It’s hard to impress a Silicon Valley executive who is heavily involved in technology. The level of sophistication that this particular client expected was high, and he required that all technology be hidden from view and fully integrated into his home’s sleek, streamlined urban architecture and minimalist décor. “This is one of the most demanding clients I have ever worked with,” says Brian Hodges, VP of sales at Engineered Environments (www.engineeredenvironments.com). “He [pays] immaculate attention to detail. If you couldn’t play at his level, he simply wasn’t interested.”
To navigate this complex project that was being built from the ground up, Engineered Environments had to work extensively with several of the trades, but particularly with famed architect Steven Ehrlich of Steve Ehrlich Architects (www.s-ehrlich.com) out of Culver City, Calif. and Ryan Associates General Contractors (www.ryanassociates.com) out of San Francisco. Ehrlich set the agenda by defining the home’s architectural style and flow and Engineered Environments executed that vision from a technological standpoint.
The home was built using steel, glass, and cast-in-place architectural concrete (CIPAC). “It’s the first time I had worked with CIPAC,” says Tim Johnson, Engineered Environment’s project engineer. “The architects had actually built CIPAC samples to show the clients. They were useful because they also showed me what I was up against. I understood from the beginning what my challenge was.”
The home’s interior is divided into six separate isolated volumes connected by a concrete spine wall supporting the floating stairwell that runs continuously from the basement floor to the roof three stories above. “Because of the complex nature of the construction, placing equipment and devices—not to mention wire paths—seemed a highly challenging, if not impossible, task,” says Johnson.
The inability to run wires between isolated volumes in the home required that Engineered Environments determine and document all equipment and device locations, as well as conduit paths, prior to construction. They worked jointly with Ryan Associates and the electrical engineer to come up with a detailed and complex conduit plan. They began by identifying intermediate distribution frame locations (IDFs) to be used for cross connections and installing wiring enclosures with a series of conduits interlinking the IDFs with the main distribution frame location in the basement. Because of extensive wiring required to support the system design and the limited internal wall volume available for conduits, high-density multi-conductor riser cables were used to feed the IDFs where the horizontal runs are cross-connected.
In the theater, a void was created inside the vertical concrete structure above the fireplace for three custom-built, time-aligned CAT LCR speakers. Engineered Environments worked with the architect to match the wall paint to the Stewart Filmscreen micro-perforated wrap-around screen installed in front of the LCRs, so when the Sony Qualia SXRD projector isn’t fired up, you don’t even know the screen is present. Four custom-made, side-firing transmission line subwoofers, and two downward-angled, rear-firing surround speakers are nested in a floating ceiling structure and concealed by black fabric recessed in the void. The entire speaker system is processed and calibrated through a multi-channel professional-grade digital audio signal processor.
It’s often the finished look of a project—which is frequently set by an interior designer or architect—that determines the type of equipment that will go into a project. Here, the architect determined the look and feel of the multimedia system in the office area, which by its seamless nature needed to be a rear-projection system. A Stewart Filmscreen Aeroglas rear-projection screen with integrated mirrors and projector was chosen, and mounted on horizontally sliding tracks within a cabinet. The projection glass has a diffusive surface on the inside for the projector image and a slick non-porous surface on the outside for use as a dry erase board. The NEC projector has sufficient light output to function as a computer monitor, even during the day. “That was our interpretation of how this design element was created by the lead architect,” says Hodges. “It’s flush with the custom millwork, and with frosted glass, it looks beautiful, on or off.”
The AMX system controls all the home’s complex systems, including distributed audio, distributed video, local A/V systems, climate systems, lighting, motorized shades, motorized windows, security, fire protection, pool equipment, and more.
Johnson cites the relationship with the Ehrlich as key to the success of the project. “Their intense involvement with us and with other players was key,” he says. “That sense of perfectionism is what won Engineered Environments the 2006 CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles award for Best Overall Integrated Home and Best Dressed System, among others, for this high-tech, high-style home. CR