How an aging Home Integration system and a close business relationship spells success in one of Chicago’s most luxurious high rise condos
Chicago, IL - The Residences at Water Tower Place, a 40-story luxury condominium on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is well known for its unspoiled views of Lake Michigan and neighboring Navy Pier. The Residences at Chicago’s historic Watertower Place are strewn with technology installed by a plethora of Custom Integration (CI) professionals. Unfortunately, some of these systems are dated and not user-friendly. In June of 2018 Buchan Consulting LLC, a CEDIA and HTA Certified custom integration company, was contacted by one of their partner companies and alerted to a potential issue with an aging RTI automation system.
Doug Buchan, principal at Buchan Consulting, visited the condominium’s owners. The couple complained, “The music gets stuck on and we have to unplug the amplifier.” In addition to the whole-home audio not working properly, there was a slew of complaints including their thermostats were no longer being controlled, their RTI RF Handheld Remotes frequently lost connection, and the Lutron RadioRa2 lighting system was not working correctly anymore with the newly installed LED fixtures. Given the age of the system and the configuration that the initial integration company had chosen the design team at Buchan Consulting decided that implementing Elan’s award winning products and interface would greatly benefit the customer. Pleased with the positive feedback from the client, Buchan states “We designed and built a system that addressed all of the concerns, focusing on the ease of use and simplicity factor for the customer”.
So how does a small, integration company such as Buchan Consulting get the opportunity and privilege to design, install and maintain a top tier home automation system in one of Chicagoland’s most exclusive addresses? “This particular customer was referred to us through one of our preferred security subcontractors”, Buchan says. Our close relationship and similar business practices of fair pricing and customer-centric focus allow us to freely share clients when appropriate”. As is standard with most high-income clientele, the vetting process before choosing a vendor for any large-scale project is extensive. Buchan Consulting had three advantages coming into the bidding and selection process for this automation system overhaul; Buchan’s technicians are all Custom Electronic Design and Install Association (CEDIA) and Home Technology Association (HTA) certified, ELAN has won best-interface awards for the past three years, and Buchan came highly recommended with 5-star ratings and awards from Houzz, Home Advisor, and Yelp among others.
Work began on the Watertower Place project in August 2018. “We expected that there would be some issues with wire labeling and tracing to be able to swap to a newer Elan system. We knew we would have to upgrade the network as well, as we planned to switch from an old video matrix over to SnapAV's new MoIP video over IP solution,” says Buchan. It turned out that there were a host of other issues as well including some of the worst wireless interference and congestion the Buchan team has ever seen. Gabe Chavez of Buchan Consulting stated, “In hindsight it was clear why the older RTI remotes wouldn’t connect. These condominiums all have powerful WiFi systems installed as well a host of other electronics that cause interference. We started our overhaul by using Elan’s HR200 remotes and the existing WiFi access points that had been installed six years ago. Unfortunately we couldn’t get our HR200 remotes to connect.” That’s when Buchan’s team turned to the latest release of handheld remotes from Elan, their new capacitive touch HR30 remote. The new Elan HR30 boasts a beautiful color touchscreen, backlit buttons, a familiar form-factor, and connects using the same Network Interface Card (NIC) as the newest generation iPhone. To ensure success with the new remotes, Buchan took Luxul’s high-powered 1510 WiFi access point and layered it on top of Luxul’s AV Servies switches, wireless controller, and ABR-4400 router with Domotz built in. The combination of Elan’s newest state-of-the-art handheld remotes with Luxul’s enterprise-grade network hardware overcame the storm of interference and has been performing flawlessly for months now.
The remainder of the install, including Elan’s gSC10 controller, 1616A amplifier, Snap AV’s MoIP, and Tivo handled the seven audio and video zones with ease. A swap out of some of the dimmer’s in the Lutron Radio Ra2 system alleviated the dimming issues with the new LED fixtures. The Lutron controller was integrated back into Elan for one-touch control over the condo’s lighting system. New Elan 8820 thermostats with remote temperature sensors reliably integrated the home’s HVAC units into Elan for precise control of the condo’s two heating/cooling zones.
Today, in January of 2019, the client has had stability in their home control system for months. Their Tivo units are providing Comcast cable combined with commercial-skip features, streaming content, and savings on their monthly bills. Luxul is providing a rock-solid network. Lutron handles the lighting. Elan ties it all together. Buchan even added Amazon Alexa to the Elan system for simple, custom, voice commands over media and lighting zones. Buchan’s implementation of the Domotz remote monitoring framework combined with Panamax’s BlueBolt remote power management permits for self-healing and easy remote servicing of the entire system. Afterall, getting in and out of Chicago’s busiest shopping district isn’t the easiest feat.
“Doug and his team did an amazing job, and created a friendly, easy to use whole house system that gives us the control we wanted, while still making it simple to use... We couldn’t be happier and we’ve already recommended them to friends who are looking to simplify their older systems, and update older technology their automation system was based upon,” quipped the client. “We couldn’t be prouder of the work we did there,” said Buchan.