Invisible tech creates new level of elegance

A fully integrated system is a breath of fresh air to this homeowner who has full control of his home wherever he is in the world. Amy Wallington takes a look inside.

In the high-end residential market, the current trend is to focus on interior décor to promote a clean, fresh, elegant look in the home. Despite the minimalist look, homeowners also want the best home technology, but want to keep it as hidden as possible so not to ruin the look of the property. This is easier said than done, especially if the home is not a new build or the integrators aren’t involved from the very early stages.

In this instance, the residents, a family of four, were refurbishing their recently purchased property in Quinta Patino, one of the most exclusive condominiums in Portugal. Wanting a simple home automation system that would be easy to use to control the lighting, climate, audio, security, TV and shades, the homeowner called upon integrator, Life Emotions. With a conventional installation already in place, the integrator had to create the infrastructure from scratch.

Joel Reis, CEO at Life Emotions says: “We visited the site to have a formal meeting with the client and it was then that we realised that the construction phase was already very advanced, which meant our intervention had to be fast.”

The homeowner’s requests were simple enough; they wanted a system that would be easy to use for everyone and something that wouldn’t need frequent interventions from the integrator. They also required remote access and the ability to manage and control all features of the house from one integrated system. They had a small closed system installed in their old house in France that had several different apps for the user experience. This time he wanted to ensure everything would be integrated into one app. In addition to the automated features already listed, the homeowner also wanted the swimming pool to be controlled through the system and to have lighting scenes in the outdoor living area which would be automated to reflect sunrise and sunset.

Lastly, the client was very conscious of the design and interior décor of his house and wanted to hide as much of the technology as possible. And when it couldn’t be hidden, it had to be incredibly minimal.

Design meets technology

As with all projects, the design phase is very important, but in this instance, there were several restrictions and challenges and the client wanted everything as hidden away as possible, so Life Emotions worked with the homeowner to create a full plan.

“It was hard to define the technical areas in the house with the client because he gave us a very restricted space,” admits Reis. “Of course, we accepted that, but it did cause some problems during the installation, mostly with access and ventilation/cooling.”

“The lighting design made it easy to match the right fixtures with the right DALI drivers to allow advanced lighting control.”

Specifying the equipment was mainly based around aesthetics and quality. “For this part, there was some teamwork with the client to ensure the design meets technology,” adds Reis. “The client was pleasantly surprised with the possibility of having invisible speakers in the social areas, which meant having less visible technology, offering a cleaner look and design.

“We encouraged the client to opt for KNX technology and protocols for home automation which offered multiple devices and would allow us to accomplish his design expectations,” he continues. “This technology was also suggested as it is the most solid technology in Portugal, with a lot of products and support available.”

A Savant system was chosen by the client for the main control platform and app interface to meet his simple user experience requirements which would allow him to create his own personalised scenes without needing the installer.

Movies

The cinema is the main home entertainment hub in this property. Although the room is a good size, it had numerous challenges, mainly due to the very low ceilings, making this part of the project fairly restricted. The client also had his own design requirements, such as having a wooden floor and a wine cellar at the back of the room.

Reis reveals: “Considering the low height of the room, our design goal was to take the focus away from the ceiling. To do that, we used vertical panels with retro illumination to give some vertical dynamism to the room, which highlighted the walls and played down the ceiling.”

The low ceiling and wooden floors made the room acoustically challenging, but the integrators worked with designers and used The CEDIA Designer to calculate the Reverberation Time (RT60). “Based on the furniture and the criteria of the acoustic materials specified, we managed to accomplish an RT60 value of 0.29 (standard values range from 0.2 to 0.5),” he explains.

All technology, including the projector, speakers, subwoofer and other electronics, had to be hidden when not in use as the room was also being used for wine tasting. Hiding the projector caused some issues as the integrator had to ensure it had enough ventilation to avoid overheating. “We installed a magnetic sensor on the door which prevented the projector from turning on while the door was closed,” states Reis. “We programmed this feature through Savant and KNX to maintain the health of the equipment. We tried to sell the idea of an electrical door, but the customer preferred a manual mechanism instead.”

