Cool Homes
Downtown Bank Converted into Automated Condos
Automation attracts couple to downtown living after years in the suburbs.
January 22, 2014 by Lisa Montgomery

Ready to downsize from a single-family house in the suburbs, John and Dawn Hopkins looked to downtown Fort Wayne, Ind., as their next and likely last place of residence. They wanted to start fresh in terms of the décor and their lifestyle, embracing something more modern and the opportunity to experience the revival of a once-thriving city. “We have always wanted to live in a condo where we could walk to the theater, restaurants and downtown events,” says John. But there was one element of suburbia they wouldn’t dare part with—their Control4 automation system.

“We were using a Control4 system in our single-family home, mainly just for controlling our A/V system and a few lights,” John says. “When we started laying plans for our next residence, we knew we wanted to stick with the same system that we had grown to love, but were eager to add more to it.”

By “more,” the couple would be weaving in every light, a high-end media system, a radiant floor heating system, and motorized Lutron window shades. Having gone through the process of having a home automated once already, John and Dawn knew it was best to get their architect on board right away so that the technology could be blended in nicely with the elegant room finishes. It turns out their timing was perfect. At the time of their decision to move from the burbs to downtown, city developers had announced plans to convert Fort Wayne’s historic Anthony Wayne Building, which had once served as a bank, into several luxury condos. The couple purchased a 2,080-square-foot unit and commenced with a major two-year project that would take them to the next level of automated living.

Per the recommendation of the custom electronics design and installation firm that had handled the automation of their single-family home, John and Dawn contacted Millennium Sounds, Warsaw, Ind., to help them design a system that would complement their luxurious new digs. Lighting, of course, can have a huge impact on a home’s appearance and functionality, so much of the design of the Control4 system was focused squarely on the easy operation of the condo’s LED lights. “We wanted every switch on the system,” says John. Instead of going with Control4’s popular wireless system, the couple opted for a system in which each wall switch and keypad would be wired back to a centralized control panel.  Explains Millennium Sound’s Ryan Piper: Although a wireless system is always easier to install, especially during a renovation like this, condos suffer from an environment where wireless communication is often plagued by interference.  The Hopkins’ condo happened to be located right next door to a residence that was already using a wireless Control4 system. Crosstalk between two wireless systems in close quarters like this would have been inevitable.

The “panelized” Control4 lighting system precludes communication snafus by sending and receiving signals to and from the decorative keypads in John and Dawn’s condo over a dedicated highway of low-voltage cabling. 

How to Add Lighting Control to Your Home

Together, John and Ryan programmed the system so that each button on the keypad would set a specific group of lights to a certain intensity level. “We wanted the lights to accentuate the architecture and décor of the entire condo,” says John. “It’s so beautiful that we keep the lights on all the time … as long as we’re home.” Their near-constant use of the lights was one of the reasons the homeowners chose predominantly LED fixtures for the condo. This would allow them to enjoy the beautiful lighting without consuming much energy.

And when the John and Dawn aren’t home, which is nearly half the week due to work commitments, the Control4 system provides peace of mind that everything at the condo is working as it should. An “all off” button by a keypad by the door sweeps through the residence switching off the A/V equipment and the lights, and closing the shades (there’s a keypad by the bed that does the same thing). For extra assurance, from a Control4 mobile app on their iPhones the couple can monitor the status of the lights, temperature, window shades and even if someone, like the cleaning lady, has entered the condo. “I get an email whenever the door to the condo opens, which reminds me to turn on the lights and open the shades for our cleaning lady,” John says. “I can even view a surveillance camera that’s mounted in the hallway to make sure she’s doing okay.” After she has left, John can go to the app to see if any lights have been left on and turn them off if necessary. Motion sensors in the closets switch off the fixtures automatically.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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