What really differentiates the house is not all these interesting parts, but why real families would likely use them. And the fact that they are put together in a really attractive home-but one that is not "over the top". Real people could afford to enjoy living here.

Connected by Design

Craig Savage

Connected by Design
Digital Dreams Without Nightmare Budgets
By Craig Savage

What really differentiates the house is not all these interesting parts, but why real families would likely use them. And the fact that they are put together in a really attractive home-but one that is not "over the top". Real people could afford to enjoy living here.


The Home by Design/ Connected by Design Showhouse

Design meets science when Sarah Susanka, AIA, architect and best selling author of the Not So Big House book, teams up with Steve Easley, popular building science consultant, and Broadband Home Central's Sandy Teger and Dave Waks to present the Home by Design Show House @ The Stardust in Las Vegas, Nevada during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), The International Builder's Show (IBS) and the Surfaces trade shows. The showhome will also be a vehicle for a connected home tour, the Connected by Design Showhouse, specifically designed for attendees of the Consumer Electronic Show from January 8-11.

The Home by Design Show House is a detailed preview of the contents of Sarah Susanka's ground-breaking new book, Home by Design: Transforming Your House into Home. The book, scheduled for publication in March '04 by The Taunton Press, offers readers a set of design principles to help their houses embody the qualities of home including home electronics and technological solutions for everyday life.

The heart of the project is what Susanka refers to as "the architect's tool box"-- key principles related to the use of Space, Light and Order--that will help everyone involved in house design create better, more livable environments. According to Susanka, "if you peel away the particular style of a house, there are principles that underlie these surface treatments, each of which deeply affects how we experience our surroundings, and how we feel about them."

The Connected by Design Showhouse tour is tailored for attendees of the Consumer Electronic Show and reflects several of Susanka's most important themes: livability, accessibility and appropriate scale. The Connected by Design Showhouse will focus the visitor's attention on how the newest in home electronics and technologies can help transform a house into a connected home, easily and affordably.

The project offers consumers realistic solutions for broadband connectivity, home networking, consumer electronic and computing products and the services all this "plumbing" makes possible. The Connected by Design Showhouse offers a "how-to" for connecting products and services so they deliver what they promise while future-proofing so that tomorrow's best technologies can be easily incorporated.

In addition to showing the importance and applications for structured wiring, it will demonstrate applications that can be connected in existing homes using "no new wires" approaches, such as Wi-Fi (wireless) and HomePlug (over powerline).

Today's "Home by Design" Should Be "Connected by Design"

"The Not So Big House" and Sarah Susanka's others books have an underlying premise, namely that Bigger is not necessarily Better and comfort is attained by "tailoring our houses to fit the way we really live". Building Media ( www.buildingmedia.com ) the producers of the Connected by Design project, recognized that connectivity and new consumer electronics were increasingly a part of "how we really live".

Early in project planning Leviton ( www.leviton.com ) joined the project to demonstrate their structured wiring and new home automation controller, and Square D ( www.squared.com ) jumped in with their new energy-management system, with a commitment to create the connectivity and control for the show house.

But infrastructure is not the whole picture.

Steve Easley, an internationally recognized construction consultant and co-host of the project, says, "Integrating technologies like broadband is a fundamental component of homebuilding. It's no longer something to be tacked on after move-in. That's why we asked Dave and Sandy to join the team. Just like you wire a home for lighting, home heating systems, broadband has become the next residential utility that must be included in the home's original architectural design."

Sandy Teger and Dave Waks, have spent most of their careers applying leading-edge communications and computing technologies to emerging customer needs for useful applications. After successful careers at AT&T and Prodigy, this husband & wife team has jointly been dedicating their efforts to fulfilling the promise of residential broadband for the masses. In addition to their consulting business System Dynamics, they write the monthly Report on the Broadband Home for members of the broadband industry, and share their thinking about broadband at conferences worldwide.

Sandy and Dave believe that rapid and competitive deployment of broadband to and within the home is driving the creation of new products, services, content and applications. They devote their energies to the idea that 'fat pipes", content, and home infrastructure must work together effortlessly to create compelling value for consumers…which is, in the end, what matters to most consumers. They are passionate about the need for products which are easy to learn and easy to use-characteristics all too often absent from today's technology-based products.

Like most of us, they have experienced first-hand the benefits of new technology, as well as the intense frustrations that occur when things don't work or are impossible to understand. As part of their industry role, they install and use many new broadband and connectivity solutions in their home to understand which ones solve real problems, which don't live up to their promises, and what the benefits are when broadband connectivity makes a real change for the better. With this backdrop, taking on the role of planning and hosting the connected aspects of the Home by Design show house in Las Vegas was a natural fit.

Today's Lifestyles: Technology Only Part of the Solution

Today people have families scattered around the country; too much to do in too little time; careers that involve taking work home, and home responsibilities like aging parents and child care. In addition, they have worries about home and personal security; and a desire to make their home a refuge for their family. People want to enjoy themselves and get away from the many demands of the outside world. Can broadband help?

