Search CE Pro

Print  |  Email  |  Share  |  News  |  Follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or RSS

Tracking a $20M Install: Finalizing Design

Home's systems are starting to jell and integrator list has been narrowed down.


Follow Abacus Prime’s quest to design a $500,000 system for this 28,000-square-foot home in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

CE Pro is documenting the ups and downs of this ambitious $20 million, 28,000-square-foot home installation.

Mark Sipe of Abacus Prime LLC, who has been tasked with designing and managing the installation of the electronics, is looking for a CE pro to excel on the project. If you're interested, email Mark at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Here Sipe's next running commentary on the project. Good luck Mark!

The meeting about finalizing the design went for three hours, covering many things from high to low voltage.

The client, who comes from a commercial background, is putting his foot on the gas pedal. And if we aren't careful, he'll run us over in his hurry to complete the project.

The electrician, Darryl Gregory of Canyon Creek Electric, has been invaluable in keeping us ahead of the concrete pours, while I have been researching and creating our design. We haven't made a final choice yet, and we won't until we spend a little more time looking at the systems from dealers we are considering. With so many companies showing interest in the project, we haven't been able to respond to them all yet.

I was looking at Netstreams as a possible distributed AV system while keeping the Crestron DM in my back pocket, knowing it would do what I wanted. DM seemed to be the refinement of current technology, and I was looking for the next big thing without putting my project onto a beta site list. SpeakerCraft's Nirv, which from all the talk would do what I needed, isn't out. So that will have to wait for another time and another project.

Researching other systems like networking led me to Kevin Luther of BlackWire Designs, who builds wireless network packages that you can buy ready to go using Luxul Wireless ProWAV technology that will greatly improve our coverage in a 28,000-square-foot home with concrete walls and a post tensioned concrete slab on the upper floor.

Systems Start to Gel

After talking with him and continuing my research, the systems started to make more sense and jell a little bit more. The team is starting to come together and should take a lot off my electrician's shoulders once an integrator has been selected.

Knowing this job was on a fast track and that my customer didn't want a Panasonic phone system (aesthetic reasons) it was decided to breakout phones and bring in a commercial telecom installer. Once the phone hardware is chosen we can pick a company that specializes in that brand.

Behind every successful custom installation is a CE Pro

And CEPro magazine is there keeping you up-to-date on the latest products, techniques, designs and business practices. From HDBaseT 2.0 to cat5e wiring, from UHDTV to wireless lighting control, CEPro explains how they work and how best to use them. Each issue delivers constructive, real-time content to help you find innovative ways to successfully build and maintain your business.
Discover how to make smart use of today's current technologies...and those that are emerging...subscribe today!

Subscribe to the CE Pro Newsletter

Article Topics

News · Installation · All topics

About the Author

Mark Sipe, System Designer
Mark has been both a commercial and residential integrator and systems engineer for over 25 years. He works with Builders, Homeowners and Architects to design and support all types of projects around the world. He is also a software developer (SalezToolz) and mad scientist/inventor (Xspot Products) all developed around what he saw as a need for the businesses he works with and supports. He has been a CEA Mark of Excellence judge the last 6 years and CE Pro Best awards Judge.

34 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Steve  on  03/12  at  11:39 AM

Control4… Control4…

Posted by flyingmachine  on  03/12  at  11:44 AM

“That helped limit who I was looking at and narrow down a more manageable list of about twenty five companies.”

25 sounds manageable, haha.

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  03/12  at  11:45 AM

and so it begins, yes Control4 with some of their new products and gui upgrades, this is a very viable choice.  Savant is also something I am looking, everything is on the table.

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  03/12  at  11:47 AM

Considering I started with over 200, 25 is a manageable list, and once I select the control system it will go down sharply.

Posted by James  on  03/12  at  12:17 PM


Posted by Jenna Jameson  on  03/12  at  12:49 PM

Don’t buy Vudu. Walmart is going to take all my and my friends movies away. Walmart is evil. Vudu is evil. I am not really a Control 4 fan either.

Posted by DistinctAV  on  03/12  at  01:17 PM

I’m surprised you’re considering C4 for that level house.  Maybe because most CI guys don’t do programming so the canned C4 package is appealing?  Never met anyone who was totally happy with it after living with it.

Email me and I’ll send you an emulator of RTI code that will knock your socks off, and significant savings over AMX/Crestron.

And, yes, we do this all remotely from anywhere there’s an internet connection so being local is not an issue.  Just starting a job in Costa Rica—not local grin

We’re now accepting inquiries for local dealer/installers.

