EXCLUSIVE: AV over IP powers luxury “Volante” apartment tower in Dubai
Charlotte Ashley discovers that luxury living is alive and well in Dubai – despite 15 years of intense competition among builders that has threatened to oversaturate the market – and finds the quintessential example in the newly built Volante tower.
Thirty-five floor (and above) residential towers are nothing new for Dubai’s skyline, but not every building developers chooses to make the investment put into Volante tower in equipping each of its 45 apartments with a fully integrated smart system covering home control, lighting, audio, air conditioning, shading and security.
Located above the bustling Business Bay, views don’t come much better for a resident of Dubai then from the Volante tower, overlooking the Dubai Canal and with the 830-metre peak of the iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper in its sights. Equipped with amenities including a communal lounge with a reception area, sitting area, coffee bar, conference room and cinema, as well as extensive spa & pool, and garden area, it was imperative that technology also deliver a deluxe experience across the block’s 50,000 square metres.
Local installer Ultimate Solutions, headed up by Jana Malhas – formerly of luxury housing development specialist Le Reve before starting the integration firm – was recruited to bring her 11 years’ experience in commercial and residential design and integration to the project.
“Volante is aimed for wealthy empty-nesters, whether they live here year-round or come to Dubai for two or three months and always stay in a certain hotel,” says Malhas, managing director at the installation company. “They want to enjoy and maintain a certain lifestyle, and it’s certainly a luxury one. Services available to them mean they can have a massage in the 24/7 spa, hire out the movie theatre, hold a private meeting in the executive lounge and enjoy personalised meal preparation from the on-site chef, as well having 24-hour access to a concierge service.”
“The technology had to ease life, not complicate it.”
Malhas says Ultimate Solutions were well equipped to take on the project, after building up a solid reputation providing low voltage systems which can deliver “whatever a client may want” among discerning Dubai clientele. She affirms: “We’ve become renowned for providing a standard for oceanside and beach apartments and our approach to Volante is quite distinct in Dubai. “The governor wanted it to be specific technology different to the rest of market. Crucially, it had to offer seamless integration and an easy interface so intuitive that everyone from a 7-year-old to 70-year-old could become accustomed with. The technology had to ease life, not complicate it.”
The tower’s home cinema space is open to all residents, although must be booked in advance for screenings. Here, the modern-style theme of the tower continues with changeable downlighting and six reclinable leather seats complementing the large projection screen providing access to movies and TV shows. With budget not an issue in creating a quality movie-going experience, Ultimate Solutions opted for an Auro3D audio set up to immerse residents and their guests in what they are watching.
As to why Auro was opted for over the likes of Dolby, Malhas says the added height made it a winning option for the integrator. “Dolby had been in the market for a long time and when Auro3D got introduced I liked the idea of adding the height effect into the equation to give the required ‘immersive sound’ experience,” Malhas notes. She adds: “Even though it required more speakers to accomplish the sound immersion, I thought it would be more natural if we include that missing dimension to accomplish the 3D sound experience when the technology was more reliable and readily available. In Volante we are using Auro 10.1 and have a speaker above the seating to offer the full 3D experience.”
A number of the tower’s other key amenities are located in the ‘Volante Club’ area, which serves as the main gathering area for residents and their visitors – comprising of the tower’s central lounge, spa and outside relaxation areas. Naturally, this meant this shared area require a comprehensive AV system which could support both entertaining and informing guests (for example, of tower news and events) throughout.
“The initial installation added two screens in the club: one in the meeting room and one in the salon. And the infrastructure is in place for eight additional TVs in the gym, for residents to enjoy as they exercise,” said Malhas. An iPad is on hand for video distribution for control, in addition to a Mini Mac – also used for distribution of audio throughout the block, with the wider operating system connected to the concierge ensuring they can monitor notifications from guests. “Our level of clients need everything right here right now. Everything they ask for should be available immediately,” says Malhas.
“To keep the infrastructure as light and cost-effective as possible from an integration perspective, we opted for an AV over IP architecture to move signals around the facility.” After exploring numerous options, Ultimate Solutions chose Atlona’s OmniStream AV over IP platform (the first residential deployment of the system) to be at the core of its video switching and distribution system, spanning communal areas and individual dwelling units. Malhas notes that an important factor in this decision was the interoperability offered with any number of other systems on the network, in addition to being capable of handling high resolution 4K content. “There was no interference or delay using the system, or any other problems of that sort.”
“This all started with a central managed, Ethernet switch with Power over Ethernet, and OmniStream became the primary source for video distribution in the club,” said Malhas. “It uses a light infrastructure, with everything moving over Cat6 network cable. The first two TVs have HDMI connectivity at the output, and the eight TVs in the gym will be pure IP distribution. There is a lot of flexibility in the platform, it is easy to scale, and it plays well on the network with the home automation signals from the Savant system.”
Ultimate Solutions opted for a wired system to feed content to the apartments, with an Atlona 4K matrix switcher moving video over structured cabling to TV sets from brands including LG, Sony and Samsung over HDMI, with accompanying receivers behind the TVs.
A central rack features all of the installation’s core systems – including the PRO3-66M switcher, sitting alongside the equipment for the Savant automation system for audio, shades and lighting which Malhas calls the “brains” of the system, as well as a KNX-based system overseeing lights, curtains and air conditioning systems (and capable of adding more devices if the system should expand).
The challenge of working across 45 spacious apartments meant keeping some parts of the installation distinctly separate despite each one following a certain formula, notes Malhas. “We treated each apartment as a separate entity – even down to the network, which was all dealt with directly with the service provider for each one. We didn't want everything to be connected, and so had a separate tower for signals.”
Although high-end in nature, Malhas notes that the project was not just about deploying the very best AV technology available to the client, but meeting energy efficiency and waste reduction goals agreed upon with the client. The Ultimate Solutions team states that it was able to deliver 30% savings across the apartment complex through its deployment if AV and automation equipment.
Now, with a second Volante building on the horizon, Malhas is already planning how she can make the installation even better for residents. The integrator notes that she fully intends to follow the same technical blueprint which has been a resounding success among the client and residents alike, but will ramp up its video distribution. “Next time will be in a much better position to work with PoE over long distances for video distribution,” states Malhas. She concludes: “We will use leverage AV over IP to its full advantage by deploying it building-wide.”
Atlona PRO3-66M 4K matrix switcher and OmniStream AV over IP encoders & decoders
Cisco SG300 PoE managed switches
LG 75-in UHD smart TVs
Savant Pro control system
Schneider Electric KNX EcoStruxure