Home and away

A finalist at this year’s CEDIA Awards, this project entails a home automation system that really must work for itself while not in use. Amy Wallington investigates the holiday home’s functionality.

The Greek island of Mykonos is a holiday destination famous for its summer party vibes. Fitting in with the island’s profile, this party-loving businessman decided to build his own holiday villa and pack it full of technology to throw the best parties on the island for him and his guests.

Used solely as a holiday home, the villa is unoccupied for most of the year, so the home automation system had to be self-sustainable and able to keep the house running at a certain level with no user control.

The client, who is a successful businessman, has previously lived in large villas, but with conventional non-automated systems which were not user friendly and not easy to live with in terms of the technology. He was introduced to home automation when he rented a large property from the director of integrator, S.K. Lifestyle Technologies. The house featured lighting controls, multiroom audio, a home cinema, and automated control of the whole home. 

While living there, the client purchased a plot of land on the island of Mykonos and designed a holiday villa to be built there, complete with a whole-home automation system. 

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Five-star hotel
Although the villa is a private residence, one of the main requirements was to ensure the client and his guests had a five-star hotel experience, with the idea that luxury hotels are designed in a way that anyone can use the technology without having been walked-through every feature. This meant that controls had to be simple, easy to use and efficient.
 
Nicos Panteli, design engineer at S.K. Lifestyle Technologies, explains: “He requested the system to be low maintenance and very easy to use and understand because the guests wouldn’t want to be trained on how to use anything when they’re only there on their holidays. Therefore, we made sure that all the guest bedrooms function like a hotel room. We have worked on some hotel installs in the past, so we took that knowledge and transferred it to this project based on his requests.

“We created key fobs for the rooms and only programmed a couple of scenarios for the guests to choose from. Everything else just happens automatically. The guests don’t have to know which button does what. It’s the same principle as when a guest checks into a hotel; no one’s going to show them how it works, they just want to read the engraving on the button and select which mode they want.”

“This innovative interface allows the user to monitor all house functions, but also we bridged the gap of having a room first interface vs a function first interface.”

To match the five-star experience, the interior design had to be impeccable with modern touches that blend into and complement the natural environment around the villa and its breathtaking views. Therefore, the technology used throughout the property had to be as discreet as possible. 

Spread across four levels, the client himself wanted full monitoring and control for the overall villa to be easy, simple and accessible from a single user interface. “He wanted the ability to have a dynamic interface that will change each time according to what is selected,” explains Pateli. “The house has four levels and the owner is able to see what is turned on in each room at any time. However, when the owner is within a room and selects a function such as audio, the interface will change to show only that room’s audio. 

“This innovative interface allows the user to monitor all house functions, but also we bridged the gap of having a room first interface versus a function first interface.”

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Logistics & challenges
The integrator chosen for this project is based in Larnaca, Cyprus which posed some challenges. Firstly, the design process was done remotely due to the logistics of getting to Mykonos. As Panteli recalls: “It’s hard to get there as we have to take a flight to Athens and then a boat to the island; sometimes it can take a whole day to get there. We would also have to try to coordinate visits with the other trades on the project, so we chose to do the design remotely and there was a lot of back forth with the drawings and remote meetings.”

Going through the design process remotely was a challenge in itself. Panteli continues: “If you look at the photos, you will see the villa is on a steep slope overlooking the sea, and it’s very hard to visualise what it’s like when you’re just looking at drawings. It is spread over four levels and the drawing will say there’s a basement, but it’s actually just a lower level. It’s hard to get your head around the building on different levels on a slope when just looking at 2D drawings but 3D renderings from the architect helped.”

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Club scene
As a party lover, the homeowner wanted to host big, loud house parties for his guests with features that resembled the famous Mykonos outdoor nightclubs. This was a very important priority on the brief for this project. He wanted to be able to invite DJs and live bands to play at his house and for the technology to accommodate their needs.
 
A 25-source/17-zone multiroom audio system was installed throughout the villa for distributed audio, but for the nightclub-style parties, the integrator installed professional audio speakers and a DJ input. Panteli adds: “The solution was to implement a system that when the DJ plugs his equipment into the system, the location of the DJ is selected on a touch panel (indoor or outdoor) and all the multiroom audio zones will automatically switch to the DJ’s music. The DJ can control the input level from his console, so the system automatically adjusts the output volume at all times to avoid overfilling the speakers. 

“Multiple astronomic timers are provided for the lighting controls.”

“When the DJ is performing, the final control is passed over to the owner of the house and he is able to add and remove zones that the DJ can control. Some zones have the SPL limited in order not to go overboard and disturb the surrounding area.”

