Control & Automation

How Technology Can Coexist with Green Building

Integrator spends half as much time scoping and installing high-tech LEED-H Sunset Green Home project compared to conventional home.

Pre-planning allowed this complex green home project to run more smoothly than conventional construction. Shown are (from left) Elie Nackab and Jeff Sakkal of Sakab Design; homeowner Kim Erle, LEED AP; and builder Chris Mensch of Coastal Management.

Photos & Slideshow

Jason Knott · October 23, 2015

For many custom integrators, the green home building process generally has been a frustrating one. For some reason the value of energy-saving systems like lighting control, HVAC control, irrigation control and home automation has been under-rewarded in the point scales used to determine green homes. Indeed, it seems like the planting of a single cactus in the backyard of a green home is more valued than these vital electronic systems that can affect the daily lives of a home’s inhabitants.

At the same time, home enhancements like multiroom audio and home theater are vilified by the green community as power-sucking extravagances. No more.

The Sunset Green Home under construction in East Quogue, N.Y., illustrates how high-tech green technology and energy consciousness can peacefully coexist. The 3,600-square-foot home is a sustainable, energy-efficient construction project registered through the LEED for Homes (LEED-H) U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) with the certification goal of LEED platinum. To achieve that lofty designation, it means the home must earn 80+ points for things like energy efficiency, water usage, recycling during construction, etc.

“Automation is not just being sold as a toy for the rich and famous anymore, but for people who are concerned about being more efficient in carbon footprint and to maximize efficiency without having to go crazy in price,” says Jeff Sakkal, CEO of Brooklyn-based Sakab Design, the integration company on the project. “At the end of the day, if you properly integrate and automate, you get most of it on your return for lighting, and shade, and climate. I can’t say you’ll get your money back on the speakers, but what you’ll save in energy and utility will make up and compensate a good amount of your expense on the automation.”

The Southampton-area home incorporates sustainable products, materials, and technology into every part of the home and it includes solutions from multiple manufacturers, including a wide swath of equipment from Core Brands, including Elan, Panamax, SpeakerCraft, Sunfire and Xantech solutions. In total, Sakkal estimates about $100,000 worth of electronics. But those systems are key to achieving the long-term operational savings on utilities for the home.

“Recycling alone is simply not enough anymore; we each need to do our part to make an impact on the future for the sake of the planet and for the future generations that will follow us,” Sakkal says. “Manufacturers are investing a tremendous amount of time and money into developing new ways to advance products with more energy efficiency. It is only fair to pass these measures on to our clients. Our goal, with every job we undertake, is to help clients reduce the size of their carbon footprint on the environment.”

Sakkal’s commitment to always “think green” when designing a smart home system is what really impressed Kim Erle, LEED Accredited Professional (AP) on the project, when selecting Sakab Design as the integrator.

“Jeff really showed me that today’s generation of smart home solutions can be integrated into a LEED home very cost effectively and still control every important function within the home, from energy management, shades, lighting, security, and, of course, entertainment in ways that effectively further reduce the carbon footprint of the house. Working with him is a true partnership of philosophy, creativity, and design.”

Erle is not just the LEED AP on the project, she is also the homeowner.


Out of Superstorm Sandy Emerges Opportunity

The decision to build a sustainable LEED certified home was made after the original 1940s-era beach cottage was damaged first by Hurricane Irene and then, devastatingly, by Hurricane Sandy.

“When we decided to rebuild this home after Hurricane Sandy we wanted to build a new home that would stand as a model for green residential building in a region where homeowners are increasingly calling for environmentally friendly, healthy and energy-efficient homes,” Erle says. “We wanted to align ourselves with partners that share the same commitment. Core Brands absolutely shares our vision and our commitment to be an environmentally responsible member of the community and we are proud to select them as our control, audio and connectivity solutions provider.”

Erle became involved with the USGBC during the planning of the project.

“We didn’t think we were going to build a LEED home, but we knew we were going to build a very energy-efficient and resilient home. I got involved in LEED so I could be smart enough to really understand what was being proposed to me.”

