Tuesday 10-03-2006 4:00PM
It’s been a long day & I’m hoping to leave by 5:45PM. The phone rings, it’s Farough from DJ Electric. He wants to come over to discuss a new Doug Leach project. Doug is the Architect for a new Extreme Makeover Home Edition house planned in Redondo Beach. Doug (who has a Vantage System in his own new home) and Farough have decided that a Vantage Smart Home System would be perfect for the project, whose owner is in a wheel chair. I am semi-familiar with Extreme Makeover so I know that they tear down a house and put up a new one in a week or so. I looked over the lighting plan with Farough, and we estimate that the 2800 square foot house would have about 32 lighting loads (one Vantage enclosure), and there are about 20+- switch locations. Each load is one or more strings of lights that usually would be connected to a conventional switch. By using a smart home system, at the location of each of these conventional switches we eliminate the conventional switches and install a single 4 or 8 button low voltage switch. Each of the buttons would be able to control ANY light or string of lights in the house. We figured we should also install motion sensors in several rooms, so navigation of the home would be very easy. I asked who the home is for, Farough said it is a secret (only the producers of the show know), until they actually knock on the door, the day the show starts. It’s called Project 409 at this point. OK, I’m interested in 409. How much time do we have to prepare?, When does it start, a month or two? No, Farough laughed as he told me, “No, the project begins next Tuesday October 10th! I laughed too, until I saw he was serious. EXtreme rush. EXtreme nerves. OK, I’m in, I tell him. Tomorrow first thing, I’ll call my Vantage rep and see if Vantage is able to supply the system.
Wednesday 10-04-2006 8:30AM
I called Michael Block, my local Vantage rep. and as it turned out, he already knew about the project. Vantage is asked repeatedly to donate systems, and does a good deal of charitable work in their home state of Utah. He said that he would run this request by them, but I shouldn’t expect too much. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, as we’re proposing all top-of-the-line equipment. All the labor to install and program the system will need to be donated also. The additional electrical work in the house (lighting, wiring, etc.), is also donated, like everything else that goes into the house. I explained our plan of attack, the layout (down to labeling each wire and connection), installation supervision, programming, even using the Vantage BriteStyle keypads that can be labeled on the fly, we’ve got it covered. With EXtreme reservations about the one-week schedule, we agreed we could complete our portion from planning and layout to complete installation and programming, in this 1 week.
Wednesday 10-04-2006 2:00PM
I called Farough, (who by now is totally committed to completing all the electrical for this project–no small task!) and he came right over. Together, we lay out the entire system, locate the main enclosure equipment, Vantage switches, and place motion sensors in all halls, master bedroom, master bath, kitchen, great room and garage. I put together a bill of materials. EXtreme design. Everything was ready to go, or so we thought.
Thursday 10-05-2006 7:30AM
Farough had met with the other lead electrical contractor, Willie of Island Pacific Electric, and they had made some changes in the plans. The shows designer moved the Smart Home enclosure to the coat closet in the very front of the house. This meant that all of the lighting home runs now had to travel most of the entire length of the house. The coat closet was also home to the audio video rack, and was the attic access point for the entire house. A lot would be going on here. They also added a skylight in the Therapy room so we had to move some lights, &eliminate a couple others. No big deal.
Thursday 10-05-2006 2:15PM
Michael Block called back with good news!. Vantage would supply most of the system, as proposed, and they could ship it within 2 days of us placing the order, provided Westco supplies complete supervision of the Vantage installation, all programming, and ensures that when the owner walked into the house for the â€˜reveal’ everything would work perfectly. Well, of course, no pressure. Hey, we have a whole week !
Friday 10-06-2006 5:15PM
Now, with all the equipment designed, approved, ordered at 3:00PM, & expedited to be on site by next Wednesday, I went home for the weekend, EXtremely optimistic.
Sunday 10-08-2006 1:00PM
My cell phone rings and it’s Farough. The show’s designer had made some more changes at the meeting this (Sunday!) morning. We meet to go over the changes, and he shows me the job schedule. The house comes down Friday Oct 13 in the AM. Foundations early Friday afternoon, framing begins soon after and follows concrete work. He should be able to start the electrical wiring at 9:00PM Saturday and finish in 6 hours. He asks me to be available to come in to begin helping with connection of the Vantage wiring very early Monday morning, around 2-3AM. He estimated finish electrical to be done late Monday afternoon. After we install the switches and motion sensors (sometime after the painting is completed) we can download the programming and test the system. The schedule, while very short, looks doable to us. EXtremely naÃ¯ve.
Sunday 10-08-2006 2:00PM
I began programming the system, incorporating the motion sensors to trigger lights when the owner travels through the house in her wheel chair . (We still only know that the house is in Redondo Beach, California.) As I will not be able to meet with nor show the owner how to use the system, I opt for programming the system in a way in which someone with no prior knowledge or training will find it EXtremely easy to use.
