Technology that Performs across Five Buildings

A recommendation following a CEDIA CPD presentation was the initial starting point for this project, which resulted in Warrington-based integrator, SONA, scooping first place in the Best Integrated Home £230,000 - £340,000 category at the EMEA 2018 CEDIA Awards. After meeting with the client, SONA had a clear idea of their requirements throughout the property and set to work in creating a stunning, award-winning install that met both technical and aesthetic requirements.

This property is a large site, consisting of five separate buildings — the main house, annex, summer house, garden store, and greenhouse — and substantial gardens. SONA’s brief was to approach this as a single project. The client wanted a wireless network that was seamless across the site, covering every building and the exterior spaces between — 150m in some cases — and delivering music and TV content throughout the main house, annex, summerhouse, and gardens.

Although the client was keen to incorporate technology throughout the house, the styling of the property demanded an extremely subtle approach. The client wanted to benefit from easy access to AV content and enjoy the benefits of lighting control and motorised window treatments in the main building — which was previously a vicarage and was extremely short on plant space. Security for the full site was also a high concern to the client and family.

Lighting control is distributed around the site, with panels creating a system with over 170 circuits. The system also controls water features, two sets of motorised gates, 23 motorised window treatments, and motorised skylights on the second floor. Gas lanterns are also controlled via the lighting system, with ignition circuits triggered from switching relays. The client has complete control of the entire lighting system remotely and uses the app to regularly adjust timeclock settings.

SONA designed a lighting control system to manage a large number of automated events that include interior and exterior lighting scenes, as well as motorised window treatment events and control of integrated devices, such as the motorised gates and water features around the property.

For example, the outer gates automatically open at 7 a.m. each weekday and remain open until 5 p.m., after which time they are automatically closed. Astronomic programming automatically turns on the integrated gas lanterns at dusk, along with other exterior lighting and selected 5A lamp circuits within the property and then switches to an overnight setting in the late evening, with all lighting turned off at sunrise. The pond waterfall and other water features all have custom timeclock programming that the client can adjust from their phone. Occupancy sensors in guest bathrooms trigger pre-set lighting scenes depending on the time of day, with the main guest WC also automatically closing the motorised blind for privacy, then opening it once the room is unoccupied. Motion detection from the CCTV system is also used to trigger pre-set exterior lighting security scenes.

26 HD cameras were installed on the buildings and incorporated on custom poles around the exterior. These bespoke poles also allowed PA speakers to be discretely positioned for optimal coverage. The CCTV features a video analytic system that can detect human motion extremely accurately, reducing false alarms considerably. This system communicates with a remote video monitoring station to allow users to remotely dial-in and speak through the onsite system to potential intruders

POE IP cameras sit on the main network but are on a separate VLAN. A comprehensive intruder alarm system provides perimeter and internal detection via vibration, motion, and contact sensors. It is zoned so that each building can be armed independently, and the perimeter can be set separately so that the family can occupy the property whilst the alarm is still active. An intercom includes a total of five entry panels, two internal call panels, and apps to allow full communication with entry panels, which also feature proximity readers and integrate with electronic locks in the main house and annex.

AV sources include Sky, Apple TVs, and Kaleidescape, and are housed in the annex with an HDMI over IP system to four video zones. The main lounge has a 5.1 surround system with a 55" TV discreetly housed in a custom cabinet with lift mechanism. All main rooms within the house, annex, and treehouse feature a Sonos music system that plays through plastered in invisible speakers and soundbars, and 18 speakers in the garden.

SONA designed and installed a dedicated cinema room that features a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos speaker system with a 4K Panamorph projector with anamorphic lens, a Screen Research screen, as well as a dedicated Kaleidescape movie server and Blu-ray player. Information from the Kaleidescape server is used to automatically adjust the projection screen aspect depending on the ratio of the film being viewed.

The main control system carries out automated sequences to prepare all AV zones for viewing. When a user selects a source, the system automatically turns on the devices required and switches them to the appropriate input and settings. Equipment status is monitored during this process, with the user presented with ‘please wait’ feedback whilst the system configures. Status monitoring allows the system to present controls more quickly when it knows the TV is already on, rather than having to wait each time for the power up cycle. In a number of rooms, these sequences involve more complicated automation, such as triggering lighting scenes depending in the time of day, checking projector cooling cycle status, and triggering automated mechanisms, including the TV lifts.

A comprehensive cable infrastructure system provides low voltage cabling to every major room in the property. The infrastructure was independent of final equipment to ensure the property is as future-ready as possible.

“The main challenge of this project was the physical separation of the buildings” comments Simon Fulstow, Design & Technical Director at SONA. “The main house simply did not have the space for the equipment racks required to support the entire system. Locating them in the annex resulted in audio/video, network, and control signals having to travel over 150m to communicate between devices. Delivering the final solution, with the main equipment split so distinctly across two buildings, and with devices across six different buildings/areas was challenging, but hugely rewarding and a satisfying achievement.

“We are thrilled to have won Best Integrated Home Level III at this year’s CEDIA Awards” continues Simon. “The standard was so high across the board and we were so proud to be finalists in five categories.  We’ve been a member of CEDIA since 2013 and I think each year, the quality of entries keeps getting better and better, from all over the world. Impeccable standards are at the core of SONA’s ethos, but in addition, we find that being a CEDIA member keeps us pushing forward year after year to produce better and better results.  We were up against some serious competition this year, and we’d like to congratulate all the other finalists and winners on the night.  The SONA team certainly headed home to Cheshire feeling inspired.”