Monday, March 30, 2009

New Hybrid Sportscar from Toyota

Another exciting development in eco-friendly transportation may be on the horizon in the form of a sporty car based on tried and true hybrid technology from Toyota. As a long-time loyal Toyota owner who likes a sporty car that can deliver performance and economy, I am thrilled to see this breaking news.

Toyota executive vice president Masatami Takimoto has reportedly confirmed the MR2 sportscar will soon be hitting the road, remade from its older version into a Prius-inspired hybrid vehicle. The new MR2 will draw inspiration (and technology) from the iconic Toyota Prius, with the goal of creating a mass market hybrid sportscar that is as fun to drive as it is green. No actual renderings of the car have been released, but based on rumors and existing concepts for the ft-HS concept car, it is expected to be a sporty, low-slung coupe cross between the old MR2 and the Prius.

Toyota’s development of the MR2 will not compete directly with the Tesla Roadster, but rather creates a car that can do a reasonable 0-60mph in seven seconds and get an incredible 60mpg, presumably at a much more achievable price point. We are all familiar with Toyota’s efforts to create a mass market electric vehicle. The Prius, after all, is the best known green car on the market. So looking to capitalize on such technology while creating a sportier, much more dynamic looking vehicle has great implications for both a consumer market and the corporation’s innovation.

Based on the automaker's current line of eminently reliable, practical and fuel efficient machinery, it's easy to forget that Toyota has a past full of exciting sports cars. A couple of years back, Toyota decided to highlight the fact that it knows how to built a sporty-looking vehicle with the FT-HS concept, which mated a performance-minded hybrid powertrain with edgy, low-slung bodywork.

If indeed true, this new sporty hybrid would go up against Honda's expected CR-Z hybrid hatchback. Unlike its rival from Honda, though, the MR2 would feature rear-wheel drive, and that's something to get excited about.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Save Energy with Technology and Convenience

A new partner that I am working with to create integrated home theater, lighting and security systems for clients who want to enjoy ultimate convenience and cutting edge technology in their homes, Digital Home Lifestyles, is helping them to save money and energy as well. That may seem unlikely - after all adding more electronics to your home must add to the electricity required, right?

The difference is being made in the amount of energy needed to illuminate the home - something every home requires. The amazing thing is that it works with all the standard lights and bulbs you already know and use. The savings comes from the lighting control system and how it works. In addition to providing ease of pre-set lighting scenes for specific activities and time of day, a lighting control system like the one used by Digital Home Lifestyles can be programmed to limit the level of light. As explained by Chad Hollander, design consultant of Digital Home Lifestyles, by setting all fixtures to only come on at 80% of maximum, you are also using only 80% of the electricity needed to power that fixture, but there is no visible difference to your eye in the amount of light. Limiting the maximum wattage output of bulbs also extends the life of the bulb, resulting in lower replacement costs.

United under a single control system, independent "subsystems" can also monitor and conserve energy throughout the house with a simple touch of a screen, or programmed to suit your lifestyle. From the touch of a button you can open or close window shades according to the sun, adjust thermostats and be alerted to doors or windows that have been left ajar. It can be operated remotely from any computer anywhere in the world. You can even answer the front door while you are in another part of the country via the monitors in your security system and the Internet, instructing UPS to leave the package you were expecting.

Several control system products including lighting systems, thermostats, and shade controls are designed to operate efficiently, replacing several products and drawing less power. Integration solutions offer significant energy savings by providing daylight harvesting and automating lights, drapes, thermostats and sprinklers/fountains based on daylight, time, motion, occupancy, temperature, humidity and other conditions. By integrating the disparate environmental systems, efficiencies are increased exponentially and may contribute toward LEED Certification. Many options are available to suit your needs.

