“Our goal from the beginning was to have a house that would celebrate the outdoors and be purposeful in its design,” says our featured Chicagoland homeowner of her family’s three-year-long homebuilding journey. As a result, this ultra-contemporary giant blends in with its wooded surroundings, evokes a relaxing, serene environment, and showcases the use of natural materials like stone and wood. Perhaps best of all, the home functions efficiently by patterning itself effortlessly to the family’s schedules and routines.
Deemphasizing the Devices
As the blueprints for the 16,700-square-foot house were being drawn up, Chicago-based architectural firm Wheeler Kearns Architects suggested that the family consider integrating a control system into their residence that would “allow us to live in the house like we wanted to live in it,” says the homeowner
After visiting the downtown Chicago showroom of Integrisys, the family also learned that remarkably, the technology could dramatically minimize the appearance of common everyday electronic devices like light switches, thermostats and TV screens. Given the solid walnut paneling, concrete, stone and glass that would comprise almost all of the wall space, these pieces of technology would have had a hard time fitting into the aesthetic. The owners were more than happy to clear them away from the walls in favor of much more practical, modern and low-profile devices.
Serenity by Technology
Modes of Control
One very important screen that’s fixed to the walls is a 7-inch AMX touchpanel in the vestibule. It’s the first thing the owners touch when they enter the house and the last as they exit. On it, Integrisys created a page of commands via its proprietary LivSystem software, which divides the functions of the house into “modes.” There’s an away mode that closes the shades and turns off the lights and A/V for the family’s departure, plus a typical evening mode that sets the lights and audio system for a night at home. Other LivModes are room-specific. In the master bedroom, wakeup activates automatically based on a schedule set by the homeowners to open the window shades, brighten the lights, turn the TV to the local news and kick on the radiant floor heating system in the connected bathroom. These and other modes can be accessed on any of the portable AMX touchpanels peppered throughout the house, or from a menu on an iPad.
“The LivModes do a good job of making an otherwise very complicated system easy to operate and intuitive,” say the homeowners. Nowhere is that more evident than in the operation of the home’s commercialgrade heating and cooling system. There are 22 independent heating and cooling zones in this house—meaning there are 22 thermostats—which, thanks to the AMX system, the owners never have to touch. In fact, they don’t even need to look at them. Instead, they peer at the screen of an AMX touchpanel to monitor the temperature of each space and make adjustments if necessary. Extensive zoning like this enables the owners to set back the temperature of unused areas of the house—like the bedrooms during the day—to conserve energy. Even if they forget to adjust the thermostats, the AMX system is there as backup. Based on the family’s interaction with the LivSystem control menu, the AMX system can tell which rooms are occupied. For those that aren’t, it signals the HVAC system to turn down the heat in the winter or the AC in the summer.