During the course of the planning, the Town of Southampton passed a 10-year property tax exemption for LEED-certified homes worth about $15,000.

“At that point, it made sense to try to capture those tax incentives. That’s enough to pay for the incremental costs of the verification team that you need to actually go through the LEED process,” say Erle, who dispels the myth that green homes are expensive to build. “I’m a firm believer in you don’t have to spend more to build an energy-efficient home.”

Construction industry estimates are that it costs 5 percent more to build a green home vs. a conventional abode. But Erle notes that green construction processes, like improved insulation, allow you to do things like install a smaller, less-expensive HVAC system than would have been necessary for a normal home. Also, the operational cost savings achieved on utilities over time play into decisions on certain equipment. This home broke ground in June 2014 and took 14 months to complete.


Integrator Driven by Green Principles

From its inception in 2004, Sakab Designs has dedicated itself to meeting the A/V and smart home needs of its customers with solutions that are, wherever possible, eco-friendly.

“We want to help establish a better tomorrow,” Sakkal emphasizes. “We want to better peoples’ lives by integrating technology in a green way.”

Sakkal thinks the Elan platform is the greenest solution out there.

“Elan is the smart home solution that truly delivers on the promise of green home automation. It is an open platform solution that ‘talks’ to every subsystem in the home’s technology grid,” he notes. “It doesn’t just integrate with the home’s other subsystems; it automates their functionality in an intelligent way that is carefully event sequenced through a customization process that no other control solution can match. With Elan, I can custom configure a solution that meets the individual needs of each of our clients and I can do it in a fraction of the time it takes with other solutions.”

The Elan g! system being installed in the home is programmed to maximize the economical use of lights, shades/drapes, ceiling fans, HVAC, and outdoor systems such as sprinklers/fountains and weather stations. The system is designed to operate as a standalone lighting and shade control system or as part of a complete automation solution. This is one of the key solutions that earns valuable LEED-H points by enabling fixed or flexible daylight harvesting, fixture control, and subsystems scheduling (based on seasons, time, motion, occupancy, temperature, humidity and other conditions). However, the system is also flexible enough to employ other non-Core Brands subsystems. For example, the project uses Lutron lighting controls integrated into the Elan system.

“We didn’t have to stick with a single supplier’s product to make the system function well,” says Erle. “We really like Elan. And we really like Lutron. So this way, we get them both! And it worked that way for the HVAC (Mitsubishi), security, irrigation (Hunter Industries), etc.”


More Than Just Electronics

There is a lot more than just electronics imprinting this green project. The homebuilder is Coastal Management, led by Chris Mensch. It is his first LEED home.

“He is a smart, thoughtful, creative, young guy and he really wanted to take this on. He’s done an incredible job with it,” adds Erle. Joe Lautner, director of business development at Core Brands, says it is not by happenstance that Elan was deployed for the project. “The Elan control system continues to set the bar for smart home control that is intuitive, flexible and easily scalable for future upgrades. SpeakerCraft and Sunfire offer the very best in multiroom audio and home theater audio performance, and nothing comes close to Panamax protecting advanced electronics and Xantech in delivering robust, reliable connectivity. We are proud to be associated with this LEED-registered home project.”

So in the end, how many LEED-H points will the electronics account for? It’s not that simple. Erle says she is chasing after 27 of the available 34 points in the Energy & Atmosphere category, but you can’t disaggregate individual systems with respect to how many points they earn. It is all based on the final operational efficiency result. For example, the shading and lighting controls don’t actually earn points, but you get points for LED lighting fixtures and bulbs, and for using Energy Star-rated ceiling fans and appliances. And for integrators who are looking for the green light to go green, this project serves as a sign that the numbers are starting to add up in their favor.

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  About the Author

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at

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  Article Topics

Control & Automation · Lighting · Audio/Video · Outdoor AV · Business · Business Operations · News · CE Profiles · Media · Slideshow · Core Brands · Elan · Energy Management · HVAC · LEED · Lutron · All Topics
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