Roughly translated, Le Rocher, means The Rock, and the Perfect Integration team involved in the project needed to apply some heavy lifting to get this challenging project over the line. This fantastic home features a drop-dead gorgeous cinema, cutting edge interior and exterior lighting as well as a high-tech controllable car lift.
Michael Robinson, Project Director, Perfect Integration, explains, “The client bought an apartment within a CEDIA Award winning scheme in London, and said that for the first time, after many years of having various automation systems from various companies both in the UK and Europe, he was delighted to finally have one that worked properly and could be adapted to suit his exact requirements.
“He soon after asked us if we’d consult for him on a project he had underway in Monaco, at what was going to be his forever home, as there was already incumbent integrators involved working under the architect, but now that he had experience of what could be done, he wanted us to ensure that they delivered the same for him down there.”
Michael adds, “After numerous meetings on and off site, it soon became apparent that some of the local ‘specialists’ were simply not up to the job of delivering what the client was now expecting, so over time, they were either released from the project or their responsibilities reduced and our remit continued to grow.
“One of the things the client liked the most about his system in London, was the inherent flexibility but also our willingness to adapt both the GUI and functionality to his wishes, and he was happy to be a beta tester and gave us detailed and invaluable feedback. “Throughout the two year plus design phase, the system design was refined continually both in terms of the systems we were delivering in full, and those being delivered by local contractors, but under our design responsibility.”
The eventual scope of work was: joint design responsibility of the Lutron HomeWorks lighting control system, supply and installation by local lighting design company; joint design responsibility of the KNX HVAC Control system, supply and installation by local BMS company; joint design responsibility of the security systems including intruder alarm with perimeter protection and advanced CCTV system with remote monitoring capability.
Perfect Integration also had overall design and supply/installation responsibility of the access control system including car lift and turntable control, overall design and supply/installation responsibility of networks and telecoms systems and overall design and supply/ installation responsibility of all audio visual and integrated control systems.
The integrated lighting on this project is probably the most important part of the scheme for the client. One of his most demanded and appreciated features is a ‘simple to use’, reliable and easy to maintain (adjust and update himself) lighting control system.
Michael underlines, “The Lutron system allowed us to do this by having a native smartphone app, which provided the client the flexibility over his pre-configured scenes. Being a large property, with numerous keypads (and touch-panels), we designed the system around ‘shared’ scenes, which allows the client to update a specific single scene, but that scene can then be deployed to however many keypads and touch-panels that are linked to it.
“The lighting control system also incorporates the window treatments in the master bedroom, master en-suite and the study, along with the security shutters around the property. Easily integrating with Crestron, the Lutron system also links to the AV systems providing some basic control over the audio systems from keypads, such as source selection, system on/off and volume up and down.”
Michael adds, “The integration with Crestron and subsequently the KNX climate control system, allowed us to integrate the climate systems with the lighting keypads, so towel rails and floor heating in certain areas can be boosted or switched on for a pre-set period of time from a single button press.
“The spa area has a hammam with colour change lighting which goes red as it warms up, and the massage room has a stunning, backlit onyx wall that slowly fades during treatments. The outdoor lighting is particularly effective and can be easily adjusted to best show off the grounds depending where the client happens to be.”
The climate control system, although provided by the local contractors, was designed by the Perfect Integration team, who worked hard to specify to an exact performance specification the hardware to be used by the local teams, and approve (or refuse) the suggested variations the local contractors put forward.
One key feature within the climate control systems is the boost mode, which is needed as the temperature in autumn can change from 30°C one day, to 10°C the next.
Using weather compensation and forecasting, it’s possible to switch the AC units to heat mode to quickly boost the internal temperatures as the underfloor heating takes hours/days to warm up fully due to the thick marble floors.
Extensive networking with Firewalls and a high level of security, including hidden SSIDs and multiple authentication requirements including a user logging system that logs all users for monitoring by the integrator and security company, was also included.
For summer party events, the client contacts the integrator to have them set an SSID and password for special events, which restricts the ability for users to interact with any of the services, but still offers his guest an appreciated convenience.
This changes on an event to event basis and is switched off between events, for increased security. The car-lift can be operated from the client’s iPhone app, but only once he is connected to a specific access point for enhanced security and safety.
The telephone system was supplied and installed by Perfect Integration’s UK based Panasonic partner, and configured so as to act as a single system with both of the client’s other properties (in London and Netherlands).
He has a single landline number and it rings whichever property he is in, and he can choose to make outgoing calls from any of the locations wherever he is.
For the security system there is constant local monitoring of the system as well as high-level remote monitoring of the systems. The property has multiple layers of both physical movement and barrier detection as well as visual and thermal based detection, with both static, and dynamic algorithm based visual monitoring.
