AOL Executive Automates Mountain Home

I’m not a brave person. I traveled to Vail, Colorado, for the fresh air, the beautiful views, and to tour a cool, connected home. No mountain climbing, no extreme sports, and certainly no close calls with wildlife were on my plan.

But as we pulled through the gated community of Cordillera Ranch, Gary Bute, the president of Resort Lighting Design & Control, snapped his cell phone shut and turned to me. “When you get out of the car,” he said, “be aware of your surroundings. A bear tried to break into the house this morning.”

Entry/Great Room
Wild Kingdom

Sure enough, the screen that separated the outdoor deck from the kitchen door was ripped by something large and in desperate need of a manicure. While I scanned the landscape and planned the best escape route, Gary rang the front doorbell. Jean Oglethorpe, owner of the house, could have used her Panasonic phone system to open the door from the inside. However, she greeted us with such warm hospitality that you’d never know she’d been wrestling bears out of her chocolate chip cookies mere hours before.

One step inside the front door, though, and all thought of wild animals dissipated. A window commands the entire wall of the Great Room, affording a “wow” view of the mountains below. The Great Room is where the family relaxes, enjoys the mountain view, and also watches movies on the 36-inch Sony Wega television. In-ceiling Niles speakers are painted to match the wood of the high ceilings, so you don’t notice them until they’re pumping out tunes from the Sony CD changer.

Rob Furlow, the ResortLDC system designer, explains that every detail of the 9,000-square-foot house was carefully planned by Jean-not only the windows and interior design, but also every element of the sophisticated lighting system.

After Gary and Rob explained the options, Jean decided to control lighting, fireplaces, fans, shades and windows. Together, they chose to utilize a hardwired Vantage home control system in combination with wall-mounted keypads and touchscreens to manage these tasks.

While her husband, Ray, an executive with America Online, worked in Virginia full-time, Jean flew back and forth, spearheading the design of their new mountain getaway. “She was a hands-on client,” Rob explains. Over a period of about 30 days, she sat down with the ResortLDC team and chose everything from lighting scenes to the engraving on the keypads.

Warm Welcome

An open-air layout on the main level makes the kitchen easily accessible to the great room and the dining area. Just outside the kitchen window, on the upper deck, is a unique barbecue area with a grill, warming drawer, and authentic pizza oven. While Jean was taking cooking classes in Italy, she fell in love with the pizza oven and had one shipped to her new home. Now the local Vail Italian pizza chef is teaching her the tricks of using yeast at high altitudes.

Nestled in between the great room and the kitchen is a cozy nook that the family refers to as the Hearth Room. A Sony Wega television is tucked behind custom cabinetry, and if anyone gets a chill while enjoying the mountain view, the Hearth Room fireplace can be activated by the touch of a button. Rob programmed the fireplace buttons on the keypads to blink when the fireplaces are lit, so there could be no question that the gas had been turned on.

A constant cross-breeze circulates air throughout the house, so no cooling system is needed. Casement windows are controlled by wall-mounted keypads-opened to let in fresh air and closed when bad weather threatens. Thanks to careful programming, each window can be operated separately, or all the windows can open and close together.

While there’s no cooling system in the house-other than Mother Nature-a mountain home requires more heat in the winter than the gas fireplaces can provide. Radiant heating tubes reside underneath almost all of the floors in the home. This efficient means of warming a room allows the heat to rise naturally from the floor, requiring less power. The system is integrated with the Erie programmable thermostats to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout all 15 heating zones.

The Vantage keypads contain buttons to activate “scenes” as well as individual lights, fans and other devices. A scene can trigger several lights, each light set at a different brightness level. The “Entertain” scene, for instance, lights the fireplace, brings up appropriate lighting levels in the dining room and highlights various pieces of artwork.

If the homeowners ever want to change a scene or adjust a lighting level, they can make the changes themselves from the keypads. Jean could launch the “Entertain” scene, for example, and then after she has adjusted the specific lights in the scene with the keypads, she holds down the “Entertain” button for five seconds to re-teach the system the new scene.

A Room with a View

Jean and Ray Oglethorpe share a “partners” desk in the library where their laptops can be plugged into one of the home’s three phone lines. A Panasonic system phone rests on the desk along with a fax machine and printer.

High-speed Internet access isn’t available in the Cordillera area yet, an ironic position for an AOL executive to be in. However, the laptops are equipped with wireless modems as well as standard dial-up access. And phone jacks are plentiful enough around the house, Jean says, for her husband to access his daily deluge of email from any room.

