‘Home of the Year’ smart development comes to St Albans
London can dominate the headlines when it comes to investment in MDU developments equipped with smart home systems, but look no further than the award-winning Gabriel Square development in St Albans, Hertfordshire for proof of thriving market outside of the capital.
Architects Benson & Forsyth collaborated with interior designer Conran and Partners to bring the concept from developer Meyer Homes for a connected, modern-styled collection of 80 new smart homes to life. Comprised of spacious town houses and one, two and three-bedroom apartments set around a landscaped garden square, the modernist feel of its architecture and interior design led it to recently picking up the accolade for both the ‘Home of The Year’ (in a multi-unit scheme) at UK broadsheet’s Sunday Times British Homes Awards and gold in the ‘Best Interior Design’ category, as well as silver for ‘Best House’ at the recent WhatHouse? Awards.
The strong focus on modernism extends to technology found inside the homes thanks to an integrated system put forward by Hertfordshire-based installer Webstract Smart Technology.
The brief set outlined a desire for a home integration system that could incorporate a level of heating, lighting and door entry control as standard, with the potential to easily extend and add AV technology to meet individual needs and tastes of future buyers. Webstract resultantly pitched an extensive but easy-to-control system believing its intuitiveness and future-proof qualities would resonate strongly with the tech savvy developer.
“We based our solution on Control4,” says Andy Lloyd, director of Webstract. “We felt this platform would be a great fit for the contemporary design of Gabriel Square, would comfortably meet all the client’s requirements and would also satisfy the current and future needs of homeowners.” For lighting and ensuring secure entry to the 80 properties Webstract also turned to Control4, with blind control handled by a QMotion system due to its native integration with the wider system. The automation system also works with a Heatmiser heating control system to provide control of every core technology in the home via the same familiar interface.
“The system was designed with reliability and value for money in mind initially, using the Control4 system with its single controller for lighting as well as door entry allowed the developer to install a system which allowed the home owner to control the system from the lighting switch panels around the home as well as from the in-wall touch panels,” says Lloyd. “The panels also allowed the home owner to create lighting screens directly from the touch screen, as well as control the integrated heating system which was installed by the M&E contractor.”
Roller shades were installed in the majority of properties at Gabriel Square to fit the large floor-to-ceiling windows and can be group and automated to raise and lower to 99 selected, programmable positions. Webstract furthermore installed structured cabling throughout the development to futureproof the properties and ensure that each home is ready for multi-room audio, HDTV and other services at a later date, depending on the future owner’s desires.
With property developer Meyer Homes’ schedule to adhere to, deadlines were naturally tight to work to, but construction delays all too common to the MDU industry made things even more of a challenge. “The project had various challenges along the way and such delays meant that our engineers had to install and commission in very little time once each property was ready for us, at one time we was handing over 8 properties a week.”
He adds: “Overall, we spent 30 months on the project – from the first tender document being sent to us to final property being handover,” explains Lloyd. “The installation itself was undertaken and completed in 11 months with an average installation time of under 3 days per property.”
To ease the process of getting to grips with technology found around the home after purchase, homeowners are provided with an induction running through the system and the free Control4 app and accompanying 4Sight license is provided to them across their devices. The latter provides the user with 12 months of remote access to their system allowing lighting, heating and access to the door entry system from any location.
12 way multi-switch
Control4 EA1 controller, keypads, faceplates, DS2 door station, 7-in in-wall touch panels & panelised lighting
Future Automation Control4 lighting panels
Linksys 8-port PoE switch
Qmotion blind systems
Unifi edge routers