It's the Ultimate

Audio Video Design Earns Acclaim for Bay State Versailles Project Near Boston
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In the beginning it was all about the light. Three years later it was light years ahead.

Crestron's 2005 Ultimate Connected Home, some 6,800-square feet of luxury wrapped by a stucco-style exterior, is replete with the personal stamp of an imaginative client who has a flair for the finer points of European design and loves to entertain. Her new, two-story suburban Boston home, with a lower level theater and an attic studio, features fanciful and ornate sophistication as evidenced by secret doors, inlay marble floors, a dramatic curving staircase, and passionate attention to detail.

More than a pretty face, the house includes a comprehensive $650,000 electronics package designed and installed by Audio Video Design, of Newton, Massachusetts, which dubbed the home the "Bay State Versailles." AV Design's custom package includes 30-zone distributed audio, HVAC, fire safety and security systems, telephone and intercom, data networking, Vantage lighting, fireplace control, motorized shades and drapes, whole-house DVD and additional local A/V systems. Three AudioRequest jukeboxes were installed to provide access to the client's extensive music collection.

The integrated systems, controlled by Crestron's Pro 2 processor, feature a Crestron TPS-6000, two TPS-4500s and six TPS-IMW Interfaces, ensuring that the panels can be moved from room to room, asking the user, "Which room am I in?" and creating instant default zones at the touch of a button. There are also four wall-mounted Crestron TPS-2000 touchpanels with video feeds, three STX-1700C wireless touchpanels, and 12-button keypads in all rooms of the house. Outside, a waterproof WPR-48 remote allows the client to access music from her hot tub or pool, which has three zones of audio and Klipsch AW-525 outdoor speakers.

"Our initial goals were centered on lighting control and systems automation," said AV Design project manager, Wing Taylor. "The Vantage Lighting Control Q System we selected works well with Crestron, and this house has a huge number of lighting loads. If you go to the touchscreens, you can bring up a house map showing each fixture. Touch it and you control that load. We have done that several times; it requires that people make a commitment to large-format touchscreens. Here, the client is able to program scenes for multiple lighting vignettes as well as to control the three gas fireplaces and the drapes, which can be programmed to open at sunrise."

The three-year long project coincided fortuitously with Crestron's move from its Series One to Pro 2 processor with a lot more memory capability, he said. "We were maxing out the One. We had to fully expand touchscreen memories; the panels come out of the box with eight megs and we expanded all of the screens to 32 megs to deal with the sheer volume of the system."

AV Design created retro-style graphics with green single-line vector graphics to give panels a "007" look. "This is right out of a spy movie," Taylor said. "It really accentuates the futuristic touch of home automation."

In addition, a "thumbprint analyzer" functions as a momentary standby, defaulting to a keypad for entering a pass code when the panel is locked.

The larger TPS-6000, Taylor explained, tends to live in the kitchen, which is a hub of activity for a client who likes to cook and a spot where her guests often congregate. "There's often sound in the kitchens we do, but this project has audio of the highest quality and includes an in-ceiling subwoofer and four ceiling speakers. It's the second best zone in the house after the adjacent den, which has Aerial Acoustics 7B speakers and an SW12 sub. When both the kitchen and den are cranked up, it's amazing."

The backbone of the 32-zone audio system is ADA's Suite 16 for processing and ADA amps. "For multi-room music, they provide the bottom line best sound and durability and we have a great relationship with them," he said. "They offered the best combination of quality and flexibility, requirements for this application."

The challenge of fulfilling the client's desire to be able to pick up a touchpanel and move about the house, with the system at her fingertips, fell to AV Design systems engineer, Eric Miga. "This was the most personalized project I've done, a one-off," he said. "The client wanted the house to speak to who she is, and the custom James Bond-style touchscreens and the Crestron interface addressed that."

She also wanted to exert full control over every sub-system from each panel, Miga said. "We had never done a system to this extent. I knew she would want more in the future and I pre-empted later issues by incorporating more than she asked for. On her smaller touchscreens, which you would expect to control a particular room, I programmed for multiple zones, for the whole house. It was difficult because it has to be intuitive for that amount of control, on such a small piece of real estate."

The multi-purpose basement theater/media room, installed well after the client had moved into her home, features a Marantz DLP projector, a Da-Lite 115-inch diagonal screen, and Triad in-wall speakers. A separate ventilation system, on a sensor and timer, keeps any cigar smoke under circulation control. The basement also contains an adjacent gym with its own audio zone and an equipment room for satellite distribution and racks.

The five video systems, including the projection screen home theater, a 32-inch plasma on a master bedroom lift, a 42-inch plasma behind a custom hidden door in the living room, and a 60-inch rear-projection TV in the den, ensure that video is available throughout, controlled by Crestron. Woodwork throughout the home was done by Woodmeister Corp., of Worcester, Massachusetts.

A Panasonic telephone system allows intercom communication room-to-room including the front gate. Seven CCTV cameras are routed through two quads to all the wired Crestron panels as well as all the TVs. The eighth input is reserved for displaying feedback from the satellite audio systems.

"Any in-wall or large format screen brings up this quad view or can fill the screen including views of the security gates at the bottom of the driveway," Taylor said. "The camera at front gate is a Silent Witness SWX45 Night Hawk, changing from color to black and white at night. It's a dome wide angle, fitting nicely into the pedestal which houses the gate's intercom station."

A nine-zone HVAC system with Aprilaire 8840 communicating thermostats with remote sensors can be managed directly through Crestron without having to go to thermostats. There is also local weather information, downloaded automatically from the Internet, and then fed to a page on all the touchpanels.

"Most clients don't want too many options, but this client did her homework and thought it through," Taylor said. "It's a great to have a client who takes directions on possibilities but expands upon it. It was a real two-way conversation. To know that the installation is part of her daily life is satisfying. She's using everything; it's not just bells and whistles."

Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer in Boulder, Colorado.