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Automation, environmental sustainability and home theatre come together in this holiday retreat

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Fill your brand-new holiday home with high-end furniture and gadgetry and you'll have a cosy place to get away to. But will it be safe while you're not there?

The owners of this alpine property, designed by architect Murray Cockburn, decided to install a Digiplex system to ensure their home would be secure. It monitors the building with motion, heat and smoke detectors. The system can be activated or deactivated from anywhere in the world by using a pin and simple voice commands over the phone. The heating, lighting and even the filling of the bath can be controlled in this way.

"I can turn the alarm system off with the key fob when I arrive, and also open the garage door," says the homeowner, Martin O'Neill.

The expatriate and his wife have lived abroad for 20 years. They thought carefully about automating their holiday home, as they didn't want to invest in technology that would date.

Paradox, the wholesaler for the system, says Digiplex provides a high level of protection for luxury homes. While it is a digital system, the information is encrypted so it cannot be tampered with. It can be easily upgraded in the future, should the owners' needs change.

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Martin O'Neill carefully investigated the acoustics of the living area before installing the home theatre system.

"Using software available on the internet, I was able to determine that the space worked well acoustically and only needed a relatively simple set up. The information from the program was then used in the placement of the speakers," he says.

Cabling is tucked out of sight behind the fireplace wall. The small speakers have been made less noticeable by painting them to blend in with the wall colour.

To make the home theatre even less obtrusive, the plasma television screen is slightly recessed into the wall. When not in use, a counterweighted panel with a mountain scene descends over the screen.

The living area therefore successfully serves multiple purposes: a place to sit and read, a place to entertain guests or to kick back and relax in a fully-equipped home theatre room.

The owner is interested not only in acoustics but also in energy use.

"I am an environmental engineer, so I wanted the house to be as energy efficient as possible," he says.

To this end, the architect specified concrete block walls, clad in a proprietary plaster over XPS polyurethane insulation.

"Being inside the insulating layer, the concrete blocks store heat. The entire house is like a night store," says Cockburn.

The gas in-slab heating system warms the floor. The Ferolli boiler, located in the ground-floor drying room, also heats the water. The home remains a pleasant 21˚C inside, even when it is -5˚C outside.

The heating is zoned, meaning it can be turned off in rooms that are not being used via a central control panel.

The result is an environmentally friendly holiday retreat, complete with a top-of-the-line home theatre system, which the owners don't have to worry about while they're away.

First published date: 26 May 2008

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Credit List

Architect Murray Cockburn, ANZIA, Murray Cockburn Partnership (Queenstown, New Zealand)
Interior designer Nikki Wilson and Michelle Freeman, Vesta Design
Builder Eastwood Construction
Security system Digiplex 848 from Paradox
Television Panasonic Viera
Audio visual Denon
Oven, cooktop, ventilation, microwave Miele
Flooring Recycled teak flooring from Java
Heating system Ferolli furnace from RHE