Home of the Year Awards
Underground Corridor Home to Art Gallery & 204” Theater Screen
Luxurious high-tech estate boasts Wilson Audio in abundance, Crestron control, Lutron lighting and CinemaScope home theater.
Credit: HiFi House
May 01, 2013 by Grant Clauser

At 30,000 square feet, this home almost seems more like a campus than a residence. Three buildings adorn the beautifully manicured property, all connected by an underground corridor that’s not only an easy way to get from one place to another; it’s also the location of an indoor pool, lavish private art gallery and a fun home theater space.

More than meets the eye might have been an unofficial theme here, because while it clearly offers a luxurious living space, the residence also houses one of the most robust home automation infrastructures in the region, designed and installed by Elite Home Technologies, the ultra-luxury division of custom electronics firm HiFi House in Broomall, Pa.

In any system this large, a network is one of the main backbones supporting all the subsystems. In this home an enterprise-grade wired network and Rukus Wireless system form a very robust network, which includes 25 wireless access points. All the Wi-Fi connected devices, especially the iPads and iPhones used as interfaces to the Crestron control system, require a reliable connection at all times. Video teleconference was also important to the client, so the network needed to support that as well.

The task of controlling and automating the home’s systems is primarily given over to Crestron, which integrates with the security, Lutron lighting, audio and video distribution as well as the ample heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Audio and video distribution was a big part of this project, and the extreme distances involved presented their unique problems. There are about 75,000 feet of wire and cable stretched across the property (a process made easier by the underground corridor). All the 12 televisions and displays are connected via fiber-optic cable, and separate movie and music servers provide the content: an Autonomic Mirage server for music; a Kaleidescape system for DVDs and Blu-rays (including more than 900 titles); plus three iPod docks for when the owners or guest want to listen to what’s on their smartphones.

The home theater area is a bit of a surprise, because when not in use, you’d hardly know it’s there. That’s because the theater—part of the underground zone—doubles as the homeowners’ art gallery, so they didn’t want all that audio and video gear to get in the way of art appreciation. The 204-inch Stewart Filmscreen CinemaScope screen is motorized and rolls up out of sight. A Wolf Cinema DCX500 projector is also concealed. Harder to hide were the four very large Wilson Audio Sophia Series 3 loudspeakers and a matching Wilson Watch center and two Watch Dog subwoofers. While all the speakers feature custom finishes, it’s their installation that makes this room unique. Each speaker is built onto a custom wheeled platform so they can be moved completely out of the room (once the speaker wires are unplugged of course) when not needed. The theater seating is also movable to accommodate gallery guests, and the screen sometimes gets employed for PowerPoint presentations.

Control over the theater and gallery area can be done with the 15-inch Crestron touchpanel in the wall, a Crestron remote or one of the owners’ iOS devices. However, the in-wall touchpanel is especially convenient for lighting control. This room has the most complex lighting installation of the house. Lighting mounted on tracks can be rotated, depending on how the room is being used (for theater or art display). The lights on each track can be individually controlled, and preset scenes let them quickly create the mood the occupants’ desire.

(View images of this stunning home here)

Talking about anything in this house requires new words for big—the lighting system alone includes more than 400 circuits and 18 lighting panels. Every light is homerun to one of the panels. All the home’s exterior lights are operated by astronomical time clocks so they go on and off automatically by sunrise and sunset. HiFi House’s intent was that the client should never have to touch a switch for the outside lights—and a property this big has a lot of lights.

With an installation of this size, simplicity of operation was also important. Architect John Toates of Peter Zimmerman Architects, requested that no lighting keypad have more than three buttons, so while the most basic controls can be done from the keypads, total control over each area’s lighting can be done with any of the Crestron touchpanels.

System Design & Installation
Elite Home Technologies/HiFi House, Broomall, PA
Architect and Designer
John Toates, AIA, Peter Zimmerman Architects
Griffiths Construction, Chester Springs, PA
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Also situated underground is a two-lane, 25-meter swimming pool where the homeowners can exercise or relax. Twelve invisible Sonance speakers and three invisible subwoofers, plus an iPhone/iPod dock, provide music while swimmers do their laps. The speakers actually get plastered over during installation and can play through the plaster. Since a pool room, which is mostly brick and plaster, can be a bit of an echo chamber acoustically, and water also being a reflective surface, HiFi House used Crestron’s preamplifier EQ settings to adjust the room’s audio performance.

The owners’ love of music, and audio quality, can be seen throughout. In the living room, it’s the use of Wilson Bookshelf speakers rather than concealed in-wall speakers. A room frequently used for the homeowner’s business also features Wilson. Another family room includes a large 70-inch Sharp Elite LED flat panel TVs and a custom Leon Speakers soundbar with Wilsons as surrounds. When listening to music, the Wilsons act as the main stereo speakers. Even the kitchen includes Totem Acoustic speakers hidden above cabinets. A 15-inch Crestron Touchpanel offers easy music selection from any source. 

Amplification for all the house speakers varies. The Wilsons (including the theater system) all get their power form Anthem amplifiers. The Sonance speakers in the pool room are powered by compatible Sonance amps, and Crestron provides the gas for other speakers in the property.

Even the family’s children get their own special entertainment place—a play room, with a flat-panel TV, surround-sound system and climbing equipment set up to provide plenty of fun time.

Getting all this work, without the occupants carrying around an owner’s manual, requires serious programming. HiFi House estimates that programming the Crestron system took about 300 hours, plus another 120 hours on the custom user interface, but that was time well spent, because a well-programmed control system is like an extension of your own arm, and for this home, the arm needed a long reach.

