Making technology work for the customer at Granhams, Great Shelford
Adrian Peel talks to two representatives of Stonetree Developments about their new high-specification home
A striking new build on Granhams Road, on the edge of Great Shelford – a large, three-storey house (covering around 6,800 square feet) – is set to be unveiled in the coming months.
Located less than two miles away from the hospital complex, it is an extremely high specification property showcasing the very latest in modern technology.
Constructed in a traditional style, in order to make it blend in with the countryside feel of the area, this exciting new home is currently being built on the site where a previous house, built around 80 years ago, once stood.
David Massot and David Gee are both directors at Stonetree Developments, the company behind the project. Massot is an IT expert and deals mainly with the technological and project management side of things (he often tests out ideas and concepts in his own home), while Gee works primarily in design, planning and specification.
Massot began by debunking one of the most commonly-held beliefs related to technology in the modern home. “The starting point is keeping it simple,” he explained. “What I hear too often is that home automation, or this type of technology, being described as: ‘Oh, you can turn your lights on from your iPhone, you can check the temperature of your house’. Well it’s not just about that. Everything that’s brought into the house we’re asking ourselves: ‘How does it integrate, how is it going to fit in and how’s it going to make things simple?’
“The most common example I give to start off with is your living room, your kitchen, your TV, your Sky Box, your DVD – four or five remote controls, but there’s only one remote control in Granhams. You can have as many as you like, but there’s only one that’s needed to manage all of your devices.
“And that same philosophy carries through to switches on walls – there’s only one type of switch that appears. They’re all the same: one type of switch that doesn’t just control lights, it’ll open the garage, it’ll open the gates, it’ll set mood scenes, it’ll put the party music on, it’ll turn the TV on or off, it’ll turn your volume up and down, it’ll put your blinds up and down.
“It’s no longer a light switch; it’s a keypad that sits in the same place in each room and, as you go into every room, you’ve got that card interface. It’s keeping the wall clutter down. Yes, you can control it from your iPad and your phone, but it’s about keeping it simple. You get in and you’ve got that one remote, you’ve got that one set of switches on the wall.”
Massot recalled some of the problems he’s encountered in other homes of this nature: “We’ve visited some big properties that are full of technology and whoever’s built them has thought of everything, but you walk into rooms and you see three different types of switch on a wall and straight away it’s totally confusing.
“They might be labelled but aesthetically they look terrible, and then you’ll walk into the kitchen and you’ve got yet again a different interface. Every single feature that you can think of is probably covered, but it’s all disparate systems that aren’t joined together.”
Stonetree’s previous project was a state-of-the-art house in Haddenham finished around three years ago that the very satisfied owner has since added to. David Gee revealed how the company first got into pushing the domestic boundaries, technologically speaking: “We started this because we couldn’t find anybody building the sorts of houses we wanted to buy.
“Modern houses generally, unless they’re unusually big, don’t have decent sized gardens, they don’t have decent sized bedrooms and en suites – lots of things they don’t have that people might want, and the same goes for the technology.”
Massot added: “What we’ve got is a platform that allows us to join everything together and therefore it’s seamless. On the face of it, it is one system. The underfloor heating, for example, is integrated into the system, so I can look at the heating on my remote and turn it up and down.
“In Granhams we’ve got door and window sensors so we know when a door or window’s been opened – and that’s on 24/7. The system knows when the windows are open, so when you go to bed – and it knows you go to bed at, say, 10/11 o’clock – you can hit a button and it says: “Do you realise the door is unlocked downstairs?’, or ‘You’ve left the bathroom window open’.”
“The technology works best when it’s invisible to you,” suggested David Gee, “and what it’s designed to do is when people say ‘Wouldn’t it be really nice if...’ with our system you can do it because we’ve designed it so you can do all of these things.”
All this new and inclusive technology doesn’t mean you have to get rid of other separate appliances, however. “You might say, ‘I’ve got an Amazon Echo, I’ve got a Nest Thermostat, I still want them’,” said Gee. “Well, you can because our platform is designed to accommodate all these things.”
So new technology, as and when it comes out, can be incorporated into this one system? “Totally,” replied Massot.
Massot said the system can be voice or button-operated and that sometimes you don’t have to worry about either because the house simply does it for you.
Gee added: “I think the philosophy is you can choose. What would you like to do? Some people like to operate it by voice, somebody else might say, ‘Well I quite like using my phone to do it’.
“Somebody else might prefer a remote control, so there’s one in each room. They all look identical and they can do the same things, but you don’t have to carry them around with you, and when you’ve got visitors they can use it. Others might say: ‘Actually, I want it all automated; I don’t want to have to press any buttons unless something unusual happens’. Ordinary day-to-day living, week-on-week, you’ve got a particular routine, the house can learn that routine and just do it automatically. Then all you have to do is intervene when something’s different. We’ve got to make it as robust and flexible as possible. It’s all about making it appeal to the person who isn’t that interested in technology and just wants the benefits of it.”