Monday 10-09-2006 7:00AM My plan is to be at least half way thru with programming by day’s end. I set up the office’s Vantage Infusion System and downloaded the latest program file, Design Center Projects/Extreme Home Makeover 10-09a-06.dc file. This was rendition 4. A few blips, and changes, the first pre-test passed. I am also doing some sophisticated motion sensor programming that will allow the owner to choose to use the sensors or press a button and disable them. I’m providing for several paths from the garage through the yard and into and through the house. These really can’t be checked until the system is downloaded on site with all components installed. I called Vantage tech support and Tavish, John and Gary reviewed the file, made some suggestions and e-mailed it back to me. Second test passed! EXtremely happy.
Tuesday 10-10-2006 9:00AM
Just spoke to Loni, at Vantage, who assures me the equipment will ship today for overnight delivery first thing tomorrow. I have been sweating this deadline. EXtreme relief.
Tuesday 10-10-2006 10:30AM
Farough called, the show’s designer made what she considers a “small change”. The main entry from the garage into the rear of the house thru the laundry room has been eliminated, and moved to the Therapy Room Not a big deal from a design point of view, but a big deal technically, as all of the programming for the paths from the garage go through this door including motion sensor programming, House Off and Home “Scene” buttons originate from this now non-existent door. One hour later we are back on track. EXtremely easy to program with Vantage Infusion.
Wednesday 10-11-2006 10:00AM
Farough calls to let me know that the show’s stars, Ty & company, just knocked on the Ripatti’s door, and gave them the news that they had been selected for the Extreme Home Makeover. And we now know the address of the house, and a little bit about the recipients. This is a complete re-do of the home of a LAPD policewoman, who was shot by a gang-member and paralyzed from the waist down, and now confined to a wheel chair,. Her husband is also an LAPD officer and was the first on scene to find his wife. They have a little girl who is almost two years old and their house was not built to service someone in a wheelchair. Not an easy situation for an active & athletic mom of a 2 year-old little girl, to say the least.
Friday 10-13-2006 8:00AM
With a police team of SWAT officers, and a battering ram, the house is torn down. Crews immediately remove debris and the entire foundation.
Friday 10-13-2006 4:30PM
As our schedule says that electrical rough-in (the wiring portion) is to start on Saturday at 9:00PM, I drive to the property, expecting to see a mostly empty lot with some concrete foundations poured. NO! The garage is almost completely framed, they are finishing the concrete slab for the house. I learn that the concrete they use is similar to the type as is used in underwater construction, so that it quickly hardens even underwater. EXtreme scheduling. Of course Farough is here, and we discuss my coming back at midnight Saturday to watch the progress. Out of the corner of my eye I see Willie (Island Pacific Electric) whizzing by.
Saturday 10-14-2006 9:00AM
Farough calls to let me know that due to rain, the framing is off schedule by more than 6 hours, so they won’t be able to start the wiring until early Sunday morning. A lot of framing is going on, but not enough roof yet to install electrical.
Sunday 10-15-2006 5:00AM
I am on my way over to the house. I park a block away, it looks like a movie set, all lit up. I remind myself, that while it really looks like a construction site, it is also a TV show! There must be 300 people there, wall to wall framers, electricians, air conditioning workers and plumbers. There are also volunteers continuously cleaning up debris, bringing food, 24 hour on site inspectors, the general contractor’s supervisors, etc.Hundreds of volunteers of every sort were teeming everywhere, yet it was the cleanest job site I’ve seen in a long while.
Anyone with a desire to help could check in. One 70 year old grandma was walking around picking up construction debris. I met a church group that travels around the country to volunteer at Extreme Home Makeover’s & have worked on several. It is great to work on a job with such a spirit of camaraderie because of our common goal to help give this family a new start. The building dept. has inspectors on hand 24 hrs. a day to provide inspection , with corrections & approvals immediately, and they were working WITH the construction crew to make this happen . This feels much more like a construction site than a movie set. Some lites/booms etc are evident & the occasional cameraman or narrator walking thru. Even at 5:30AM there are onlookers behind the barricades across the street watching the progress. Another contractor we work with Ian and his crew of 40-50 audio/video guys are there, wall to wall people. Of course Farough and Willie are there with their crews. I think that this is the beginning of their 35 hours straight on site.
Sunday 10-15-2006 9:00AM
Following a brief non-denominational “service” for volunteers, Farough & I finish reviewing the plans, go over a few last minute design changes, and motion sensor relocations. I plug in the Vantage Master Controller (the computer part of the system) into the partially connected equipment enclosure. We temp-in power to the controller with an extension cord to test the system on site. I don’t want any surprises. It boots up OK, & all seems well. I go back to the office to make a few minor programming changes from there, and to await the programming download scheduled for Monday. Still unsure of the time to return. They are still behind, & our original schedule to download at 2:00AM Saturday is postponed.
