Outdoor Space
Gold Winner
JVC QMotion
Home Automation Turns Backyard into Resort
OUTStanding Automation
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June 02, 2014 by Lisa Montgomery

System Design & Installation
Smart House Media
Kihei, Maui, HI

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It’s common in Hawaii for the interior of homes to completely open up to the outdoors. What’s not so common is for a house to have a 20-mile network of high-grade, low-voltage cabling. Nor will you find on the hillside of many properties a two-tier swimming pool complex complete with diving cliff, underground water slide and grotto. And while iPads in most homes are used to surf the Internet, watch an occasional downloaded movie and explore new music, these portable devices in our gold-winning outdoor space run an app that enables the homeowners to operate all things electronic, including the features of the extensive swimming pool system, outdoor audio/video components, dozens of colored LED landscape light fixtures and a sophisticated outdoor security system.

The outdoor area was such an important part of the overall design of the home, says custom electronics (CE) professional Michael Kassal of Smart House Media, Kihei, Hawaii, that the installation of the swimming pool and landscape features took an entire year to complete before the construction of the house began. “As an integrator, you’re always looking for that one ‘dream’ project,” he continues. “This project was it for me—where I was able to apply every design principle of audio, video, lighting and communications systems that I’ve learned over my 12 years in the business.”

As elaborate and posh as any outdoor entertainment area at a five-star resort, this multifaceted backyard would demand a powerful, sophisticated control system to enable the homeowners to easily manage every aspect of the outdoor space from a pool lounge chair. An automation system from Savant was selected by Kassal and his team both for its ability to easily integrate a wide variety of different subsystems and to allow the homeowners to monitor and manage the operation of those systems conveniently from their iPads and iPhones.

As the biggest eye candy on the property, the elaborate swimming pools would naturally be woven into the Savant control architecture. From an on-screen menu, the homeowners can interact with the two Pentair swimming pool systems to control the waterfalls, the temperature of the pool and hot tub and a stream of water that wraps around the property. “There are a number of bodies of water that need to be managed,” says Kassal.

Keeping Their Cool

In keeping with the design goal of blending the outdoor and indoor spaces, where rooms on the backside of the house blend seamlessly with the backyard, doors and windows are often left wide open. While effective for the fusion of interior and exterior spaces, it’s a plan that could have pushed the limits of this home’s 14-zone AC system. Thankfully, Smart House Media devised a solution that’s completely automatic. With the Savant system in charge, “the homeowners can enjoy both the indoors and outdoors without having to continually monitor the status of all the doors and windows,” says Smart House Media’s Michael Kassal. A magnetic security contact attached to each exterior door and window is tied to the Savant automation system. When the air conditioning system is in cool mode within a particular cooling zone, and the windows or doors in that area have been left open for more than two minutes, the AC in that zone shuts off. When the Savant system sees that all doors and windows in that zone have been closed, it reactivates that AC.

To bring out the beauty of the front and back yards, the owners can quickly scroll to a special lighting page on an iPad. Here, they can choose a particular color to highlight the pool and landscape. Red and orange are popular picks, as they “really accentuate the water features and the dark reddish hue of the wood that pervades the exterior areas of the home,” Kassal says. This capability was enabled by utilizing the newest features of a Lutron QS residential lighting control system, which supports the integration of the color-controllable, waterproof DMX commercial lighting fixtures that were added to both the entry of the home and the rear pool pavilion. The complete combo lighting package was then tied to the Savant control platform, through which Kassal provided the homeowners with a variety of 16 other preset color options. “With the multilevel layout of the property, there are palm trees everywhere, and the homeowners had them wrapped in Christmas lighting. When they turn on all these lights, the landscape lighting, the colored DMX lighting and 36 gas-fired Tiki torches, the outdoor ambiance is just as nice as what you’d see at the finest hotel resort on any island throughout Hawaii,” Kassal says.

Music is a natural complement to beautiful lighting, and by swiping to the Savant Music Server page on an iPad, the owners can summon tunes to any or all of five listening zones. On cue, a favorite Pandora radio station can be streamed from a Savant SmartMedia Server to outdoor-friendly James Loudspeaker speakers and subwoofers. “We positioned the speakers and subs in a way that would fill the space evenly, yet provide a full stereo effect that you wouldn’t expect from an outdoor system,” Kassal says. The same Savant Pro switchers and amps that pump music to speakers and subwoofers at the expansive upper and lower pool lawns also deliver video to a Séura Storm TV from cable boxes and streaming sources, like an Apple TV. Although the TV is designed to handle Mother Nature, it normally stays hidden and well protected within the pedestal of a bar at the entertainment pavilion. At the touch of a button, a motorized platform raises the weather-hardy TV up and into view.

It’s hard for the homeowners to resist spending most of their time outdoors with a setting as beautiful and easily managed as this. And the same goes for passersby on the beach. “It’s a common problem in Hawaii with everyone spending so much time outside that for some residential homes that are situated close to public beaches for people to trespass on private property,” says Kassal. To protect this residence from unwanted visitors, Smart House Media installed motion-sensing beams around the perimeter of the property. When a beam is broken, it signals the Savant automation system, which instructs the nearest IP surveillance camera (there are 36) to snap a photo of the area. This photo is immediately emailed to the owners’ property manager, who lives nearby. When the owners are home, beams around the pool can be engaged to warn them of grandchildren who may have wandered onto the pool deck. The Savant system plays an audible announcement through the home’s indoor and outdoor speakers as notification.

With so many commands being issued from an iPad outside to the automation processor and other equipment inside, a strong, reliable wireless network was absolutely essential to the success of this project. Twelve commercial-grade wireless access points from Ruckus blanket the property to ensure that each and every command gets through loud and clear to create an amazingly automated outdoor space that’s easy to enjoy.

Great ideas for home technology planning:
What Makes Smart Lighting Smart?
Tech Integration Ideas for Dining Rooms
Maximizing Your Network for Streaming Media

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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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