Two tech integrators bring upscale amenities to a North Carolina apartment complex.
A PRIVATE THEATER, an immersive gaming simulator, indoor and outdoor entertainment spaces with zoned audio, a fully integrated videoconference system for work, and a dedicated yoga room for relaxation. These are the kinds of luxurious amenities you expect to find in the most well-appointed homes in America. If you live in the newly opened MDU community in Wendell Falls, North Carolina, they come with your apartment.
Warren Mullins of Superhero Fire Protection is no stranger to large-scale MDU projects. His company has been installing fire alarm and fire sprinkler system in multi-family and commercial buildings throughout the Southeastern United States for nearly a decade. Mullins had worked with the builder behind the Wendell Falls complex before. As a trusted low-voltage contractor, they wanted to know if he could do more. Namely, if he could help transform their community spaces into a luxurious, media-rich paradise.
It was no small ask. The client had a host of community amenities planned, including the aforementioned game simulator lounge, cinema, yoga room and conference room as well as a brew lounge, cyber café, fitness center and cross-training room. There were also multiple outdoor spaces to consider: the saltwater pool with its sundeck and cabanas, outdoor social lounges with yard games, outdoor grill areas, and a dog park. Each of these spaces needed a dedicated audio zone, with control accessible to both property management and residents.
Fortunately, Mullins had a trusted partner of his own. He called up Matt Bryant, a Vanco rep and Director of Technology for Security Solutions Incorporated, who had helped him on previous MDU projects with A/V system design and equipment selection. “I’ve been asked to install audio systems before, but given the number and variety of spaces, this was truly on another level,” says Mullins. “Thankfully, I know I can rely on Matt. He’s been helping me incorporate audio into projects for two years.”
Superhero Fire Protection and SSI worked together to design a system that would deliver the luxury experience the client was looking for. Ultimately, the solution required thirteen audio zones, spread out from the clubhouse to the outdoor amenity areas. The system was large, both in terms of number of endpoints and physical area: in addition to the A/V systems, Superhero Fire Protection was installing security cameras and access control throughout the facility. The team quickly resolved that a unified network-based infrastructure with fiber cabling throughout would be the best solution to simplify system management and operation and leave room for future upgrades.
The complex’s community spaces were designed with a modern, sweepingly vertical aesthetic. The social lounge ceilings tower over 15 feet above the tile and hardwood floors, meaning that the ceiling-mounted speakers have a big space to fill. Yet, just overhead, there are conference rooms and offices to support residents working from home. The cinema also lies adjacent to living, work and social spaces. “In any project with such a variety of spaces, so closely assembled, audio bleed-through is always going to be an issue,” says Bryant. “That’s what makes Vanco’s Beale Street Audio line such a natural choice for the installed speaker systems. They’re my automatic go-to for MDU projects.”
Beale Street’s Sonic Vortex™ technology uses an integrated enclosure to provide deep bass and superior clarity from installed speakers with no bleed-through. The technology also lowers installation and maintenance costs: the built-in enclosures mean Beale Street speakers don’t require a backbox. Because the Sonic Vortex™ enclosure harnesses even very low frequency sounds, there’s no potential for drywall cracking due to speaker vibration, and no need for bracers, even for subwoofers.
Still, adjustments had to be made for the unique requirements of the project. Originally, the team had planned on using ceiling-mounted speakers in the cinema, but due to the cathedral height of the ceilings, they decided to switch to a wall-mounted solution for a more immersive listening experience. Both the speakers and the subwoofer were recessed within the cinema walls, both for aesthetics and to protect the equipment from damage or vandalism.
On the backend, the team uses four Russound streamers and a Russound head-in controller to bring streaming audio sources to any zone. The entire network-based system can be controlled via either a sleek wallplate or a mobile app – all part of the luxury resident experience, which also allows residents to pay rent, manage package deliveries, or make maintenance requests online. Residents and property management have different levels of control and access, of course. The resident experience – and the system – is further protected by built-in programming in the Beale Street speakers, which limits the volume so that residents can’t damage the equipment or annoy each other.
The finished system is the backbone of an apartment complex designed to be true to community, where residents can enjoy living, working and socializing. “This is the future of luxury amenities,” says Bryant, “designing homes that people never want to leave.”
It may also be a bigger part of the future for Superhero Fire Protection. “We’ve got more and more clients asking us to do this kind of thing,” say Mullins. “At this point, it may become a standard offering for us.” As apartment complexes increasingly take amenity cues from luxury homes, installed audio in MDUs represents an opportunity no integrator should leave on the table.