Fiber optic “rope” lighting highlights the beveled edges of the bookcases in the library. Because it doesn’t get hot and is easy to install, this flexible lighting can be used almost anywhere, including around wine cabinets and other areas where hot lights aren’t practical.

A wall-mounted Vantage touchscreen controls all the electronics within the library and gives the homeowners access to electronics throughout the house. There are seven touchscreen locations in the home-entry foyer, library, master bedroom, front door, great room, family room and kitchen. Each touchscreen displays an appropriate graphic icon for that area, along with the date and time. For instance, the icon for the kitchen touchscreen is a knife and fork; the icon in the library is a book.

The office shares a fireplace with the master bedroom next door. From any touchscreen in the house, the Oglethorpes can access the master controls and check the status of all five of the home’s fireplaces, so they can be sure that none of them have been left on.

The Best Part of Waking Up

The master bedroom looks directly at the mountains, and each day a bedside keypad button marked “Morning” allows the Oglethorpes to raise the blackout shades and take in the view. Each night, bedside reading lights are easily accessible, along with controls for the room’s fans and windows.

A 36-inch Sony television, satellite receiver and DVD player are hidden inside an armoire in the corner of the master bedroom. Pressing the “Relax” button sets the lighting levels to just the right brightness for the end of the day.

A walk-through closet leads from the master bedroom to the master bath. A keypad in the closet includes a “panic” button that when pressed flashes all the lights on and off in the house, alerting neighbors and security professionals to an emergency. The panic button can be easily integrated with the ITI security system should the Oglethorpes wish to make that connection in the future.

There’s nothing better than the breathtaking view of the Colorado mountains-except maybe enjoying that view from the master bath’s Jacuzzi tub. A privacy shade can be activated from a wall-mounted keypad within easy arm’s reach. Warm towels are just at your fingertips too, thanks to the electric towel warmer next to the shower and bath tub.
Several buttons on the wall-mounted keypad positioned next to the vanity perform double-duty. With one button press, the shower light turns on and the keypad button blinks green. A second press of the same button turns the green LED solid and brings up the fan in the shower. A third press of the very same button shuts off the light and the fan and turns the LED red.

By color-coding the LEDs, Rob made the keypads easier to read and intuitive to use so that the Oglethorpes don’t have to re-learn the process every time they enter a different room. Certain lights, such as those in the separate toilet/bidet room, don’t require system integration and are operated by standard switches.

An exercise room is positioned just off the master bath where a treadmill and recumbent bicycle are stationed. A keypad-controlled fan keeps the room cool during exercise sessions, and workouts can be accompanied by music from the master suite’s in-ceiling speakers.

Family Room/ Guest Rooms
Be Our Guest

The Oglethorpes consider the downstairs area to be the guest level. When their daughters come to visit, they’ve basically got a house to themselves, as there is a separate entrance, laundry room and kitchen, and of course each guest bedroom has its own bath.

The main common area of the lower level is the family room, dominated once again by a commanding view of the mountains from the wall-to-wall windows. “Houses in this area typically have a lot of windows for obvious reasons,” says Gary. “Therefore, there isn’t a lot of wall space for light switches. With a keypad, like the Vantage keypad, you can reduce eight switches, for instance, to one wallplate.”

Another Sony 36-inch Wega television is hidden behind beautiful custom wooden cabinetry, so that visitors can relax in front of the fireplace with DVDs, satellite television or music pumped through the in-ceiling speakers. A kitchenette with microwave, refrigerator and dishwasher keeps the snacks and cold drinks just a couple of steps away.

A hallway leads to the game room where a billiards table and 65-inch Mitsubishi widescreen HDTV provide a place to continue the fun. The game room also has its own kitchen and bath.

Each guest bedroom is equipped with a Panasonic system telephone, so that speaking with upstairs family members is as easy as punching in an extension. That’s an important feature in a house of this size. A convenient night light feature is incorporated into each bedroom as well: A bedside keypad places the “Bedroom On/Off” button within arm’s reach. As soon as that scene is activated from that location, all the lights go out in the bedroom-and a dim night light activates just over the shower area in the adjoining bathroom. This lighting scene provides a clear path to guide you during any midnight bathroom breaks.

However, if the “Bedroom On/Off” button is activated from the keypad next to the doorway to the bedroom, no night light is activated, because the system assumes you are leaving the room and therefore don’t need to find your way in the dark.

Each guest room also has an entry to the outdoor decks. Keypads positioned next to the exits can light the deck just for that specific bedroom area, the entire deck, or a pathway from the bedroom to the hot tub below.

The Big Brain
Also located on the lower level is the main equipment room. This is where half of the wires in the house terminate and where half of the enclosures reside. The wiring and enclosures of the house were divided into two sections-north and south-to keep wiring runs shorter.

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) backs up the phone system as well as the motorized shades. A glitch in the shading system requires that any time power is lost, each shade has to be reset manually.

Thanks to the UPS, short power outages caused by bad weather no longer require that arduous resetting process.

A manual override is also stationed here for all the lights on this half of the system. In the event that one of the processors stops working correctly, the homeowners can go to one location and manually light up the house.

The equipment room is one of the few rooms that isn’t warmed by radiant floor heating. Rising heat and delicate electronic equipment are not a good combination.

Yard Works

Outdoor lighting activates each evening at dusk, unless the Oglethorpes disable the timing feature from any of the Vantage touchscreens. From the game room area downstairs, there is an exit directly outdoors to the spa. The spa is operated by a button located at the hot tub area. While it could be automated and controlled from the house, there are security reasons not to do this, Gary warns. You want to be able to see that a child or a pet isn’t near a spa before it’s activated. As he demonstrates the controls, I wonder warily if the bear has ever given the spa a whirl.

The next upgrade in the outdoor area will be a fountain, which Gary says will be controlled by the Vantage system. They have already wired for a fountain light as well, so that it can be operated from an indoor keypad, as well as integrated with the other timed lighting controls.

It’s growing dark, and even though we’re still in the heart of summer, there’s a nip in the air that warns of colder temperatures on the way. As winter approaches, snow will arrive. A Tekmar driveway snow-melting system stands ready to keep the entry to the Oglethorpe home free of ice by warming the driveway to a preset temperature just above freezing. “You’ll drive by some houses around here in the winter,” Gary says, “and their driveways are steaming, because their systems just keep heating up the sidewalk and it gets up to over 55 degrees, wasting energy.”

As we head out, Rob sets the “Goodbye” button on the ITI security keypad and shows me how the indoor lights slowly fade as the garage pathway illuminates. After 5-10 minutes, those lights too will fade, and an entry path will light up automatically-to welcome visitors who show up after dark.

Maybe it’s the thin mountain air getting to me, but by the end of the day, I am a little disappointed not to have had an encounter with the legendary bear. And after spending a day in the Oglethorpe’s house, I’m not surprised that he keeps coming back.

Breaking it down
Lighting Control

The Vantage lighting control system manages much more than lights. From wall-mounted keypads or touchscreens, lighting scenes can be activated, fans controlled and shades raised and lowered. Category 5 wiring was run to each audio-video location, which will allow for future integration of A/V equipment with the Vantage system. One eight-button keypad costs about $50.

Window Control
Truth Sentry 2000 motors control the opening and closing of 21 windows in the home. Each latch is electric, and the motors push the windows open and pull them closed after receiving commands from a keypad or touchscreen.

Each area has its own standalone music system. Niles in-ceiling speakers are faux-painted to match the wood or textured ceiling in each room. Wall-mounted volume controls are placed throughout the house.

The Panasonic telephone system can intercom room to room, communicate with the front door station and even open the front door. Three phone lines run into the house: two for voice and one for fax/modem communications. If the installers need to make changes to the programming of the Vantage system, they can dial in on the modem line without ever stepping foot into the house.

The Timeline

Approximately 30 Days
Jean Oglethorpe, the homeowner, was very hands-on in the design phase. Though she was out-of-state for the majority of the construction process, she sat down for several sessions in the first month to work with the ResortLDC team to collaboratively discuss the system design, lighting scenes and keypad placement. Much of the planning process was handled electronically, via email.

1 week
The Oglethorpe house was divided into two sections: north and south. ResortLDC ran the wiring for the Vantage system only. They ran 12-gauge copper wire throughout the house and back to two separate control rooms. Because the house was divided, the wire runs were shorter, saving on time and cost.

300 hours
The brains behind the Vantage system lies in the programming. That’s where scenes are created, buttons are assigned their purpose and lighting levels are set. It took professional installer Rob Furlow about 300 hours to complete the programming of the Oglethorpe’s sophisticated Vantage system.

Keypads, speakers and thermostats are installed at the trim-out phase. ResortLDC trimmed out the various areas of the Oglethorpe residence in phases. Because so much planning went into the initial phase, only two keypads needed to be changed after installation.

The Oglethorpes are considering integrating their heating system with the Vantage system, and they plan to add an outdoor fountain and light next to the hot tub area.

Equipment List
Family Room Home Theater
Sony Wega television
Sony SLV-N70 VCR
Sony AD30 satellite receiver
Yamaha DSPA 1 processor
Yahama DVD-S95 DVD player
M&K S-125C center channel cpeaker
M&K V-125 subwoofer
Niles AT 8200 rear speakers (2)
Niles AT 8500 front speakers (2)
Niles infrared repeater system
Sony RM AV2000 touchscreen remote control
Great Room
Sony KV36V15 36-inch XBR Wega television
Sony B50 satellite receiver
Yahama RX596 receiver
Pioneer PDF 1007 301 Disc CD player
Niles SMS10 speaker matching system
Niles CM 650 HD flush-mount speakers (2)
Niles CM800 flush-mount speakers (6)
Niles OS10 exterior speakers (6)
Niles VCS-2D volume controls (5)

Master Suite
Sony KV32 FV15 32-inch Wega television
Sony KV13M42 13-inch television
Sony KV20FV10 20-inch television
Vogel TV bracket
Sony B50 satellite receiver
Yamaha RX596 audio receiver
Niles SMS10 speaker matching system
Niles CM 650 HD flush-mount speakers (8)
Niles OS10 exterior speakers (2)
Niles VCS-2D volume controls (5)

Other A/V
Sony KV27FV15 27-inch Wega television
Sony B50 satellite receiver
Sony KV13M42 13-inch television

Lighting Control System
Vantage Master power enclosures. Four modules each (3)
Vantage Slave power enclosures. Four modules each (3)
Vantage Slave power enclosure. Two modules each
Vantage Master controllers (3)
Vantage Slave controllers (4)
Vantage 120v dimming modules (lighting) (22)
Vantage 120v relay modules (exhaust and paddle fans) (4)
Vantage low volt relay stations (8)
Vantage LCD touchscreens (7)
Vantage 4-button keypads (35)
Vantage 8-button keypads (21)
Vantage 16 -button keypad
Q-Modum for remote access (13)

Am-Source International motors
SK Shading Systems E-Screen (4)
SK Shading Systems blackout shades (16)
Truth Hardware Sentry 2000
Zoned Heating System
Erie programmable thermostats
Tekmar 353 variable speed mixing controller
Tekmar 262 two-stage boiler controller
Tekmar 003 relays
Tekmar 661 snowmelt controller
Tekmar 004 relay
Security System
ITI Security Pro System
Panasonic phone system
Panasonic system phones (8)
Panasonic door station

The Ad-Vantage of Lighting Control
The Vantage system has evolved from a traditional lighting system to encompass more and more automation. In the Oglethorpe home, lights, fans, shades, windows and even fireplaces are controlled by Vantage. Resort Lighting Design and Control system designer Rob Furlow says that “If it’s electronic or receives power, I can control it with Vantage.”

Furlow designed a unique system of color-coded keypads to make the sophisticated system easier to use. For instance, when shades go up, the LED on the keypad burns solid green. As the shades go down, the LED blinks green, and when it comes to rest, the LED turns red. He uses colors and blinking to also indicate fan speeds, fireplace status and pathway lighting.

Each keypad contains buttons for activating individual lights and controls as well as “scenes.” A scene can encompass several lighting levels and several controls. For instance, the “hot tub path” can light several sconces and ceiling lights from the bedroom, along the deck and out to the hot tub.

If the Oglethorpes want to change an element of the scene, they don’t have to call on ResortLDC. They can adjust lighting levels and “teach” the scene new tricks themselves, right from the keypad. They simply launch the scene or path, make adjustments to the individual lights using the lighting keypad and then hold the scene button down for five seconds.

Wall-mounted LCD screens also provide control of all integrated systems. Each of the home’s seven LCDs displays the date and time, as well as an icon for that area. For example, the bedroom LCD has a bed on it, and the library displays a book icon. The entire Vantage system can be controlled from any wall-mounted keypad, and Furlow even programmed in “help” screens to remind family members how to navigate through the various screens.

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