The systems run as standalone, but with the ability to be monitored and viewed from the integrated systems, so as to give the owner a useful overview of the property at all times, with visual cues showing up on the on-screen displays, to enable a better monitoring of the property.
For the AV requirements of the property, there are 32 zones of Crestron audio, 16 zones of DM video, with control from wall mounted touchscreens, PIRs and handheld remotes with supplementary control from iPhone and iPad apps.
Most principal rooms have Amina invisible speakers, with a pair of Bowers & Wilkins Diamond bookshelf speakers in the study and pre-wiring for floor standing Meridian speakers in the reception room.
Bedrooms all have end of bed pop-up TV mechanisms, which were sunk into the concrete floors during construction to keep the cabinet heights to a minimum. Being on the tip of a peninsula, with 270° views of the med, outdoor dining and leisure is a number one priority for the client, so all external areas have discreetly installed outdoor speakers, with flush mounted speakers built into the terrace balustrade and veranda canopy, and a high output Sonance landscape system around the pool, with 12 speakers and four buried subwoofers.
The pool house has a bespoke mirror TV with an ornate frame and looks impressive above the backlit dark onyx bar.
The heart of this system is the Crestron automation platform, which has dual redundant processors which are programmed so that each critical sub system runs on its own core.
The GUI is easily customisable so that guest rooms can have limited control, but the house manager’s and client’s touchscreens and apps have whole house control and full alarm/security notifications.
The kitchen has a touchscreen TV with a Crestron overlay so can be used as a central controller whilst watching TV or viewing the CCTV cameras.
The project includes a wide range of automated features, that can be customised from the touch-panels. These include time clocks, offering the client the ability to preconfigure (and adjust) the operating times for various devices, or to link them to sunrise or sunset.
After sunset, most of the internal lights will come on 20% lower than in the daytime, to set the mood correctly, and the garden lights come on and fade off after bedtime.
There is also an over-ride for the fountain, if the client has guests over for an evening function, for it to run on till 2am and one for the pool and garden area that will detect if these areas are in use and delay its normal cycle to prevent people getting unexpectedly ‘irrigated’.
En-suite PIRs have a selectable ‘Follow Me’ mode, allowing audio and video to ‘follow you’ from the bedroom into the en-suite. The awnings are controlled within the good evening/ good night mode and also linked to the fountain’s shutdown time, to make sure they’re retracted overnight.
The awning can be over-ridden at any time, unless the wind speed sensor deems it too windy, in which case they automatically retract. As the Cote d’Azur is prone to high winds, the wind sensor is also set to warn the caretaker, should a rating high enough to automatically close the awnings be detected.
The caretaker will also have a warning flash up on his security monitors in the kitchen and his office, so he can pack away the poolside parasols. Also included is a house reset; every day at 4am, the house will assess its state and reset itself back to a default position, so none of the rooms are left on for days.
The house will take various interactions into consideration when testing the true/false state of a room’s occupation such as temperature, lights, shutters and AV.
A really cool feature is the ‘Smart Source Select’, which when a source is selected like Apple TV, with multiple device instances, it will find the first Apple TV available and display that.
The system will also check the source is available in that room, not locked or in privacy mode. Should you want to view a source that is in use, you can switch to that source by selecting it (if it is not restricted). The system will notify a user visually if all sources are unavailable.
If the house is occupied and devices are not in use at 4am, each source will perform a hard reboot to ensure they are functioning correctly. If a source is asleep (not detected on DM), it’s ‘woken up’ when selected. This has improved the client’s user experience as of course many satellite decoders are prone to locking up.
When the house is in certain modes, should the doorbell sound, the TV can be paused and an overlay of the CCTV camera on the gateway will appear. The client can then use their remote control to answer the call, open the gate or ignore the call. This feature can easily be disabled per TV by navigating through the menu or switching house modes.
As for the alarms, should any of these sound, the CCTV automatically turns on in the caretaker’s room and the kitchen touchscreen TV. Also, in alarm mode, all touch panels will wake up and display a red screen with ‘Fire’, ‘Intruder’ or ‘Panic’ and the zone(s) where the alarm has come from.
The client can view a floor plan of the property and see all sensors in real time, plus if a door is open and where/if a PIR has been triggered or if a window is open, or if there is smoke or heat somewhere.
The home’s AV hardware is fully shutdown-able and restart-able, when the house is set to owner away mode, through the alarm configuration or the integrated control system. The high-energy using devices that aren’t required for the house’s functionality, will all shutdown.
There are also lots of macro (user initiated) events which happen within and between the integrated subsystems. For instance boost mode for the climate control systems will automatically switch on if the temperature differential is equal to or greater than 4°C degrees, (set point of 22°C, current temp 18°C), it is also however manually settable as often during the changing seasons the client will have the heating off and then only in the mornings or evenings, switch it on.
Michael adds, “A frustration with automated systems is often they restrict your ability to be flexible, so our solution allows a user to watch a source and listen to something else simultaneously. For example, during a party, the Formula One is on but you’d prefer to listen to your favourite playlist. Whilst watching the preferred source, clicking the ‘multi-task’ icon allows you to select a different audio source. Control over both sources is achieved by toggling ‘multi-task’.”
Features offered over the home’s GUIs include being able to alter the background colour of any touch-panel (and then save and apply to one or all simultaneously). The user can also change the format of the clock and temperature on any touch-panel and again save and apply to one or all at the same time.
The user also has the ability to simplify or change the side bar to something else such as heating and lighting only, for when their mother comes to stay, or to restrict users from interfacing with services.
The GUI’s primary services also adapt to each room, for example, the blinds pane changes for veranda, terrace and gym to display controls for the panel heaters, sun awning and spa fountain respectively. The left hand ‘action bar’ allows the client to quickly access common basic function, with a single touch.
However, the client can expand this and can control every single lighting circuit, blind and shutter so that they have full control over their home and are never impeded by just having a handful of buttons that control a group of things.
The user interface lets the client choose which rooms to group. The client can have as many groups as they would like. Once grouped, altering the volume displays volume controls and feedback for each room in that group. There are also pre-sets for each area to quickly group certain rooms.
Taking on the challenges
The only really major frustration experienced by the team was that they weren’t able to run more additional/ spare cabling around the house to as many locations as they would have liked for future proofing.
This was due largely to the local electrical contractor only installing the conduits they felt necessary.
Michael says, “Since the project started, the client has made various changes and upgrades and we have managed to adapt the project to suit, but none of this was easy and it often cost the client more than it would have had we been able to run the full amount of cables that we had planned. ”
Michael also explains, “Due to the complex and high specification finish of the ceilings, we were in many places restricted in our ability to place even invisible speakers in the ceiling, so we needed to find alternative solutions. In one such instance, we placed the invisible speakers into a wall either side of the fireplace. Due to the wall thickness, we couldn’t use back boxes, but the downside to this was that the large wall cavity, despite being loosely filled with Rockwool, created a massive amount of bass, so we had to EQ the speakers heavily to get them right.”
The client also wanted exterior audio, but wanted it fully integrated.
Michael says, “We had to design and create specialised details for areas such as the terrace, where the speakers were formed into the ornate stone balustrade, which the architects said was impossible! We devised a way and commissioned custom hollow baluster columns, that were calculated to the optimum volume recommended by the speaker manufacturer and perform incredibly well.”
The lighting system threw up some challenges too.
Michael explains, “When we came to program the lighting control system which had been installed and commissioned by the local contractor, supposedly to our design, none of the lights seemed to be dimming when we chose different scenes, and closer inspection of their dimming enclosures showed that they had fitted switching modules and not dimmers! After a few nonchalant shrugs by them and a few stern emails from us and the client, they eventually changed them.
“The project being located away from our main office in a foreign country, offered a challenge with the level of detail required for the local trades, and with the reality that they often did no work, unless we were onsite to drive them. But our client was keen to deliver the project correctly, so they helped drive the local trades and accepted that the management and design costs would be higher to get the right finish.”
Very special cinema
Called Le Petite Garnier, the cinema was the Winner of the Smart Building Awards, Best Home Cinema Project Over £50K category this year and was designed in tribute to the famous ‘Le Palais Garnier’ opera house in Paris, a favourite venue of the client. The challenge was to create a cinema with the same ‘grandeur and opulence’ as the ‘Le Palais Garnier’, but also not compromise on the performance. No pressure there then.
The cinema features 11 speakers, seven behind the projection screen and red panelling on the walls, four Dolby Atmos height channels behind the circular custom grills on the ceiling and four subwoofers, behind the metal grills in the joinery.
The Barco Balder Cinemascope projector is hidden in a ventilated acoustic enclosure at the back of the room, its positioning above the cornice made possible by the curvature of the ceiling. What’s really impressive here is that the team have created a high-performance cinema combined with such a challenging and precise aesthetic brief.
No mean feat, it’s not easy to create a good cinema when all you need to worry about are dark walls and low impact furnishings, so the team deserve great credit for taking this on and succeeding.
This article first appeared in the pages of Essential Install Magazine, subscribe here.