Hardwired residential lighting controls such as Centralite Elegance or Lutron Homeworks (there are few others) offer a couple benefits over using a powerline or RF solution, though as Work2Play stated, they aren't as prevalent in the market as the retrofit options. UPB is awesome, and I've installed a house your size using UPB and was very happy with how it went. The switches and modules do "click" because of their contained relay (whereas a hardwired system centralizes the mechanical junk and eliminates any aesthetically unfavorable noise due to relays or load on a dimmer). These systems typically only require HV wiring to the load from the control center and all control pads/switches are CATx. I believe that one of the main reasons (other than the stated demand for retrofit) that there isn't much attention paid to the hardwired systems is because they simply WORK without as many chances for the transport technology to fail/miss/delay as you may see in other schemes, and they are practically only light/fan controllers with little to no other functionality. I think the bottom line on operability and dependability goes to either hardwired or UPB, in that order.
I can't necessarily agree on the "finding" of a compatible control system, however, because in the scope of a job such as yours, there is no doubt I would go with an Elk M1 or HAI OPII, < if you're one of "those" HAI guys ;-) >
Someone with your background (I'm an MCSE network geek and computers are afraid of me, not the other way around) could couple a solid hardware control foundation with a front-end control solution such as Premise (FREE!)/Homeseer/CQC and accomplish virtually anything you described. With your electricians pulling all the wire (you lucky SOB), you have the fun stuff left!
- The above named (not just HAI) controllers DO require a PC for programming for several reasons
- Nuvo is a great centralized audio system with several options for source/output and integration and sounds EXCELLENT.
- Shielded CAT6 is EXPEN$IVE compared to CAT5, and IMHO offers very little to no benefit in the means of using it for databus or control purposes
- UPB or hardwired vs. RF (Z-types) is going to be most noted when creating and executing scenes/groups - UPB/Hardwired will be a more "instant on/off" experience, whereas the wireless technologies can produce a "popcorn" effect when performing functions such as an "all off". It should be noted, however, that Z-wave affords you the ability to control several different types of devices, not just lights/outlets, and can be combined with other technologies when the interfaces are paired up with a capable controller (so you can have the best of both worlds).
- IR distribution is easy and works well, simply integrating with the aforementioned systems (I'd recommend Global Cache devices). CATx cables accompanying HDMI cabling is as simple as it gets (be aware of limitations of HDMI cable lentgth and extenders). sic0048's take on the Wii/media source sounds spot-on.
- If you REALLY want to cut clutter and technological wall decorations, you can eliminate thermostats entirely and position hidden temperature probes and control everything via your desired interfaces with the controller coordinating HVAC per your defined "rules". This applies to audio keypads and several other controlled systems as well!
- Brush up on what Uninterruptable Power Supplies can cause in some powerline lighting systems and filters to combat same
- I like Work2Play's UniFi idea - I was going to recommend EnGenius PoE AP's, some of which come in a kit with an injector (strictly preference)
I know my Elk and a good handful of other options, but some of these guys on the CT forums are incredibly knowledgeable through their own experiences using a multitude of different cobinations of HA technology, and THAT's why I hang out here.... Welcome, and I hope your project goes exceptionally well!!
P.S. - Premise REQUIRES Internet Explorer for it's native browser features due to the component add-on that installs at the client's first use, so your mini iPad scenario would not likely be an easy option.
and... Yes, you're nuts. Welcome to the club.