Out of sight

The house features integrated and controllable lighting and shades throughout, controlled through KNX modules. Reis says: “We chose a DALI protocol for the dimming features. The lighting design made it easy to match the right fixtures with the right DALI drivers to allow advanced lighting control.”

Choosing keypads to match the interior design was very important in this design-conscious home. “We chose Basalte Sentido keypads in copper and nickel to accomplish the design requirements,” declares Reis. “It also has thermostat capabilities to control the floor heating and air conditioning, which makes it unnecessary to have any other thermostats on the wall.

“We also used Basalte Auro sensors for lighting control in the bathrooms, corridors, and stairways. In the kid’s bathrooms, we programmed the light from the Auro sensors to stay on during the night which made it easier for them to use.”

The heated floor system is controlled through KNX while the cooling/heating VRV system is controlled through Coolmaster GW. The system was automated so that in winter mode, the heated floor would be prioritised because it is more comfortable and efficient. The integrator defined a threshold of three-degrees for the VRV to start working when in winter mode. In summer mode, the VRV will only be used for cooling. With Coolmaster integration, Life Emotions will receive notifications with any system errors and alarms.

“We used vertical panels with retro illumination to give some vertical dynamism to the room, which highlighted the walls and played down the ceiling.”

A multiroom audio system consisting of 18 zones was installed with a Savant matrix. Invisible Stealth Acoustics speakers were used in the most social areas. The living room also has an invisible subwoofer installed for a full range experience. The living room connects directly with the garden and pool area so when in party mode, the living room can sync with the garden/pool speakers. Each room has its own ceiling speakers which enables independent streaming of TIDAL, Apple AirPlay, TuneIn, and TV content.

Everything in the house is controlled through the Savant system and various scenes have been created. The homeowner can create his own scenes whenever he wants to without needing the integrator, as per his requirements. There is a touchscreen on each floor to allow management of all the systems. They also allow the residents to open the front door to guests from anywhere in the house.

Limited space

There were multiple challenges in this project, including the limited space given by the client. There were also restrictions with the rack install which was an issue when housing the electronics. The electric panel was also problematic, as Reis explains.

“There were some limitations with the location and size of the electric panel, the height of the ceiling and consequently, the HVAC pipes. To ensure that our systems fitted into the already existing installation within its limitations, we had to migrate the lighting to DALI to reduce the space used on the panel.

“We must also stress the fact that we started working on this house when construction was already advanced, creating an urgency that was challenging for all entities involved.”

Clever features

The system can be used by guests who, when given permission from the owner, can access and control both social and guest room features such as music, climate, lighting, shades and TV. The guest profile denies access to CCTV cameras and alarms.

The housekeeper and gardeners can gain admittance to the property through the 2N access control, and the homeowner receives a picture of anyone entering the property to keep track of visitors. Using integration between KNX, Paradox and Savant, the lights in all outdoor areas and the pathways turn on when the door or gate is opened.

A Ventax system is used in the bathrooms and are activated eight minutes after the toilet is used when in automatic mode. Another clever feature is that when the smoke alarm is activated, the lights around the house start to blink and a bell rings.

To avoid the house getting too hot, blinds will close automatically depending on the sun’s position. Scenes with lights and music start and stop with sunset and sunrise. With regards to health and wellbeing and ensuring a human-centric lighting solution is in place, there is a kid’s wake up scene where the blackout blinds in the children’s bedrooms will open slowly and music will start playing in the bathroom. There is also a sleep scene for the children, where power, TV and Wi-Fi turn off in those rooms at bedtime.

After exceeding the client’s expectations on the €190,000 project, the integrators now have plans to do further work on the outdoor lighting landscape in this property. They are also in talks with the homeowner to work on a new property in France.