He continues: “Another really unique feature of the music system was the integration of a true professional sound system, similar to ones installed at outdoor nightclubs in Mykonos. A commercial DSP was used together with pro amplifiers and loudspeakers.”

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Integrated lighting
With full focus on the brief of the project, S.K. Lifestyle Technologies chose systems based on the owner’s wants and needs. He wanted high-end systems that would not fail and were fully customised. This led them to install a Crestron CP3 control system for home control with Lutron HomeWorks QS for the lighting controls. 

“Lutron is very reliable and the Palladiom keypads are easy to use and are flat, white and discreet and do not interfere with the interior design,” admits Panteli. 

He also explains that the size of the property and requirements for reliability called for a top of the range system, and it’s something the integrator has worked with for years and fully trusts. He says: “The final reason for using Lutron is due to the client wanting five-star hotel characteristics. The keypad engravings are extremely simple for anyone to understand how to use it without fiddling with different buttons and lighting circuits in the room.
 
“Each room features just two main scenarios: ‘Room On’ and ‘Ambient’. All other buttons are self-descriptive, such as ‘Reading Lights’, ‘Open/Close Shades’, ‘Corridor Lights, ‘Room Off’, etc.”

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For energy efficiency, they also fitted occupancy sensors in all guest rooms which are programmed in a similar way to guestroom occupancy sensors in hotels. After 15 minutes of inactivity, the guest room’s lights are switched off and the AC switches to set back mode (a few degrees higher temperature to save energy). If there is still no presence detected after another 15 minutes, the AC is switched off completely. As soon as the guest walks back into the room, it will go back to exactly how it was when the guest left the room. 

As the villa is only used sporadically, the lighting has automatic settings throughout the year. Panteli explains: “Multiple astronomic timers are provided for the lighting controls. These timers operate in the summer months between May and September when the villa is in use. First, there is an outdoor lighting scenario which is activated 30 minutes after sunset. A second outdoor lighting scene is activated two hours after sunset and finally a third scene is activated from 2am until 30 minutes before sunrise. This all gives the villa a more secure feel.

“In addition to the summer timers, there is also an astronomic timer for the non-summer months where some of the lighting comes on two hours after sunset. Again, this is mainly for security purposes and to assist with better views for the CCTV surveillance.”

As well as automated lighting scenes, there are also air circulation scenarios set for the winter months when the villa is unoccupied. “There are several ventilation and extractor fans installed to circulate fresh air in the house. Heat recovery units are also installed to dehumidify and keep a constant temperature indoors. These systems are activated automatically by our system for 30 minutes, three times a day.”

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Tech Spec
A&B Freestanding Racks 37U 
A&B Freestanding Racks 42U
AV Link Module 3XLRs for DJ Input
Bose SoundTouch 300 Soundbars
Bose SoundTouch 300 Subwoofers
CoolAutomation VRV Interface 
Crestron 4K DigitalMedia 8G+ Receivers & Room Controllers 100
Crestron 4K Ultra High Definition 7.1 Surround Sound AV Receiver
Crestron 8x8 DigitalMedia Distribution Centre
Crestron 10.1-in Touchscreens 
Crestron Air 6-in Landscape Speakers
Crestron Air Dual 8-in In-Ground Subwoofers
Crestron Aspire 8-in Two-Way In-Ceiling Speakers
Crestron Aspire 8-in Two-Way Stereo In-Ceiling Speakers
Crestron CP3 Control System
Crestron Handheld Remotes HR-310-I
Crestron Lighting Integration 
Crestron Network Stream Players
Crestron Saros 8-in Two-Way Surface Mount Speakers
Crestron Sonnex Multiroom Audio System Plus Zone Expanders
Crestron Universal Mounting Brackets for Touchscreens 
Crestron Wireless Gateway 
Lutron Homeworks QS Processors
Lutron Palladiom Keypads
Lutron Press Switches
Niles Two-Channel Digital Amplifiers
RCF 12-in Subwoofers
RCF Two-Way Weatherproof Outdoor Speakers
Somfy Centralis Uno IB and Claws – Up/Down Switches for Motorised Blind/Curtain/Shutter 
Sonos Wireless Receivers for Music Streaming
SoundXtra TV Mounts for SoundTouch 300
Stealth Acoustics High-Current Monaural Amplifiers
Stealth Acoustics Invisible Compact Subwoofers
Stealth Acoustics Three-Way Full Range Speakers
Stealth Acoustics Two-Way Full Range Speakers
Ubiquiti ER-8 EdgeMax 8-Port EdgeRouter
Ubiquiti UniFi Access Points
Ubiquiti UniFi Outdoor Access Points 
Unitech Flat Panel TV Lifts
Yamaha YSP-1600 Soundbars