US East Coast Style in Southern Germany
The US is undeniably the preferred travel destination of the owners of this charming house in the New England style. A huge covered porch and white wood panelling dominate the exterior. But there is more to it than meets the eye: This sweet home is also a smart home, with a lot of intelligent features behind its façade. All electrical components are connected for centralised control and monitoring, local and remote. Automated functions ranging from watering the garden to lighting control improve convenience and security. Music can be played anywhere in the house using a tablet as a controller.
The owners already had some experience building and remodelling homes for their own use, which is why they knew exactly what they wanted. They liked the houses of the US East Coast, with their wood panelling, generous entrances, covered porches across the entire width of the house, hinged shutters and muntin windows. The bungalow style with its low, hipped roof and mostly ground-level layout makes this house very suitable for seniors – a future-proof concept.
With a keen sense of design and based on research in Boston, the owners planned the house of their dreams themselves. An architect later refined the layout. The southern German version differs from the US originals in that it is built of brick, with only a wooden panelling. There are also no steps on the ground floor. Inside, the rooms are interconnected but not completely open, for a liveable, cosy ambiance. The kitchen and dining area can be completely closed off with sliding doors. The muntin windows contribute to the special charm of the house. They are from Madeira and are often used in historical mansions. The owners were in no kind of rush; the planning and construction took over three years.
For inspiration and advice on the interior design, the lady of the house contacted Focus Einrichtungen in Munich. White and light beige and brown tones predominate visually; a parquet floor extends through the living quarters all the way into the kitchen. The built-in cabinets are typically American. Much of the furniture was specially designed for this house. The generous fireplace is another American-inspired feature.
The wellness area in the basement is a highlight: There is a light blue whirlpool, and large golden backlit hemispheres on the walls create an enchanted atmosphere. Three saunas invite to relax, as do the benches that are decorated with delicate stone mosaics. Combined with subtle lighting scenes, this is a true oasis of wellness.
The man in the house is a technophile: He wanted modern home technology that is easy to use, flexible, and provides maximum comfort and security. The couple had already developed a taste for entry-level automation solutions in their old home, and they knew it was important to consult a specialist for the implementation of demanding solutions. A local company provided the electrical installation, while Alexander Kirpal of KNET System Integration programmed the complex home automation functions.
The intelligent home is based on a KNX network to connect all the components. Its control cables are routed parallel to the power lines. A high-performance Gira HomeServer is the core where all functions come together. “We specified the desired solutions together with the owners”, Alexander Kirpal explains. “I was able to do the programming largely from afar. For any changes or additions, I only have to modify the code accordingly instead of opening the walls to lay new cables.”
Motion sensors make the use of light switches optional. Depending on the ambient light, the lights in the house are dimmed to a defined value. If there is enough daylight, the lights remain off. In addition, various lighting scenes can be activated at the push of a button, depending on the mood and activity. The “cooking scene” activates the extraction fans in addition to bright lights. These scenes can be activated with Gira touch sensors on the walls, on the central touch panel, with a Gira Control 9 Client, as well as via mobile devices like tablets or smartphones. The Gira Interface makes the operation easy and intuitive. Blinds, heating, watering, the garage door and the pool cover are all integrated into the control system with a uniform graphic user interface.
About 80% of the lights in the house can be dimmed – even the illumination for the paintings. And by the way, the residents can always define new scenes by themselves. The entrance lighting during the evenings is very clever: The windows are always lit. When a person approaches, the light becomes brighter. When they leave, the original condition is restored. A Sonos Multiroom System with 15 different zones was integrated into the Gira home automation to provide access to central audio sources in almost all the rooms of the house. Contents can be selected via touch sensors in striking Gira Esprit Glass C White switch design. Radio stations can be selected freely by the occupants and stored as favourites on a panel – one for the master, and one for the lady of the house.
“The house can be switched off centrally when the residents leave”, Alexander Kirpal explains another useful function. “Lighting and music, but also the main water supply is turned off when no appliance requires water any longer.” If the dishwasher or washing machine are still running, then the sensor turns off the water only after they have finished. Malfunction-prone devices like the electric fires on the terrace are also switched off. The electric fires also switch off automatically after a certain time. Additional safety: Water sensors in the appliances room raise an alarm via phone and e-mail in the event that things should get wet.
The building is monitored by various outdoor cameras whose images can be accessed by residents anywhere in the world. This way you can check up on your home even while on holiday. If the alarm system trips or one of the panic switches in the house is activated, or if a smoke detector is triggered, the signal is forwarded directly to the security service. The alarms and error messages, for example for the heating system, are also sent to the owners via e-mail and telephone.
Access to the house is either via fingerprint or by entering a code into the Gira KeylessIn components. This allows access to be granted during specific times for guests or domestic helpers. Depending on where a bell is rung, the Gira Control 9 Client or the mobile devices show camera footage either from the door or from the gate. Shading is also automatic. The blinds open and close depending on the angle of the sun and the readings from the weather station.
Heating is implemented by means of an air heat pump combined with floor heating. It is also controlled via KNX and can be adjusted for each room. The garage roof is equipped with 18 m2 of solar panels. As required, they are used to bring process water up to 55 °C or to heat the swimming pool. The owners can define the settings to their preferences.
“We installed Gira CO2 sensors in the living and wellness area”, Alexander Kirpal continues. “If these sensors report decreasing air quality or too much humidity, the ventilation is activated automatically." When the residents are travelling, an occupancy simulation can be used to replay the lighting history of the past two weeks. The lovingly designed garden with its illuminated swimming pool is watered automatically at predefined times, using data from the weather station. This is implemented by means of about 40 valves that Alexander Kirpal integrated into the KNX system.
A central recording and display system provides the owners with a perfect overview of their energy use at all times. The consumption can be displayed in Euro. Data about energy usage is also archived and can be displayed in diagrams. To this end, Alexander Kirpal developed and integrated a special logic module that evaluates and documents all the data: Consumption and cost per hour, day, week, month and year can be displayed and compared with previous data, even separate for standard and reduced energy rates. Intelligent load management also ensures that the main supply cable is never overloaded.