Lynn McCroskey knows how to entertain on a grand scale. He was the chief sound guy for IMAX, the company that makes wraparound theaters for you-are-there experiences. IMAX theaters must be carefully designed to pack some audible punch but also be acoustically isolated so they don’t disturb people outside the theater. So when Lynn and his family were building their dream home in a suburb of Birmingham, AL, some detailed planning took place. The 6,000-square-foot cedar and stone home is built in a quiet wooded valley and surrounded by oaks and birches. “The idea was to make it seem like the house grew out of the ground,” says Lynn.
The interior spaces are framed in African mahogany and lighter Southeast Asian woods, and there are lots of windows. Some clerestory windows in the great room are even aligned so the sun shines through them during the winter to provide more light and warmth.
A Vantage Controls system operates all the lighting and air-conditioning systems. Power can go out for days during a storm, so there’s a backup generator. However, the generator can’t run all the air-conditioning systems at once. “The control system senses when the generator is on, so it only puts on one A/C system at a time,” Lynn says.
Preset “scenes” set the home for coming, going and entertaining. When the garage door opens, lights automatically come on, the alarm system shuts off and the A/C turns on to a comfortable level. When the McCroskeys leave for vacation, the control system even turns off the water.
Throughout the house is a whole-house audio system from Lynn’s company, Oxmoor. The Zon system sends digital sound over high-speed Category 5 data wire so there’s no interference. The system also features simple one-button controls for technophobes like Lynn’s wife, Jennifer. And it allows you to plug in other sources so you can listen anywhere and from any source.
Believe it or not, Apple iPods are the most popular music sources in the house, because they can be plugged into the Zon system and heard over the speakers. “The kids can take MP3s down to the deck or the hot tub and distribute any source anywhere in the house,” Lynn says. For something slightly more traditional, there’s a Windows Media Server that stores tunes.
Lynn’s IMAX training really came in handy when building the home theater. The space is completely isolated acoustically from the rest of the house. It has walls built within walls, and the ceiling is isolated from the floor above. Even the doors have solid cores, and there are drop thresholds that rise up and seal the door when it closes, just as in an IMAX theater.
And that’s probably a good thing, because powerful studio-grade custom speakers built by one of Lynn’s IMAX associates pump out the sound. That’s accompanied by a Sharp DLP projector and a woven Draper screen that allows the center channel to be heard from behind it. “You can really rock in that theater and not wake up anybody,” Lynn says.
Those IMAX guys think of everything.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates