Home Automation

Home Automation

Fingertip Control.

Managed by an intricate computer system, this high-tech Chicago house proves that complex electronic customization can be user-friendly.
Real estate developer Mitchell Gerson says he wanted to build himself “a refuge” from his high-pressure business world. He created his highly customized environment loaded with electronic circuitry on a typical city lot in Chicago, measuring only 25 feet by 125 feet. His 4400-square-foot house is automatically managed by an integrated home management system 95% of the time.
Gerson designed his house and also served as construction manager. The home and garage occupy the entire length of the lot. Two private, walled courtyards and a large deck above the garage provide extra natural light and outdoor living space. “I wanted to show that you do not need a double or triple lot to build a luxury city home that has a feeling of space,” Gerson says. “You do not have to build a dark, vertical tower.”
While the home’s unique interior might not appeal to every taste, the automated home management system, TronArch, promises to attract many who want easy-to-use, fully integrated electronic management and can afford the expense. Gerson’s customized TronArch system, including all the computerized subsystems, cost $150,000.
Controlling the HVAC, lighting, security, audio/video distribution, and the garage doors, TronArch talks to all these subsystems, constantly checking their status and serving as their integrator. Tailored specifically to his lifestyle, Gerson’s TronArch system offers him 10 lifestyle modes. General modes, such as “Daytime” and “Night,” automatically adapt the inside environment to changes in outdoor temperature and light conditions.
Gerson can activate special modes, such as “Away,” “Arrival,” “Guest,” and “Romance,” by pressing an icon on TronArch’s touchscreen monitor. Usually located in Gerson’s kitchen, the touchscreen can be moved to any room containing a telephone jack. While away, he can call TronArch by phone to activate a specific setting.
Since Gerson is a rock ‘n roll and punk-rock music buff, the audio system was especially important to him. His TronArch system controls nine zones of audio/visual distribution tied to a multimedia center in his living room. The 26 circuits of dimmable incandescent lighting are so well integrated with Gerson’s lifestyle modes that only six wall switches are needed in the entire home. His whole-house security system includes two outdoor security cameras that can be displayed on any of six television screens inside. Although Gerson’s home does not have automated drapes/shades or lawn sprinklers, these are additional components available with a TronArch system.
The three-story home has four HVAC zones, including in-floor radiant heating in the poured concrete main-level floor, where the dining room and kitchen are located. Five steps up from the dining room, the raised living/media room faces the street. Below it is a self-contained guest suite with its own outside entrance. Steps from the street lead down to this entrance and the matching main entrance, both with custom mahogany doors.
A focal point of the main level is the poured reinforced concrete staircase with custom steel railings. The stairs were formed and poured in stages, according to Gerson. They are supported by steel rebars from the wall and a steel column. Other features contributing to the industrial theme include a “port-a-john” powder room door, plus steel shelving and a commercial stove in the kitchen.
The spaces on each floor flow together without the interruption of doors. The door to the powder room is the one exception. The master suite and a home office occupy the top floor, where the bath includes a steam shower and a spa. “Many of the rooms are multipurpose,” Gerson notes.

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Main Equipment Room:
1 CPU, 1 Telephone system, 1 lighting control penal, 9 Zone amplifiers, 2 Modulators, 1 Security panel, 1 Distributed audio/video interface, 1 Telephone interface, 4 HVAC interfaces, 1 Garage interface, 1 Security interface, 1 Lighting interface

Front Entry:
1 Black-and-white outdoor camera

Dining Room:
1 Touch panel, 2 In-wall speakers, 1 Control phone, 1 Lighting control panel

Living Room:
2 In-wall speakers, 1 Control phone

Media Room:
1 Rear projection, 1 DST Master Control, 1 Power amplifier, 1 AM/FM tuner, 1 Cassette deck, 1 100-disc CD changer, 1 VHS VCR, 1 Laser disc, 2 Loudspeakers, 2 Stereo modulators, 1 Satellite DSS system

Exercise Room:
1 Touch panel, 2 In-wall speakers, 1 Control phone, 1 Lighting control panel, 1 TV/monitor

Deck:
1 Touch panel, 2 Outdoor speakers, 1 Outdoor CCTV camera, 1 Doorbell telephone interface, 1 Control phone

Sitting Room:
1 Touch panel, 2 In-wall speakers, 1 Control phone, 1 Lighting control panel, 1 TV/monitor

Master Bedroom:
1 Touch panel, 2 In-wall speakers, 1 Control phone, 1 Lighting control panel, 1 TV/monitor

Master Bathroom:
2 In-wall speakers, 1 Control phone, 1 Volume control, 2 Weatherized in-wall speakers

Garage:
1 Control phone

Kitchen:
1 Color touchscreen, 1 Touch panel, 2 In-wall speakers, 1 Control phone, 1 TV/monitor, 1 Lighting control panel

Outdoor Terrace:
1 Touch panel, 4 Outdoor speakers

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