Tech Spec

2N Helio IP Verso Keypad Module

2N Helios IP Verso Security Intercom

Apple iPad Mini 4 64GB

Apple iPad Mini 5 64GB

Apple TVs

Basalte Auro Motion Detectors

Basalte Eve Frames for iPad Mini 4 & 5

Basalte Eve Mini Covers

Basalte Eve Plus iPad 9.7” Sleeve

Basalte Eve Plus Table Base

Basalte Sentido Front Dual Brushed Brass

Basalte Sentido Front Quads Various Colours

Bosch NTI-50022-A3S 2MP IP Bullet Cameras

Bowers & Wilkins AM-1 Outdoor Speakers

Cool Automation CoolMasterNet

Flos Mini Glo-Ball Ceiling/Wall Lights

Future Automation PM-UNI Projector Ceiling Mount

HDAnywhere MHUB 4K (8x6+2)

JB Systems Amp 400.2 Power Amplifiers

Jung Various Wall Plates & Frames

KNX Protocol

Krika Domotz Box

Lindy HDMI 4K Audio Extractors

Loxone Miniserver

Loxone Modbus Extension

Modular Lighting Instruments Lotis 86 IP55 for LED GE Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments Lotis 86 IP55 GU10 Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments M-LED 50 2700K Flood 40° GE Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments M-LED 50 2700K Medium 25° GE Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments M-LED 50 3000K Flood 40° GE Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments M-LED 70 2700K Flood 40° GE Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments M-LED 70 2700K Medium 25° GE Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments M-LED 70 3000K Flood 40° GE Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments M-LED 70 3000K Medium 25° GE Lights

Modular Lighting Instruments Rektor LED 2700K Flood 40° Tre Dim GI Light

Olirack 19” 42U 600x550 Enclosure

Origin Acoustics C67 In-Ceiling Speakers

Origin Acoustics CSUB10R In-Wall Subwoofers

Origin Acoustics D61 In-Ceiling Loudspeakers

Origin Acoustics D63 In-Ceiling Loudspeakers

Origin Acoustics D63DT/SUR In-Ceiling Loudspeakers

Origin Acoustics D67 In-Ceiling Loudspeakers

Origin Acoustics M5500IWNCE In-Wall Enclosures for M5500IW Speakers

Origin Acoustics M5500IW In-Wall LCR Speakers

Origin Acoustics P60 In-Ceiling Speakers

Origin Acoustics SUBA500 Subwoofer Amplifiers

Pakedge PE-08I Power Distribution Unit

Paradox EVO192 192-Zone Control Panel

Paradox TM50 Touchscreen

Reggiani Mood Fixed Square 80 8.5W 2700K Lights

Reggiani Mood Fixed Square 80 8.5W 3000K Lights

Samsung Q80R 55” TVs

Samsung Q80R 65” TVs

Savant IP Audio Music Servers

Savant REM-1000 Pro System Remote & Base

Savant SmartAudio 32 x 20 Audio Matrix Switcher

Savant SmartControl 12

Savant Smart Host

Savant Touch 5.5” Control Screen

Savant Touch 8” Control Screens

Screen Research Fixed Masked Screen

Sonorous Surefix 240 Fixed Television Bracket

Sonos Connects

Sony VPL-VW570ES Projector

Stealth Acoustics B30G Dual 8” Invisible Subwoofer Systems

Stealth Acoustics LR3GS Invisible Full-Range Speakers

Stealth Acoustics LR8GS Invisible Full-Range Speakers

Stealth Acoustics SA255 Subwoofer Amplifier

Triad TS-PAMP8-100 8-Zone Power Amplifiers

Ubiquiti UniFi Security Gateway

Ubiquiti UniFi Access Points Long-Range

Ubiquiti UniFi Managed PoE+ Gigabit Switch with SFP

Yamaha CX-A5200 Pre-Amplifier

Yamaha MX-A5200 Power Amplifier