Canadian Home Packs in a Wealth of Stealth


Credit: Andrew Doran

How one home meets the needs for high-performance systems that never intrude on the decor.

Dec. 18, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

What do you do if you’re a classically trained musician who’s made a very nice living in software development? You build a very high-tech home with a very cool music system, using high-performance loudspeakers that convey the ethereal essence of classical scores. You might even add a digital player piano that can perform piano pieces over a whole-house audio system, but can also be played to accompaniment—very loud accompaniment—from the home’s audio system.

And if you’re this Vancouver, B.C., homeowner, you also have all the technology cleverly concealed—except for the piano, of course. That means there’s a bevy of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, TVs hidden by scrolling artwork, subwoofers that fire bass from beneath the floor, and in-wall touchpads and control panels to operate this orchestra of goodies. (Click here to view additional photos and information.)

“The owner expected superior audio/video performance everywhere and brought us literally thousands of media discs to upload and be accessible anywhere in the home,” says Harold Clark, director of the RSI Group at Vancouver-based Commercial Electronics. “He wanted immediate access to a digital piano, electronic games, and laptops.”

So how does one achieve maestro-level performance with in-wall and in-ceiling speakers? RSI used a complement of “ribbon” speakers from BG Radia, which better convey that airy presence of classical music. A ribbon speaker consists of a membrane that vibrates uniformly and without much bending or wrinkling as with a traditional cone-shaped speaker driver. “They provide a very high resolution,” says Clark. “There’s no time delay distortion as with a traditional voice coil speaker. And the sound from these speakers disperses evenly,”  like in a good concert hall.

The speakers were also acoustically tuned to the room, says Clark. “We used audio test gear to see the room response and to find standing waves, or low frequencies that make boomy sounds or no bass, and we used that to determine best locations for the speakers. Then we adjusted the speakers’ crossovers [the points at which certain frequencies go to different drivers such as tweeters, midranges and woofers].”

RSI worked with interior designer Alanna Johnston of Living Environments in Vancouver to ensure that the electronic systems provided the family the right amount of performance and enjoyment while not encroaching on the look and feel of the home.

RSI consulted with Johnston on the necessary locations for speakers, screens, and other electronics gear, as well as designing a lighting system with a clear separation of zones for localized control.

In addition to all the stealth, there are 19 zones of heating and cooling, plus motorized window shutters and security sensors that prevent the shutters from closing on open windows. All of this required a carefully planned CEBus wiring system consisting of two RG-6 coaxial cables and two Category 6 high-speed data wires to plates hidden in baseboards throughout the house and routed to a centralized equipment room.

There are also dual high-speed partitioned ISP networks to enable two different service providers over the computer network, employing whichever is quickest.

Some of the biggest challenges were space limitations, such as having to develop compact solutions for a centralized equipment room, explains Clark. Nearly all the home’s systems, including source components for the home theater, were housed in two racks, some gear at the back of the deep racks. And numerous changes during the construction process, such as the homeowner’s decision not to have any audio/video components in the theater, meant reworking the wiring infrastructure back to the equipment room.

The control systems rely on 11 wired and wireless graphic user interfaces from Vantage Controls and Crestron for the operation of all systems, whether house-wide or in that room. Some rooms feature hand held remote control wands for operation of local audio/video, CCTV, and central A/V sources. Vantage wall keypads don’t just command the lighting, but control vent fans, exterior shutters, whole-house audio, fireplaces, and limited security features. Meanwhile, the hand held wands provide roaming shutter control and exterior audio, fireplace and landscape lighting control. Back in the equipment room, the Crestron system processors communicate between security, surveillance, entry access, spa and pool, HVAC and shutter systems.

The homeowner also wanted a unique “performance stage” in the home theater for child recitals, plays or games. The children are to grow up with a sense for performance, which is exactly what this 6,300-square-foot home achieves.

The homeowners recently added even more, tacking on 3,300 square feet with an underground garage and medieval-inspired “grotto,” and are planning an outdoor cinema on a knoll.

One can think of this home as a performance theater of many players, though few seize the spotlight. Click here to view additional photos and information.

RSI Group at Commercial Electronics
Vancouver, B.C.

Living Environments
Vancouver, B.C.

Lighting: Vantage
Control System: Crestron
Whole-house Audio: Crestron, ADA, NAD
Speakers: BG, SpeakerCraft, Boston Acoustics, Waterworks Acoustics
Subwoofers: Boston Acoustics, Sonance
Movie Server: Kaleidescape
Racks: Middle Atlantic
TVs: Panasonic with VisionArt, Sharp
Telephone: Panasonic

Projector: Digital Projection
Display: Stewart Filmscreen
Speakers, subwoofers: Genelec
Amplifiers: Genelec
Processor: Lexicon

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