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Case Study – 10,000 sq ft new residence

The audio-visual and lighting project scope

The overall project was the construction of a very large detached family home. As the audio visual and lighting specialist contractor, our remit was seemingly quite straightforward. The architect’s drawings for the building services needed to be reviewed and the homeowners advised on their choices for audio and television distribution.

As an often specified audio visual and lighting and smart control sub-contractor of an Essex based contractor, we were invited to tender for the project which we won.

The challenge

The homeowners, the contractor’s project manager and ourselves met monthly as the project got underway. What became apparent was that the initial design requirements discussed and agreed between the architects and the client months previously at the outset of the project had shifted significantly. From an initial simple audio visual and lighting specification, the project became a complex undertaking with smart lighting control in several rooms, a gate entry system, cinema surround sound, open plan audio across multiple spaces serving different functions, CCTV and Wi-Fi throughout the residence. The increased specification meant the initial lighting control system was no longer suitable with knock-on consequences into several areas of the project’s construction and impacting multiple trades.

It was the often repeated classic situation where the builder is pressing on to meet the contract programme but key decisions are either changed late in the day or worse still, are delayed altogether. The delays arise because the homeowner does not know exactly what they want until they see it. In the meantime nothing can be settled.

The problem had two aspects for our part of the project:

  1. We needed to satisfy the expectations of the homeowners such that they got what they wanted and only paid for that. As is often the case, the homeowners were unable to understand the serious and negative impact their changes and late decision-making were having on the project.
  2. We also needed to serve our client, the contractor, in ensuring they can specify and install at pace with the current building progress and finalise the install to the homeowners’ satisfaction.

The requirements for each room in turn had to be reviewed: the room’s function assessed – Who would mostly be using each room? Were there any special occasions or considerations that should be considered? What is the ambience the homeowners were looking to create for both day, night and special events? From this information a typical flow of the house usage can be created. The range of activities to be performed and with what furniture layouts had to be considered. The placing of services such as lighting, sound, televisions and controls needed to be decided.

As an integrator of technology we are always looking to ensure that the end-users have a very clear expectation of what controls they will have in each room and what they don’t have. Often with multiple building services, the heating engineers add their room thermostats, the alarm installer adds their alarm panel alongside the door entry video screen that’s near a light switch or lighting control panel. These various controllers are usually from different manufacturers with different colours and sizes. The control panels/switches can create an unsightly visual array leading to the customer’s disappointment.

With these clients we spent considerable time looking at many different multi-purpose controllers that control lighting, audio and have built-in thermostats. We were able to reduce the number of large size controllers through having a panel with selectable pages for the alarm system, video entry, lighting control, audio control and even heating controls.

We reviewed the lighting layout to improve the task lighting, illumination of a feature staircase and mood lighting in the open plan spaces. This ensured that when full use of the whole space is needed – the light reflects that, and when the space is segregated – the lighting can provide visual boundaries to provide a smaller more comfortable sense of space. Automation of lighting allowed for low level lighting for late night access to certain rooms and brighter full lighting earlier in the evening when there’s a faster pace or busy use.

A curfew was installed on the operation of late night bathroom fans in bathrooms. No fan noises therefore disturbed those sleeping.

On this project there were many small but significant areas of concern. We worked with and alongside some of the elements of this project we would normally cover ourselves as a complete turnkey supply. We engaged with the electrical contractor, encouraging them away from supplying very basic unconnected standalone dimming in six principal rooms. The customer didn’t understand the limitations of their original specification. We were able eventually to argue successfully in favour of an upgrade to a fully connected whole house lighting control system: the significant benefits of which included continuity of control plates for a single style operation throughout the home. The upgraded controls system allowed the customer could set a week’s worth of timed lighting which could be repeated on a cycle whilst the house was unoccupied. Controllable security lighting sequences gave improved CCTV video capture and enhanced security awareness to any intruders. Together, these enhancements gave a welcome additional level of security protection.

In one of the open plan spaces with uninhibited large reveals to landscaped gardens, we extended the night time visual aspect into the gardens combined with internal lighting control scenes. An extra layer of automated safety at night was provided by automated lighting of pathways and access.

None of these extra features were possible with the originally specified lighting control system. The electrical contractor was initially very reluctant to change to the upgraded but necessary system to achieve the changed customer requirements. However, with our support they did engage with the new proposed lighting controls and were won round to the improvements they provided. In fact they learned a new skill with installing and programming the upgraded lighting controls and benefitted from the enlargement of their contract.

The final part of the lighting installation was to design a detailed lighting layout and create enhancing accent lighting and select beautiful light fittings. Here we advised the customer on the direction they could take and we assisted in the appointment of a dedicated lighting designer. This allowed us instead to concentrate on the audio and television requirements quickly and to keep in step with the building work now well underway.

The CCTV system was installed by us which allowed us to design and supply bespoke brackets for mounting the cameras sympathetically with the house aesthetics. It also provided viewing and ultimate control of the cameras from the usual dedicated app, CCTV viewing on all televisions as well as “go to” ground and first floor control touch screens. Each in-wall touch screen control provided integrated door entry video and audio alongside enhanced viewing of visitors at the different entrance doors. It also allowed for viewing of all CCTV cameras from each touch screen. The screens also provided global lighting and AV control.

The audio and television requirements included a whole house control system installed and programmed to allow full control of the whole house from the customer’s smart phones for audio, lights, television and security. We assisted the customer’s furniture manufacturer in the aesthetics and structural design of a large cabinet based on the inclusion of a large screen television and a bespoke designed 5.2 cinematic sound system.

The outcome

The final result was an aesthetically beautiful home where the technology had a low impact on the aesthetics. The residence had simple, clean lines and basic functionality for guests with simple efficient control. For more detailed and specific controls the customer could use our bespoke smart phone app or the “go to” touch screens.

The improved final end-result was achieved by helping the customers come to clear decisions as to their actual requirements. We also helped to give them clarity in their expectations with regards to the limitations on the main contractor’s team working with incomplete information and changing requirements. We were able to play an important informative role with the main contractor for both the customer and the project’s sub-contractors. The customers were content to pay for the increased installation because they could understand the added value in the upgrades and also the shortcomings in their original design. The sub-contractors were happy because either their installation was simplified at no reduction in margin to them or their part of the contract increased in value.

Testimonial

“This was a complex project owing to the client’s changing requirements as the specification was enhanced. Ian’s remarkable breadth of knowledge and willingness enabled him to do a superb job on a complex project. Ian thinks ahead and his naturally helpful approach allows him to find a constructive way through the trickiest issues to the satisfaction of all the parties.”

Keith Brown – Project Manager