Monday 10-16-2006 6:45AM
The local TV stations were reporting that they desperately needed drywallers on site, to finish installation of the drywall. It turned out that weather & some last minute changes had put the job several hours behind schedule. Many workers good-naturedly waited hours and hours for their turn to get to work on their portion. The drywallers came.
Tuesday 10-17-2006 10:07AM
Another call from Farough from the site, still too many loose ends, and too many trade people working on site, that it would be very hard to try to download today. As we also need to wait to install the Smart switches, he suggests that he install the switches today, test for any problems, and download the programming early tomorrow. I bring over the switches and remainder of the Vantage equipment. Flooring is going down, painting going on, cabinets going in, and plasma TV’s going up. There may be 400 workers on site now, crunch time. The family is scheduled to move-in, in less than 24 hrs. EXtremely organized chaos!
Wednesday 10-18-2006 8:15AM
I am on site now, plugging in all of the dimmer modules, and finally the main brain. I start to run thru the diagnostics of the system, and there are a few of the switches the system does not see, and ditto a few of the lights.. With such a rushed schedule & so many different (fatigued!) hands doing the work, we had planned for some glitches at this point. After a few minutes of discussion, we narrowed down the possible problem locations and Farough and Roger his partner, found and fixed them in no time.
Wednesday 10-18-2006 10:00AM
Now is personal crunch time for me as I download my programming, but with so many people working around, it is all but impossible even to walk thru and test the switches for proper operation. It actually is impossible to test the motion sensors, for obvious reasons. We are at least able to test the path buttons from the garage to the house, from the master bedroom to the kitchen and from the therapy room to the family room. I also set up night lights in the halls, so that after sunset if the lights are off, they will go on to about 15% so one need not navigate thru a dark house. I also set up exterior lighting timers for both the front and rear of the house. All tested OK.
Wednesday 10-18-2006 11:50AM
The designers are chasing almost everyone out of the house, so our hour-long window of opportunity for testing and troubleshooting is done. The proof will be in the results. I am EXtremely anxious, but happy it’s almost over. As I leave they are putting in the final touches, furniture moving in at a rapid pace, cleaners cleaning, and designers directing. Ty & his crew are all here to finesse last minute details. Farough & Roger finish a while later, and we wait for Kristina and Tim to arrive.
Wednesday 10-18-2006 4:00PM After a few hours of waiting, I decide I’ll go home and watch the show to see their reactions when they arrive home.
Friday 10-20-2006 3:44PM
I sent this email out to clients & interested friends & family:
The home is done, to a lot of fanfare they moved back in late Wednesday afternoon. Several hundred LAPD police officers were there include Police Chief Bratton.
It was down to the wire as the original move in time was noon, then changed to 2:00PM, then 4:00PM, and finally 6:30+-PM. The designers had the electricians moving lighting fixtures right up to 3:00PM, then the drywallers would patch and the painters paint. The wall sconces in the master bathroom were literally held on with duct tape by the time we had to leave the house. I had a little over 30 minutes at around noon to download the Smart Home System programming to the Vantage system, and check it out for proper operation. Luckily the electricians had already tested each circuit for shorts (there were a few that had to be reworked) prior to my work. (A few of my electrician friends gave up their entire week actually working round the clock 35 hours straight at one clip to do this project.) After a few tweaks of the programming with a little help from my friends at Vantage tech support, we all had to leave to let them bring in the furniture and do a final clean up. I thought it was busy when the construction was going on, but now it was wall to wall people. The Extreme Makeover people think of everything from all new furniture down to plates, silverware, to a stocked frig. It was a great experience, happy to be able to be a part of it, and happy it’s Friday. Thanks again to all for you kind e-mails.
Monday 01-15-2007 3:26PM
Wrap up: The show finally aired on December 10th, and it was a 2 hour show. Just a few hours before the airing Kristina and Tim and their family, along with Cornerstone Construction, (the General contractor for the project) met at a local church with a few hundred of the volunteers to thank them for participating. It was quite emotional. The TV show focuses mostly on the Ripatti family and the design crew, with little said or seen about the construction crews and volunteers. Looking back at this event, I was happy to be a part of it. I know that my work was only a very small piece of the pie, and that there were probably over 3,000 people who donated their time, materials, know how and hard work into making the home a reality. I think that I have never been more proud to be a part of such a great team!
Jack Goldberg, P.E.
Jack Goldberg is in the top 10 Vantage Dealers in the United States, and has successfully completed over 100 Vantage Smart Home projects. www.WestcoSmartHomes.com firstname.lastname@example.org 800 2 WESTCO
As the events unfurreled very quickly, I took the liberty of reviewing information for parts of this article from Cornerstone Construction’s Extreme Makeover web site (they also have some very good photos there) http://www.cornerstonecgextreme.com/index.html , and the Daily Breeze web site http://www.dailybreeze.com/news/articles/4380486.html