Posted by Kevin  on  03/12  at  01:26 PM

Control4 makes excellent products. I know many extremely happy people who have C4 in their home and use it daily. Also just because a UI is locked doesn’t mean the product is “canned”. Also this project is well over a year away. C4 is going to be releasing 2.0 very soon which lets you make your own interface if you choose so the entire statement of anything being canned is pointless.

Posted by rzrbackAV  on  03/12  at  01:32 PM

I thought due to the initial budget constraints that you weren’t even considering AMX or Crestron.  I thought you were looking at HD distribution via ZeeVee, etc… or did I just completely misread the first blog entry (it’s been awhile)?

Posted by brandenpro  on  03/12  at  01:42 PM

This would have been a much better article to start out with.

It sounds like as the consultant you are vetting CI firms and the experience they can bring to the table with THEIR product mix.  Rather then vetting products yourself and shoehorning a CI in that may or may not have experience with a certain brand.

If it was me I would narrow the field down to 3 and let your client make the final decision.  Giving your advice as far as pros and cons of each firm.

Get some fiber in even if it is left unterminated.

Posted by voodoosurfer  on  03/12  at  02:28 PM

should be looking at a 3D capable home theater and that your backbonematrix and audio electronics are capable of hdmi 1.4 and beyond. look at ADA and Key Digital for those. any matrix that adds scaling or others to the signal will be dead once you put 1 3D source in the mix….ps C4 works extremely well. and the new V2.0 sw indeed let´s you allow design your own GUI.

Posted by Mark Coxon  on  03/12  at  04:02 PM

I think this project will come out very well.  The homeowner has a tech savvy advocate that is making sure he gets the most for what he wants to spend.  At the end of the day, a happy homeowner is all that matters.  Do AMX and Crestron offer some features that Control4 does not? Absolutely.  Does that mean this system will not fulfill all the buyers needs? Not even close.

Its funny that brand loyalty seems to be the reason people are knocking this whole concept.  It is implied that many are concerned that their high dollar, high margin products are being undermined, and they are fighting tooth and nail to protect them.

I will relate that the company I work for has installed some of the most advanced AV interactive experiences in the country, (and world for that matter) none of which are controlled by AMX and Crestron. 

In fact, those monikers are seldom capable of doing “real time” automation in the first place.  They would pale in comparison to the proprietary, machine and computer based control systems that run things like parades at Disney, DMX lighting in stage shows, flight simulators, etc.

Does that mean AMX and Crestron are terrible?  Not one bit.  They excel at serving their purpose, and at performing their core abilities within their stated limitations.

So the frame of reference here is all wrong. 

If we are framing the debate using “ultimate performance” as the criteria,
I’m sorry to say that even the likes of Runco and Kaleidescape would be rejected in commercial theaters, and Crestron and AMX would be sent out of a machine vision based factory faster than Elvis could say Return to Sender.

However if we are framing the debate as we should, “What does the system need to do, and at what cost?” then Mark is approaching this job in exactly the right way.

The point is that every system has its proper application, and even one dealer’s idea of an “ideal” system can quickly be turned into a laughable proposition when put into another context.

I think this article/blog is great as it challenges us all to look at the reasons we propose the products that we do. 

Good luck to all of you in your respective businesses and God Bless.


Posted by Mark Sipe  on  03/13  at  09:28 AM

This is starting to be a lot more interesting.
While I am talking to different integrators no one has all the parts we are looking for but they do have some interesting choices.  Started out by limiting my choices to only Vantage dealers and have now just opened it up realizing I was limiting my talent pool.  I still need some core aspect of the project to be a strength of the integrator I select, but, if we need support in one area or another there is so much talent out there we will simply bring in whatever we need when we need it.  The integrator will run the project and make those decisions after we have created the design and made product choices.
I noticed a thread on another forum talking about Totem speakers.  A dealer had seen the name come up in these articles and other places prompting him to ask what about these speakers.  That really is the whole point of this article, for people to ask questions.  Challenge us on our design and learn what goes into a large project like this.  Not everyone is going to be happy with such a public forum but, from all the emails and posts quite a few are watching.  The next month will see me move into the role of storyteller as I hand off to the company that will eventually finish this project.  I will look out not just for my client, though he does comes first, helping the integrator any way I can even if that means staying out of the way is just as important.  When something hits the fan, and it always does, there will someone to understand the problem from both sides of the table.

Posted by the Cisco Kid  on  03/13  at  12:40 PM

Hi Mark,

I hope you are well. Q: Are you going to post the pre-wire layout here on CE Pro? I am assuming that the wireless system will only need one data wire since you are using an amplifier. I would like to see your actual wire and network design for this (if I/we may).

Posted by Willis789  on  03/13  at  01:57 PM

Stay away from ADA, I have no idea why someone would even recommend them?

Page 1 of 3 comment pages  1 2 3 >
Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.