To truly experience the benefits of a home control system, the interface has to be easy to understand and simple to use. Infinitely customizable, the sky is the limit with how your home can be adapted to your lifestyle. The system can turn music on or off, preheat the pool or spa just in time for your arrival and can be set for individual preferences for each member of your family. When you arrive home, and enter your code to change security alarm settings, it can automatically turn on your favorite music or television channel and the lights for your path from garage to bedroom.

Digital Home Lifestyles is my choice for installing home theaters and entertainment systems that are unparalleled in Arizona. Their technology partners are the top of the line and systems can be designed specifically for you and your home - whether you have a dedicated theater space or want to conceal it within a living room, family room or outdoor area. They professionally design a media system according to your desires, and can present you with a budget in minutes, making changes in real time until you are satisfied with both the technology features and price. Then they work with your designer and builder to install it seamlessly into your home. As a designer, I appreciate that speakers and controls can be easily matched to be nearly invisible and integrate into your decor, no matter what the color or style.

For more information about integrating your home and lifestyle, anywhere in the world, contact Sesshu Design Associates or Digital Home Lifestyles directly.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Truly ZERO-VOC paint - in any color

Benjamin Moore has released Natura, the first ever truly Zero-VOC paint that is virtually odorless, and has fewer VOCs than any other paint on the market. With zero VOCs in both the base and the colorants, you can match virtually any color without sacrificing the green benefits. They put their Green Promise seal on this product- assurance that it meets or exceeds the strictest industry standards with excellent performance.

One of my clients used this to paint their entire interior, with rave reviews. It goes on easily, dries fast, has excellent coverage and great durability. Best of all - with no odor, you can still live in your rooms while you're painting. You can breathe easy, knowing the air is free of the harmful and toxic compounds found in standard paints (which is what we know as "that new paint smell").

Benjamin Moore has gone beyond the EPA standards to evaluate not just VOCs, but all the elements that affect indoor air quality. Natura exceeds the LEED criteria for the environmental safety.

The Natura range includes a primer plus three sheens—flat, eggshell and semi-gloss—and, of course, the infinite selection of colors. Offered in quarts and gallons, Natura is $49.99 a gallon, MSRP.

For more information on Natura and its availability, visit The site includes a retailer locator to help find where the paint is sold nearest you, or ask your designer to specify Natura on your home.

The April 2009 issue of Dwell compares 4 popular lines of eco-friendly interior paint - Benjamin Moore Natura, YOLO Colorhouse, AFM Safecoat, and Mythic. All rated farily well, but the Benjamin Moore was clearly the winner, both from an expert's view and the editor's. It ranked espeically high on color choice including darks and brights.

Monday, March 16, 2009

World's fastest hybrid car?

If you like very cool looking sports cars that really deliver in speed, like I do, but you don't want to pay the price of pathetic gas mileage, like I do - then you'll love this.

Italdesign, a renowned sportscar designer, unveiled the Namir at the 79th Geneva Motor Show, a vehicle that they claim will be the fastest hybrid car in the world. Boasting a scorching top speed of 187mph with 370hp, and able to travel over 1,200 miles without a refill or a charge, this just might be the answer to your speed racing fuel-efficient dreams.

The Namir hybrid concept was designed with the help of Frazer-Nash. Pictures of the concept car have been leaking out for weeks now.

The press release reveals that the Namir hybrid will have a lithium ion battery pack, with overall power of 270 kW, equivalent to 370 hp. They claim the car will get a fuel efficiency of about 92 miles to the gallon. And with the car’s 50 liter gas tank, the car can travel up to 2,000 km without a refill or a charge.

The top speed of the Namir is 187 mph. Compare that to the last year’s hot hybrid sports car, the Fisker Karma, whose top speed is only 125 mph, or the Tesla Roadster (my personal favorite) whose top speed is also electronically limited to 125 mph. Looks like the Karma and the Tesla will be crawling along in comparison.

No word on cost of the vehicle, or if it will be available in the US, but by the looks and sound of the concept, this is certainly set to be the new hot car.

I love the innovative windshield design and the tough look of the exterior of this car.

My only question is how do you see out the rear window?