings in terms of costs and resources. In addition, the tiles are watertight to safeguard against potential leakage, while they also break down hazardous atmospheric pollutants such as nitrogen oxide to purify the surrounding air—further evidence that these eco-friendly technological advancements are a breath of fresh air in more ways than one.