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“How do you live?”
This is the first question that the custom electronics (CE) professionals from Audio/Video Solutions, Laguna Hills, Calif., asks its clients. It’s a simple question that has developed into a sort of mantra for the company. And it’s exactly the sort of thinking that was central to the success of this $20 million, 5,600-square-foot, fully automated beach house in Southern California. “I believe in this approach very strongly. So many people in our industry sell based on features, products and brand names, tending to reverse-diagnose problems,” says Dustin Christner of Audio/Video Solutions. “Integrators say, ‘Let me send some medicine and we will wait and see if it works or is even the right medicine.’ Instead, we focus on what the client wants, how they live, what their issues are and diagnose problems the proper way.”
One thing was very clear on this project from the beginning: the control system had to be sophisticated beyond belief, allowing the homeowner complete access to home systems while away, along with complex but easy-to-use in-home functionality. To fully comprehend the scale of the Crestron automation system that served as the solution, consider that Audio/Video Solutions has a full-time Crestron-certified programmer on staff yet still outsourced part of that programming to InFuseBox, a company owned by Crestron master programmer Tom Milpacher, who helped get this custom automation system working like a well-oiled machine.
The magic starts at the front door where some interesting automation features unfold. The home is outfitted with the very first Holovision VIO Entry System—we are talking serial number 001. The VIO system ties into the Crestron system and a Gilderfluke SD10 audio player—a combination that allows the homeowner to add any custom door tone to the front doorbell so that it will ring throughout the house speakers. Pretty cool, right? What is really cool, however, is that this homeowner can answer the door from anywhere in the world via his smartphone. Someone rings the bell in Southern California, and the he can answer it with his own voice, whether he is in Istanbul or Iceland.
“There is currently no system that can ring throughout the house, allow the homeowner to see who is at the door even when they are away, and let the owner communicate with someone using their own voice remotely via the house intercom. Thieves usually ring the doorbell before they rob a house, so voice is a great deterrent,” says Christner. “It makes it look like someone is there.” Incredibly, the Holovision VIO does all this with only a single CAT6 wire for a very tidy installation. Once the homeowner sees who is at the door, he can let them in or not. Incidentally, because the front door is made completely of glass, the team installed a special magnetic locking mechanism to release the front door using absolutely no strikes.
But the front door is, well, only the beginning. When the homeowner pulls his car into the garage, a sensor triggers the Crestron system, which puts the home into a welcome mode: alarms are disarmed, lights are adjusted based on time of day and the shades in the main area are lifted—all without so much as a finger-swipe on a touchpanel. Likewise, the good morning mode happens automatically, with blackout shades rising up first followed by the main shades over the course of several minutes. The TV then switches on, showing the daily stock report as the homeowner gets ready to go. While sound is clear and present, the Stealth Acoustics speakers are not. They are hidden in the walls and are truly invisible.
Perhaps the most impressive feature, though, is the custom motorized car lift that allows the homeowner to drive into the garage, exit the vehicle, press and hold a button, and watch as his car disappears on a car lift down into the “Chill Room” below. Aside from showcasing a sexy car collection, this room is an A/V mecca in its own right. The carousel doubles as a dance floor, where guests can rock out to tunes delivered by 17 speakers and eight subwoofers. Luckily, the room is also constructed of 6-inch concrete, so very little sound escapes. As the room’s name suggests, if the homeowner is into more chilling-out and less dancing, he can watch TV on a 70-inch Samsung LED TV. Getting all this A/V to perform like a champ was a challenge due to the room’s concrete shell, yet Audio/Video Solutions still managed to install central vac, future-proofing conduit and a highway of high-speed wiring. Later the team had to go back to retrofit the wiring for the car lift, which alone was an exercise in engineering. Finishing touches, like a round glass elevator that moves inside a spiraling bamboo staircase, make this a truly epic room.
Once you are upstairs, you not only get the benefit of a sweeping 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean, but also sophisticated home control that extends onto the amazing patio with its glass-bottom color-changing pool on one level and a hot tub below that. “People in the swimming pool can literally look down at people in the hot tub,” says Christner. Because this homeowner was so Apple-centric, but Apple iPads and iPhones are not very waterproof, Audio/Video Solutions employed InFuseBox to build a custom interface for a Sony Android–based tablet that Christner says is one of the best waterproof remotes available.
Providing the highly automated beach house with a reliable wireless signal was also tricky. “We have an extremely reliable Cisco enterprise-class network in the house,” says Christner. “But because the entire house is made of concrete, which hampers the transmission of signals, each room has its own cellular repeater and wireless access point. With strong Wi-Fi everywhere, the homeowner can use a Sony remote that looks consistent with all the other Apple-based controllers. And better yet, he can even do so with wet fingers.”
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