The luxury life

A state of the art Dubai villa combines a reliable, easy to use system with comprehensive AV control and a luxury look. Reece Webb reports.

Located in the lavish Dubai Hills, the Tree on Life Villa overlooks the bustling metropolis of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Starting work in 2019, Ultrasound were brought on board for the design and fit out of the villa, overcoming the challenges of Covid-19 to deliver an integrated living space fit for the high-class Dubai lifestyle.

Lee Harrison, Ultrasound, says: “Our involvement in this project didn’t come directly from the owner, but rather the interior designer with whom we had worked with on a previous project on the Island of Mauritius.

“The actual site was open for the fitout process to start at the beginning of September 2019, although we had been involved in the design process some months before. The work was temporarily halted for a while during 2020 due to Covid-19. It was completed around May 2021, but a small team from the main contractor worked for another few months, adding additional lighting circuits to the garden.”

Ultrasound has previously worked with the client in the past at his existing villa by updating the ageing multiroom audio system. The villa also had a basic KNX control system which was installed by another company. The control system was very dated and required the client to use multiple apps to access the various packages. This is something the client wanted to avoid with the automation system for the new project.

Harrison explains: “The [Tree on Life Villa] system had to be reliable, and it had to be easy for anyone to use. There was no point going to the expense of having an automation system if no one could use it. It had to make life easier, not harder.”

Ultrasound designed the system to allow the owner and the villa’s staff to have access to the entire house’s control, with guest rooms able to be controlled via a Dynalite keypad to take care of lighting, air conditioning and curtain control.

“The [Tree on Life Villa] system had to be reliable, and it had to be easy for anyone to use. There was no point going to the expense of having an automation system if no one could use it.”

The villa started life as ‘core and shell’, with an unfinished interior without electrics, plumbing or AC systems. Harrison adds: “This core and shell type of project must be as good as it gets for an integrator as you can design a system without worrying about getting the cabling infrastructure in place.

“There was also a lighting consultancy involved with the project who did a complete design for all three levels. Their preference was to use Dali lighting throughout the villa which was fine for us. Programming Dali takes a little longer but is far more flexible and easier if extra lights are added in the future.

“Everyone involved in this project had many years of experience dealing with high-end projects such as this, so everyone was aware of what was required and how to best achieve this. From our side, the design process was very straightforward, although there are elements of the process that can be a bit frustrating when the interior designer’s ‘form over function’ vison seemed to overrule the automation design. Placing keypads in what we see as a logical position next to a door doesn’t get approval from the interior designer as it clashes with a design feature, which can be a little strange to understand.”

Ultrasound worked closely with the client and interior designer to achieve a clean, minimalist look with pristine walls that are free of multiple light switches. Dynalite Antumbra display keypads were used to achieve this requirement, capable of being programmed to control a range of functions from a single, standard sized keypad.

The keyboard features a built-in temperature sensor, allowing for control of the area’s air conditioning without the need for additional thermostats on the wall.

The Dynalite system was installed across all three levels of the villa, with the keypads used to control the multiple dimmable circuits, air conditioning and window treatment.

Harrison clarifies: “We did face some issues prior to the final sign off when the interior designer found that Dynalite do not have a range of power and IT outlets that match the keypad finishes. Luckily, the main contractor was able to find a brand of sockets that closely matched the Dynalite keypad finishes. Additionally, Philips have recently released a range of matching sockets.”

The dressing room, bathrooms and guest washrooms are all configured with ceiling mounted motion sensors, triggering a specific scene on detection and turning off a few minutes after a room is vacated.

Harrison explains: “The bathrooms also have a keypad that could be used to turn on a particular scene setting. This would override the sensor so an individual could take a bath or shower without the lights going off. When the off button on the keypad is pressed, the sensor was re-enabled.”

Moving to the master bedroom, the bathroom stands out as an integral part of the room, with a lighting sensor programmed to activate three unique scenes based on the time of the day. Harrison says: “The same scene used during the day did not work at night as the owners requested only minimal light to see the way to the toilet without disturbing the other sleeping partner.”

The villa uses a VFR type of air conditioning system that was not able to be integrated onto the keypad as would normally be done through a Dynalite FCU controller. Instead, Ultrasound installed a CoolmasterNet module which integrates full control of the air conditioning system to the Dynalite keypad.

Harrison says: “This is a very convenient way to get the two systems working together. The CoolmasterNet module connects the AC control lines and provides us with an IP gateway connection to the Dynalite which feeds all the relevant information to the keypads. The original AC thermostats can remain connected to the system but are located together in a service room on each floor.

