EXCLUSIVE: Home automation supports luxury living at Swiss Alps mansion
Many high-end properties are hidden under the white tops of the Alps of St Moritz in Switzerland, but not all will benefit from the level of home automation and audio one homeowner enjoys thanks to considerable investment in creating his very own smart chalet.
Integrator ComPeri may be based in Bavaria, but its relationship with the client in question has taken them to many places (both on land and at sea), and most recently Switzerland to work on chalet built from scratch, with AV and automation planned right from the start.
“This project was different from many others,” recalls Hans Polzmacher, managing director at integration firm Comperi, which mainly works in the commercial sphere but takes up certain residential projects of substantial scale and budget. “Instead of working within the blank slate of an unfinished property, we were constructing our AV vision with the local carpenter to hide everything away behind wooden walls. A lot of pre-planning was therefore needed.”
This may be an ideal scenario for many integrators, but the logistics of working among the peaks of Switzerland’s Engadin valley, coupled with every aspect of the install requiring the involvement of the three key parties (architect & planning office Powerhouse Company and local carpenter Ernst-Raumqualität), meant scheduling had to be meticulous down to every detail – including when to open up the ceiling to make breath holes for the subwoofers.
Luckily ComPeri’s close relationship with the client from working with him on two previous projects since 2015 lay the foundations to deliver a highly customised system underlined by impressive scalability.
“In the early months a lot of worked happened outside the actual home. We started by making 12 or 13 different layout styles and user experiences to present to the client whilst the house was being built.” ComPeri also assembled testimonials and proposals to share with him as part of the pre-planning process. “We gave him his iPad and showed him layouts and simulations of rooms and different experiences, down to the level of what colour a button should be and what should happen which each one is pressed. Every single detail was planned with on the offline system so the final system could be as best fit as possible as soon as he moved in.” The automation system in question is powered by Crestron technology, like his other home in Munich and sailing yacht, providing the client with a degree of familiarity with how to control parts of his home.
“The homeowner being so involved in planning may have meant we had to do a lot of tweaking, but in the end we were left with a user interface that even our team, as experienced integrators, find really interesting,” says Polzmacher. “Getting such a detailed level of client feedback is certainly one of the benefits of working on projects like this. No one goes into such depths when you’re working in a commercial setting – they just want it to be usable, because that personal interest in what can be achieved in an environment just isn’t there.”
“…the project grew from the initial plan of delivering a home cinema to 40 zones of audio.”
What started as a request to deliver a standard home cinema environment featuring Sonos kit, evolved into much more in the installation’s early stages. “We realised this level of multi-room audio system was not going to be enough for the client, so we looked bigger to a Dolby THX-level home cinema system.” A high quality room-in-room constellation was planned, yet, again this initial idea developed into something much more expansive. “We got input that the client wanted great quality audio in every room and so the project grew from the initial plan of delivering a home cinema to 40 zones of audio.”
This request required the 8-person project team from ComPeri’s 17-strong employee-base to deliver quality audio throughout the expansive the property, with minimal effect on the modern, wood-panelled Swiss interior. Working with the shell of what would become ChaletB, ComPeri worked closely with the project’s carpenter to ensure all speakers were invisible and televisions are hidden within the ceilings until needed, which included a 3m x 3m 4K mirror TV from Evervue.
The customised, 300kg+ mirror TV, installed by crane in the chalet’s ground floor health and wellness area (complete with pool and spa), presented a particular challenge to install. “The chalet is on a one-way street in the Swiss alps, you can’t just bring a big vehicle up here,” says Polzmacher. He admits this was found the hard way by one delivery driver after attempting to bring a 40-tonne truck up to the property. “Actually getting some of the kit was big challenge, but we made the right local connections and stored some equipment, and eventually made it work.”
Due to the scale of the project, and for easy integration with the automation system, ComPeri deployed a Crestron Sonnex system to distribute audio throughout the property, with each zone powered by the manufacturer’s SWAMP device (handling routing and calibration). Speakers in the home range from German-made offerings from lb Loudspeakers (customised from their size down to grill colour) and K-Array’s compact KZ12 speakers providing “more direct ‘bang’, especially in 7.2 zones” according to Polzmacher, as well as invisible subwoofers from Amina.
Audio, in addition to over 500 lighting circuits, shading, security and air conditioning is managed with one touch via a customised Crestron interface showing a floorplan overlay, accessible via one of five TSW-1060 touchscreens wall-mounted in iRoom docks, or eight iPad Minis – all of which are styled to suit the modern, Swiss-themed interior. The visual floorplan allows the homeowner to select specifics (down to the level of heating on his driveway, setting his swimming pool or hammam, or monitoring his wine room) and control all technology across the entire chalet, with programmed pre-sets also on offer to quickly access certain settings to suit a particular time of day or occasion. The user interface has been programmed to allow the homeowner, to get new routings for audio and video with a tap.
“The first thing the homeowner shows his guests is the interface on his iPad, from which he can control and manage his incredible house. The audio quality and easy routing means he’s got the ideal house for entertaining,” adds Polzmacher.
Polzmacher's staff also have AMX, RTI and Extron skills, yet the managing director says it was the size of project, customisation requirements and interoperability with Apple devices that meant Crestron was the clear automation provider of choice. “We got scale with Crestron, as well as being able to get all the equipment we needed (right down to the matrix and extenders used with the speakers). There aren’t many other automation manufacturers that can provide a multi-room audio solution with such scalability.”
The homeowner was also keen to easily to use his private Apple iOS devices with the home’s broader control system, so Apple Music, iTunes Remote and Plex were integrated to allow him to quickly switch between the Crestron App and his favourite Apple apps on each control device. “This was really important as although the project time-frame was big, a lot of our time and resources had to be dedicated to layout design and optimising the programming, not doing special programming just to integrate third-party devices.”
The ongoing relationship with the chalet owner will live on into stage four – the final collaboration between the two, which will see ComPeri deliver AV and automation to a luxury property in Austria, whilst continuing to monitor and improve the technology in his other three homes. “The client went into this project with very high expectations, but he is really happy with the chalet,” reflects Polzmacher on the install, which succeeds in combining aesthetics and discreet, integrated technology to create a unique alpine retreat. “This project was certainly the most beautiful environment we’ve ever worked in,” he concludes.
ComPeri’s work at ChaletB was recently recognised as a winner at the 2018 Crestron EMEA Integration Awards during ISE in Amsterdam.
Amina invisible subwoofers
APC power protection
Apple TV and AirPort Express
Crestron control system & TSW-1060 touchscreens, 32x32 DigitalMedia system, beacons, Sonnex audio system and extenders
DNH cabinet speakers
Dreambox satellite receivers
Future Automation wall mounts
iRoom docking stations
Gude power control
Evervue MirrorVue 4K TV
K-Array KZ12 mini line arrays
Kramer 6420N converters
lb Lautsprecher DE Plan 400 & 500 invisible speakers and 600 subwoofers
Middle Atlantic accessories
Vogels TV mounts