Pardee Homes Alta Del Mar Estate Home 4. Photo by Eric Figge Photography
There are certain things people need in a home office, like reliable internet and zoned HVAC, and then there are bonus items homebuilders should consider including. What if you had windows and doors that could switch from being transparent to frosted? How about HD surveillance that can allow homeowners to see the comings and goings of family members or would-be burglars? If you have the budget, why not invest in some cool gadgetry or spaces to make that office really pop?
The number one thing Tim Boyd of Save Electronics says a home office needs is a view. Windows need to be a part of the office space. Homebuilders can enhance upon this need with electric or “smart” glass. Companies like Screen Solutions International are manufacturing electric glass. Basically, it lets the user toggle between transparent glass to a frosted surface. The frosted surface provides 99 percent ultraviolet ray protection and allows for the surface to become a rear projection display with the use of standard projectors. This is a great feature to block out unwanted light, outside distractions or create more privacy in an instant. When clear, users can have holographic projected display capabilities. This instant-on, instant-off electric glass can be set many ways from standard switches to timers and built into home automation systems to maximize the energy saving benefits of electric glass.
“Electric glass can be purchased to add to existing interior and exterior glass surfaces or as a complete glass panel ready to be installed per your specifications,” says William Krause of Screen Solutions International. “110v and low volt options [are] available.”
People who work from home need to let just the right amount of light in, especially since lighting contributes to productivity. This can be made possible with motorized blinds and shades. Motorized window treatments can also be integrated into home automation systems to open and close automatically at certain times of day to let in natural light or block glare. Somfy motorized blinds offer a variety of control options such as timers, sensors and even solar activated options. They can be fashionable, too.
Recessed Lighting Control
One perk to working from home is that you don’t need to deal with headache-inducing fluorescent lights. Instead, builders can go with recessed lighting. Recessed lighting concentrates light where you need it, which is great for those night owls. The lights can be built into the ceiling, right above where a desk would go. All the better if homeowners can control these lights from their computer to dim at certain times or turn on at 9 a.m. and off at 5 p.m. to help them begin and end their work day. Maestro Wireless technology from Lutron feature Pico Wireless control and Radio Powr Savr sensors that allow the homeowner to control lighting levels with any combination of up to 10 dimmers, switches, sensors and wireless controls — all with the touch of a button.
HD Video Surveillance
The office is also a great place to monitor surveillance systems. HD surveillance provides exceptional clarity, resolution and detail to ensure that faces and license plates can be recognized at all hours of the day. IP cameras that conform to the HDTV standard have a wide range of uses, especially when you consider that HDTV 720p and 1080p cameras offer three and six times the resolution, respectively, of the typical analog camera. Lorex offers a four-camera system for $1,300.
TV and Surround Sound
How about designing a recess in the wall, equipped with outlets and necessary jacks, for a flat-panel TV? This way worker boy can catch an afternoon ball game … er, we mean check up on the stocks and business reports. These rooms often turn into executive man caves, so the bigger the recess the better. He may even want surround sound, with three speakers in the front and two in the rear. Or a hidden projection screen system that converts an office to a home theater, like this one by ET Home Cinema in England. Wire well and for 4K “Ultra HD,” likely sent over Category 6 Ethernet cabling. Those who don’t want a TV there can use the shelf and hang art over the outlets and connections.
Yes, the worker bee may need to be called to dinner, or want to see who has come to the door, or need to converse with family members on the other side of the house. Legrand’s Unity system features intercom, multi-room music via Legrand’s lyriQ audio system, camera capability, voice mail for family members, in addition to lighting and thermostat control, via a 7-inch LCD console and control center and various room, patio and door controls. Control4 has an attractive video intercom for front door use as well, shown here on a 7-inch Control4 panel with camera for in-wall or desktop.
This company owner in Arizona only has to cross a courtyard from his bedroom to his home office to converse with his executive team in Illinois. It’s done by a Cisco videoconferencing system with a camera built in and customized by electronics installation company Desert Sound & Security in Phoenix, Ariz., to provide higher-quality speakers. The panels were also rebuilt to shine light from slots. A lot can go into telepresence systems, and proper lighting levels and fixture locations are crucial to having a quality experience, or subjects can look washed out. Refer to this CEDIA white paper by telepresence expert Rich Green of Rich Green Ink to get the basics.
Connected Home or Home Automation
Home automation systems can control any of the aforementioned devices. This means that not only can homeowners open shades and check security video feeds from their computer, but from their phones and iPads as well. If they step out of the office for some lunch and forgot to shut off the lights, that can easily be remedied while enjoying a sandwich at the local café. There are plenty of systems to choose from, including Crestron and Control4 at the higher end, Savant Systems, Clare Controls, RTI, BitWise, Elan and Leviton Home Automation (formerly HAI) in the midrange and affordable Z-Wave, Nexia, Schneider and Insteon systems.
Appliance and Equipment Space
Every home office should have an equipment closet to store paper, ink cartridges, pens, etc. But it’s also a great place to put things like a mini refrigerator, dedicated Blu-ray player or Bluetooth printer. Or how about a 3-D printer? There should also be desk space for that elixir brewer known as the coffee pot, like the automated one shown here from Scanomat. With features like these, homeowners will be spending all day – and night – in their tricked out home offices.