The actual room temperature is measured from a duct sensor in each area.

“Should there ever be an issue with the CoolmasterNet or Dynalite, the AC can still be controlled from the thermostats located in the service room.”

The initial stages of the design approved by the client had removed the motorised blinds and curtains which were originally featured in the proposal as they were not required. However, Ultrasound recommended that the main contractor provide points around the villa as a provision in case the client changed their mind during the build.

“As it turned out, the motorised curtains were requested near the end of the project, and we were able to install some Somfy RTS485 transmitters that allowed us to control the new curtain motors from the keypads and Savant system,” he adds.

At the heart of the integration is a centralised Savant video and audio system, providing seven audio/video zones as well as 17 audio-only zones. To achieve this, Ultrasound used Savant’s video over IP and audio over IP systems, with the video over IP using a combination of transmitters at the head end and receivers discreetly placed behind the villa’s TV to provide 4K60 video over a 10Gb Cat6A network. This system can also be scaled up to meet expanded needs in the future.

“Should there ever be an issue with the CoolmasterNet or Dynalite, the AC can still be controlled from the thermostats located in the service room.” 

The Savant audio is distributed around the villa via Savant’s IP audio 1 player/streamer, providing 2x125 watt channels into each room. Harrison clarifies: “When the client is watching the TV, he will have choice on whether the audio is played on the TV speaker or through the more powerful ceiling speakers.

“We also have a small 5.1 surround system in the family room on the first floor. Here, the designer’s open plan design limited us in terms of what speakers we could use for this space, so the solution was to use the Bowers & Wilkins CCM7.5 S2 in-ceiling speakers for the five surround channels and the Sonance BSP8 in-ceiling subwoofer for the bass enhancement.”

The distributed audio system also relies on Bowers & Wilkins CCM684 8” ceiling speakers throughout the main villa, with Ultrasound specifying the 8” version for clarity and bass response.

In the villa’s basement bar area, four Bowers & Wilkins speakers are installed, with an additional set of high-powered JBL speakers wall mounted behind the bar, connected to a separate 450 watt Crown amplifier.

The basement entertainment space is also home to a secluded outdoor area, home to a music system comprised of two Sonance Marina 86 wall mounted speakers, with another pair of Marina 86 speakers installed in the spa/gym rooms with Bowers & Wilkins speakers.

Each level of the villa is also home to Savant 8” touchscreens, allowing the user to access villa-wide control of the lighting and automation systems, with smaller 5” touchscreens located close to the villa’s staff quarters.

The touchscreens can also be used as indoor video monitors for the external Savant/2N IP verso door entry stations, mounted near the main door and passenger entrance which allows for the gates to be unlocked remotely.

A Savant pro remote is also installed, allowing the client to adjust each aspect of the room such as light dimming, temperature control, window treatment and full control of the distributed AV system. Harrison adds: “The Savant allows the clients to create their own scenes. A scene is a single button push on the Savant app that can be used to control something as simple as turning a TV to their favourite channel or setting the whole house to a particular setting, with lights dimmed, temperatures set to the preferred level and even favourite music tracks playing in the background at the perfect volume.”

The project was not without its challenges, as design changes were made as the project moved forwards. This drove Ultrasound to modify its drawings in some places to keep track of changes. The villa was sold upon completion, and Ultrasound has received positive feedback from people involved with the project.

Harrison closes: “Personally, I feel that most designers see lighting and automation control as a necessary evil. They hate seeing keypads, touchscreens, speakers etc. getting in the way of their design. However, we gave the designer a tour of the system and she, by her own admission, is a technophobe. She thought the Savant was very easy to understand and control.”

Tech Spec

Anthem MRX Surround Processor

Bowers & Wilkins CCM382 Ceiling Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins CCM684 Ceiling Speakers

Bowers & Wilkins CCM7.5 S2 In-Ceiling Cinema Speaker

Coolmasternet VRF Air Conditioning System

Crown XLi 1500 2-Channel Power Amplifiers

Dali DDBC120 Controller

JBL Control 30 Wall Mounted Speakers

Netgear 24 Port 10Gbase-T

Philips Dynalite Lighting Control

Philips Dynalite PADPE Antumbra Display Keypad

Savant Automation System

Somfy RTS485 Transmitters

Sonance BPS8 In-Ceiling Subwoofer

Sonance Charging Sleeve for iPad Mini

Sonance Launchport Table Top Base Station

Sonance Mariner 56 Outdoor Speakers

Sonance Mariner 86 Outdoor Speakers

Sonance Sonamp SR 2-125 Sub Amplifier