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The Big House

Aug 11, 2009 8:00 AM, By Dan Daley

Systems integration brings a gigantic residential install under control.

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When it comes to the size of a home, there is a tipping point between the ordinary and the extraordinary, a point that is a moving target in an age of deflated values and diminished expectations. But there remains another point that’s equally fluid but determined less by market fluctuations than by one’s internal set of scales, where a certain house is less a residence than a self-sufficient universe.

The Johnson residence in the downtown Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C., falls into that rare category. At 19,000 square feet, it’s the single largest residence in the city. Spencer Ackerman, owner of Playback AV in Charlotte, lost count of how many miles of Cat-5e his company ran inside the walls of the house. When asked what sets a house of this scale apart from a commercial integration project, he thinks for a second, notes the dedicated control room with three

Middle Atlantic racks for AV sources and automation, then says, “Not much.”

But it is still a home, and AV systems are at the heart of how a residence of this size can be managed. A Crestron home automation system with an AV2 processor integrates 20 zones of lighting, five zones of HVAC, a front door intercom, five

Speco Technologies CVC770DN surveillance cameras including one at the front door, and a comprehensive home security system. The lighting control system is centered on Crestron dimmers with CNX-B12 keypads. Eight Crestron TPS-2000 5in. touchpanels in strategic locations around the home let users access all the systems from any of those locations. A TPS-4000 10in. touchpanel was chosen for the kitchen because of its central location.

Long time coming

Playback AV did the Cat-5e and coaxial (for component video) prewiring nearly three years ago, as the house was being framed and plumbing, electrical, and HVAC was being roughed out. That job alone took a month—the home includes 20-plus zones of distributed audio, a dedicated home theater, and a projection system for the indoor pool, and audio sources include a digital music server, FM radio, and Sirius satellite radio. As technologically edgy as the house is, however, there is no fiber-optic cabling.

“Fiber is really more of a speed issue than anything else, and the increase in speed is not cost-effective at this point; it would cost at least 50 percent more to use fiber,” Ackerman says. “The next logical step up would have been Cat-6, which would have increased the wiring cost by about 10 to 20 percent. But there’s nothing here that Cat-5 can’t handle.”

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