Best Integrated Home (£100,000 - £250,000)
Winner: Grahams Hi-Fi for UberHaus
Praised for its sheer beauty and technical brilliance by the judges.
Situated in the Austrian Alps, Lech is renowned as one of the world's premier ski resorts but still retains the traditional charm of the region. It is home to a number of world and Olympic ski champions and a popular destination for Royal families and celebrities.
The client was investing in a brand new chalet 'Uberhaus' in Uber Lech, which boasts breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. They wanted to create a prestigious property, attracting the region's most exclusive visitors; with potential rental fees of 40,000 to 100,000 Euros per week. The brief was to ensure the chalet offered all the latest technology and entertainment facilities. Crucial to success was ease of use, reliability and remote monitoring.
This elegant five-bedroom home is bursting with creature comforts and services including an outdoor hot-tub, steam room, gym, massage treatment room and sauna. Entertainment for the guests is provided in the form of a dedicated cinema room, two media rooms - in the Club and the main lounge - pool/snooker table, Kaleidescape movie server, Sonos music system and robust wireless Internet was a must.
Grahams Hi-Fi’s starting point was to design a precisely engineered data network as the basis of a reliable solution for the whole house. A Control4 home automation system was specified to seamlessly integrate all the disparate services, including lighting, music, climate control and security, enabling control through a single interface. User access is provided through a combination of Control4 wireless hand controls, in-wall and wireless touch panels. The system has been set up so that every room works in an identical way, regardless of hardware, to simplify operation for visitors to Uberhaus. For example, one of the media rooms uses a projector while the other has a large plasma screen but the control interface is exactly the same to the user.
One of the advantages of the seamless integration between the different services, such as lighting and music, is the ability to create personalised features which greatly enhance the occupier's experience in terms of lifestyle and convenience. When the 'master bathroom zone' is turned on, the system automatically checks to see whether any music is playing in the 'bedroom zone'. If it is, it plays the same music otherwise it turns on a pre-defined radio station.
'Master Off' buttons have been programmed in each bedroom suite which not only turns off the lights, but also any audio visual equipment. A 'master off' button has also been created for the front door and garage exits which shuts down the whole house, including lights, music, TV, and cinema. To prevent a guest accidentally setting off a full closure sequence, these require a five second hold.
Lutron HomeWorks QS has been used throughout for effortless lighting control and to provide atmospheric and scene lighting. Careful consideration was given to ease and consistency of use, with Grahams Hi-Fi deciding to install a Lutron keypad in every room, with three pre-programmed buttons offering a choice of 'Room on', 'Ambience' and 'Room off'. These were consistent in every room so you did not have to think about how to do something as simple as turning on a light. Additional buttons have also been set for individual scenes, lighting circuits and audio functions, as required. In short, the guests are able to take advantage of the hi-tech facilities without any training or prior knowledge.
Intelligent PIRs have been used extensively across the property to enable efficient energy management. At night-time, if a guest walks into the ground floor bedroom lobby, a PIR sensor will slowly turn the lights on. Then, after a pre-set time, the lighting reduces down to a low level. The effect is subtle and provides a comfortable ambience when walking into dark areas as well as helping with energy management.
Overall there are over 150 channels of LED lighting, 95% of which is dimmable. Local distribution and dimming panel in each suite were used to simplify the wiring and facilitate maintenance.
The occupants enjoy sixteen music 'zones' through a Sonos audio system. The sound quality is optimised by the addition of Rotel power amps and Bowers & Wilkins speakers. To reduce sound migration between rooms and improve sound quality, the installer has used DynaBox speaker enclosures. The guests can also immerse themselves in music in the outdoor hot tub through Sonance Mariner weather-resistant speakers. A Kaleidescape Movie Server ensures the guests have a huge selection of movies to choose from and can be viewed from one of nine TVs, or the dedicated home cinema. The house also features a Cisco and Ruckus wireless network, with nine access points enabling secure coverage of the entire building and terraces.
Naturally, for an elegant home, the client requested discreet installation and seamless blending with the gorgeous contemporary interior design and sumptuous soft furnishings. As an example, between the dining and living room space there is a natural divide, and focal point, created by a central unit containing a real wood-burning fire. The 42" TV has been mounted on a motorised panel lift in the unit, rendering it invisible when not in use. It also houses a 'hidden' equipment rack which is well ventilated and fully insulated from the fire below. In the bedrooms, the TV screens are either fitted to Future Automation pop-up mechanisms or swing wall brackets for inconspicuous storage. When playing music the TV lifts are programmed to pop up just enough to allow the Sonos soundbar (used for music) to be heard.
Secure door entry is attained through Panasonic HD cameras and a 500 Series IP phone system, activated by access keypads. Additional internal security is provided by panic buttons in the steam room and sauna. If these are pressed messages and sounds appear on the Control4 touch panels, the local chalet manager is alerted by email and the music systems are paused until the panic button is reset.
The client wanted the ability to monitor and service the house systems from the UK to minimise disruption to guests from any electronic faults. An on-site PC produces updates and is used to perform weekly system checks during the rental season. The security system can also be viewed and programmed remotely. Finally, all the house equipment racks have Control4 temperature sensors, which enable real-time monitoring and email notification should anything become too hot.
Grahams Hi-Fi rose to the challenge of a short deadline, despite being the UK 'outsiders' working with a local build team. The project started as a hole in the ground in July 2013 and was completed within 6 months, ready for the 2013/14 ski season, and has already been rented to a number of clients. From the owner's perspective: "The end results speak for themselves. All the technology has worked as well or, in some areas, better than we had hoped for. It is testament that 'difficult clients' like us use Grahams Hi-Fi over and over again."