How They Did It: The Zen House

Ed Wenck | Sep 24, 2020

According to the Belgian firm Woelf, “Integration is king,” when it came to this project. The owner, a property developer who believes in the potential of technology adding value to a home, had some previous experiences with integrations that left him wanting. Woelf quickly established themselves as competent after the initial discovery session.

The firm explains the next steps: “We were allowed to integrate all subsystems as much as possible, except for climate integration. After several meetings with the client we saw that the emphasis was on entertainment and security.

“It was briefed to us from the beginning that aesthetics were really important. Our task was to choose the right equipment keeping price, quality, and aesthetics in mind. The client wasn’t interested in high-end equipment and had a rather good ‘value for the buck’ approach, which made us choose mid-end equipment. A limited selection of speakers that suited the design of the house were used throughout the home.

“From the start, it was clear that the overall ease of use was a key objective. As already indicated, the owner had a negative experience in a previous home. Secondly, the size of the home made it necessary that it had to be controlled in an intuitive and functional way, for both the parents and for the two young children.”

Woelf gave the client “quick” and “special” functions, scenes that are triggered by one-touch solutions are “quick,” and “special” functions are those achieved, in some cases, by machine learning. An example of the latter: A high level feature is the automatization of the house based upon the daily behavior of the owners. This feature is proven to be an excellent system to trick burglars,” as the lighting system learns what lights throughout the home are turned on and off at specific times, and can mimic occupancy when the family is away.

The Discovery Process

The firm goes into great detail in their description of how their client meetings and project communications are structured. “Our company always works with a fixed model when designing projects,” says the firm. “This enables us to work in a structured and phased way so that even non technological clients can easily follow and comprehend what we are doing and what they are buying.”

To that end, Woelf brakes down the component parts that make up the model: Essentials, Entertainment, Comfort, and Security.

Essentials include the control systems – down to the interfaces – and a robust IT infrastructure. Cables, racks and so on are included in this aspect.

Entertainment is obvious – generally, that’s AV work. In this instance, that includes a number of Samsung “The Frame” displays, AM1 on-wall speakers and the KEF ci speaker for in-wall installations.

Comfort, in this project, covers lighting design and pool and spa control. (In other homes, this might expand to include climate/HVAC integrations and any wellness applications.)

Peace of Mind is Paramount

Security is fairly self-explanatory, including surveillance, alarms, access control, and cybersecurity solutions. As noted above, this was a critical part of the integration here, and Woelf describes another one of their solutions:

“When someone is at the door, the multiroom audio system is used as a doorbell, and all TVs turn on (or switches sources) to the main NVR screen for the next 2 minutes. If this happens during the evening a different lighting scene gets activated outside to give a good overview of the property.”

Functions like these are born from Woelf’s considered approach at the outset of the job, and the client in this instance is more than happy with the system’s functionality – he sees this as technology meeting its potential. For their part, Woelf picked up the Highly Commended trophy for Best Integrated Home, Level I (EMEA) in the 2019 CEDIA Awards.

“Efficient and clear communicating is key for getting a happy customer at the end of their project,” notes the firm. “This will transform them into an ambassador who will promote your business.”

For a complete look at the gear used in this project, check out the entry on the CEDIA Awards site.