Order the CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles® Issue: Heavenly Haven
The CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles ® Fall 2013 Expo Edition is available now. Handsomely produced with striking photography, the magazine's departments, columns and features inspire the audience of architects, building designers, interior designers and builders to embrace the integration of technology in the home. You can purchase 1-9 copies for $9.95 each, or 10+ for $7.95 each, a number that drops to $6.95 each at the show. Order your copies here.
There is a saying that “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” And while palm trees, not oaks, populate this breathtaking locale, that’s nevertheless an apt metaphor for this project’s evolution from a basic distributed audio system and a simple light switch into a fully automated residence.
Maui-based integrator Art and Automation was hired at the recommendation of architect Marc Taron of the Maui firm Arquitectura. “The funny part is, when he called us, he actually apologized for asking us to help him out,” Mike Ruger, president and CEO of Art and Automation, said.
“The initial contract for the house was $6,500, to install some surround speakers and a very simplified distributed audio system. His initial involvement in the project was equally minimal,” Ruger said. “It’s almost comical to look at the original intent and then see what the project transformed into.”
Since electrical code prohibited use of a high-voltage switch in the tub area, the only option was to use a low-voltage keypad. So Ruger recommended a Lutron model. And when he explained the breadth of control possibilities that it offered his clients beyond just turning an outdoor light on and off, the project grew exponentially from there. “The owners quickly went from a small, local Lutron system to a fully integrated, whole-house lighting control system,” Ruger said. “Shortly thereafter, the client decided that if they were going to do the lights, they might as well add full automation to the house”—a turnabout that happened in just 48 hours. “Here, as in most cases, properly educating the client was instrumental.”
The home is controlled with AMX NI-series controllers, which sync with both wired and wireless touch-panels, laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
As the job progressed, the full scope of control and monitoring possibilities became clear to the homeowners, part-time residents who soon readily understood the value in being able to access, monitor, and manipulate every aspect of the home remotely. The security camera installation the owners settled on even allowed them to keep tabs on the remodel’s progress from a distance. And because two of its cameras are equipped with 20X optical zooms, the owners can view both the whales that migrate to Maui every winter and the turtles that crawl up onto a nearby small, isolated beach every afternoon.
Close teamwork among integrator, designer, contractor, and architect, either in person or via conference calls with the owner, kept the remodel from hitting unnecessary snags. “Once we demonstrated our efficiency and garnered client trust, we proceeded on a number of items with merely a verbal ‘OK’ from the owner, within minutes of our suggestion,” Ruger said. “This allowed us to keep the ball rolling and avoid any schedule delays. The level of trust was incredible.”
Besides distributed audio, security, and lighting control, the system gives the owners full command, from anywhere in the world, of motorized shades, two media rooms, HVAC, the pool and the spa, multicolor LED lighting, and even the outdoor Tiki torches.
Ruger made sure to strategize for upgrades or other technological needs down the road that might arise. “We planned ahead by installing empty conduit or extra cabling, as a way to ‘future-proof’ the home just in case the owner wanted to add another feature that we’d talked about. This plan served us very well, as the owner was very creative in laying out things he wanted to be able to do.”
Also, based on the client’s 180-degree shift at the onset of the project, from wanting very little to wanting it all, Ruger needed to be ready for the unexpected. “If we learned anything about our client, it was to never be surprised as to what he might want to do next. This is a client who initially rejected the very notion of installing any kind of intelligence in the house. Now, if there was a way to add a blender to the system, he’d probably do it.”
While all the gear that was eventually incorporated into the installation sounds like a lot to fit unobtrusively into a home without offending the aesthetic carefully crafted by interior designer Shelby Hansen, it’s a tribute to Ruger, Taron, Hansen, and their teams that everything was successfully “stealthed.” “Most of the backroom equipment is hidden in racks mounted in custom-made Balinese cabinetry designed to hide everything in plain sight,” Ruger said.
“It was a truly amazing team effort—so many professionals with so many different disciplines, working so closely together. The general contractor (David Stoops of Maui’s Building Specialists), architect, interior designer, electrician, plumber, and especially the client—everyone—understood the project was a moving target, so whenever anyone needed help, everyone just moved in and helped out. I never once heard anyone say, ‘That’s not my job,’ I’ve never worked on a jobsite quite like this before. It was a great experience.”