Behind the Scenes
The HVAC system was another hurdle to overcome. Crestron was a big help on this front because while the company’s control products are commonly found in some of the most luxurious homes in the country, Crestron also does even more business on the commercial side. Handling the operations of an industrial-grade HVAC system was something it was easily cut out for. In this home Crestron handles more than 60 zones of geo-thermal heating and air conditioning plus keeping status over six racks of audio, video and control gear. Each rack is individually cooled and ventilated to ensure reliability. The house has a full-on power center, whole-house generator and battery backup, a BlueBolt system allows HiFi House to reboot anything remotely.

See Also:
3 Common Misconceptions About Home Automation
Importance of Pathway Lighting
Trends in Affordable Automation Systems

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

Systems and Equipment

Control: Crestron
Lighting: Lutron
Displays: Wolf Cinema, Sharp Elite
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen
Speakers: Wilson Audio, Sonance, Leon Speakers, Totem Acoustic
Audio Amplification: Anthem, Sonance, Crestron
Video Sources: Kaleidescape, Pioneer, Comcast, Apple, Xbox
Audio Sources: Autonomic, Crestron, Comcast
Network: Cisco, Rukus Wireless
Wire: AudioQuest, Liberty, Planet Waves
Equipment Racks: Middle Atlantic

Full Equipment List

Anthem D2V
Anthem MRX300BL (x4)
Anthem P5 (x3)
Apple Apple TV (x2)
Apple iMac 27” (x3)
AudioQuest, Liberty, and Planet Waves cables and wires were used
Autonomic Mirage MMS-2
Crestron BBV15 (x3)
Crestron C2ENET1
Crestron C2NCBDPWS
Crestron C2NSPWS300
Crestron CAEN7X1 (x2)
Crestron CAEN-CK-7X1 (x2)
Crestron CENHPRFGW (x3)
Crestron CENIDOCVW (x2)
Crestron CENRFGWEX (x6)
Crestron CNAMPX16X60
Crestron CNRFGWA418
Crestron CNXBIPAD8 (x3)
Crestron DINAP2 (x3)
Crestron DMC04433
Crestron DMC04444
Crestron DMCHDDSP (x6)
Crestron DMCSDSP (x2)
Crestron DMMD16x16
Crestron DMRMC100S (x11)
Crestron DMTX201S (x2)
Crestron GLA-BMS
Crestron MTX3 (x7)
Crestron PRO2
Crestron SABAR-1 (x3)
Crestron SBB8L (x3)
Crestron ST-COM
Crestron TPMC8LWT (x3)
Crestron TPS5XNLWS (x5)
Crestron TPS6XDSCLPWS (x5)
Crestron V15 W/DGE2 WHITE (x3)
Crestron WPR48
Kaleidescape M500A Player
Kaleidescape 3U server with 28 TB
Kaleidescape VAULT M700A
Leon Custom-Built LCR for PRO60X5FD
Leon PR404-MC-X-A (Pair)
Lutron H8P5H48120 (x4)
Lutron HRD8ANSWH (x7)
Lutron HRREP120 (x4)
Lutron HRSWH
Lutron HWBP2S2012L4 (x2)
Lutron HWBP8D20120L (x13)
Lutron HWD8ANSWH (x2)
Lutron HWICC08
Lutron HWICCI8
Lutron HWILV32120 (x4)
Lutron HWIMI120 (x15)
Lutron HWRPM4A120 (x14)
Lutron HWRPM4R (x2)
Lutron HWRPM4U120 (x63)
Lutron PPS212015DC3 (x3)
Lutron SK6BRLNIWH (x2)
Lutron STNB (x161)
Middle Atlantic Products Exact Power PowerCore CORE-25-240-U4
Middle Atlantic Products BGR 45SA27 (x5)
Middle Atlantic Products BGR 552FTFC (x5)
Middle Atlantic PDT2020CNS (x6)
Additional Middle Atlantic Products
Niles MF1 (x7)
Panamax M4315-Pro (x4)
Panamax M4320-Pro
Panasonic KXDT343W (x13)
Panasonic KXT0155 (x8)
Panasonic KXT30865B (x3)
Panasonic KXTA236
Panasonic KXTDA50G
Panasonic KXTDA5161
Panasonic KXTDA5171
Panasonic KXTDA5172 (x2)
Panasonic KXTDA7685S (x6)
Panasonic KXTDA7696
Samsung 22D5000
Samsung 40D6000 (x2)
Samsung 46D8000
Samsung 59D7000 (x2)
Samsung 64D7000
Samsung BD-D6700
Sonance AMP 275SE (x7)
Sonance AMP A800 (x5)
Sonance FMS 860BL (x2) (Pair)
Sonance SA3(x7) (Pair)
Sonance SA3 Single
Sonance SAW (x5)
Sonance VP 65RSSTXT
Sonance 65RXT (x2) (Pair)
Sonance VP81 (x2) (Pair)
Sonance VP81R (x2) (Pair)
Sonance VP81
Sonance VP85 (Pair)
Sonance VP87 (x2) (Pair)
Sonance VP87 Single
Elite 60X5FD (x2)
Elite 70X5FD
Stewart Filmscreen Custom Visionary Grande Screen (222”)
Totem Model-1 (pair) (w/grilles)
Totem Model-1 Twin (x2) (w/grilles)
Wilson Audio Duette (x4)
Wilson Audio Sophia Series 3 (x8)
Wilson Audio WATCH Dog (x2)
Wilson Center 3
Wolf DCX500I

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