The good news is yes. Broadband is clearly the next residential utility. As it becomes more widely available across the US and around the world, it holds the potential for enriching your quality of life by offering you connections to your community and the world. Add to that the fact that a variety of home networking technologies are becoming widely available and affordable, from structured wiring to many "no new wires" solutions. Mix into the equation the increasing number of innovative consumer electronics and computer based devices that are in the market, and the picture looks very bright. To complete the picture, a variety of new network-based services can supply streaming media or interactive games or whatever your particular interest or need may be.

When Digital Dreams Become Nightmares: The Not-So-Connected Home

The bad news is that lots of new products and services promise to do great things for how people play, work and run their lives from home. But for most consumers, what devices to buy, how to "connect" them--with or without wires--and how to get them to "talk" with each other, is still a mystery. Connecting electronic devices in the house and to the digital world outside is often a great way to educate your children to all the unprintable words you don't want them to repeat -- with some "digital dreams" ending in nightmares.

From the provider's perspective there's also the question of how to show you, the consumer, what these products and services can do that is so valuable. For example, despite the fact that anyone with a TiVo or Replay PVR would never again be without one, people who haven't experienced them find it hard to understand what all the fuss is about and why they should buy one.

What Visitors the Connected by Design Show Home Will See

The house will address the real-world questions of how new digital devices can "talk" with each other-and to users' existing TVs and audio systems. The house will include some higher-end systems, but the emphasis is primarily on affordable broadband and connectivity for everyone.

The Connected by Design showhome will incorporate a multiple-media digital design tour. Visitors will be given a museum-like audio device with numbers keyed to important elements, enabling them to learn about the applications that broadband and connectivity make possible. Video clips of selected products and services will be shown in many rooms.

The themes that will be delivered by the home, the applications and the products and services being shown are:

1. "Connecting" to make life simpler and better

2. Broadband: the new residential utility

3. Digital dreams without breaking the bank

4. Entertainment when where and how you want it

The house will contain the following elements.

Basic Broadband Infrastructure (to and in the home)

  • Broadband service provider services and connection to the Internet
  • Structured cabling to enable connectivity for fixed devices
  • Wireless networks for mobile PC and entertainment devices
  • Other "no new wires" networks for retrofit in existing homes

Digital Broadband Products

  • Home Office Network - server, workstations, laptops
  • Networked devices for multi-room use, e.g. smart displays
  • Home gateway
  • Multi-player networked gaming systems

Digital Home Entertainment

  • Digital cameras and other electronic media devices for recording user content
  • Digital audio, video and photo application software and services
  • Media server for audio and video content
  • Streaming audio and video content services
  • Digital media adapters to bridge the new digital and current analog worlds

Deluxe Audio/Video Systems

  • Multi Room Audio System - zoned with keypads for source selection and volume control.
  • Multi Room Video System Home Management and Control Systems
  • Security System - CCTV, intruder alarms and monitoring
  • Automated Lighting and Sprinkler Systems

Energy Management

  • Integrated Home Control System

Communications System

  • Home Office and Personal Phone Network
  • IP Telephone equipment for voice and video communications

It's the Applications, Stupid

What really differentiates the house is not all these interesting parts, but why real families would likely use them. And the fact that they are put together in a really attractive home-but one that is not "over the top". Real people could afford to enjoy living here.

A few of the examples include:

  • the streaming audio service which comes through the PC delivered to your existing speakers over home networking
  • the video-on- demand service that lets you watch the movie you want, when you want it, and in HDTV
  • the personal video recorder (PVR) that let's you record all your favorite shows, so you don't miss an episode
  • the digital media adapter that let's you show your friends the latest pictures from your trip on the big screen TV in the living room, not just huddled around your PC.
  • the ability to create virtual worlds on your big living room screen so that the spot over your fireplace can show the panorama of the Grand Canyon, the quiet of a woodland trail or whatever else you have captured on your PC to set the mood. And it can be accompanied by the music that fits the scene.
  • the ability to connect with your office network and your colleagues, when you are feeling ill and have to stay home, but have a critical project to complete
  •  …and many, many more

What's different now is that this can be on your budget, not that of John Q. Millionaire! The key is in selecting the right products, making sure you have the right connectivity and--if your set-up is a complex one--having a fallback plan on how to get competent technical help if things go wrong.

Many of the applications to be shown in Las Vegas are based on the broadband connection to the home. Sandy and Dave feel fortunate to have Cox Las Vegas ( www.cox.com/lasvegas ) as the broadband sponsor. Cox will be responsible both for bringing the broadband connection to the home and for a plethora of services, most of which are available in other Cox locations across their franchised areas. These include HDTV, video on demand, PVR (personal video recording), high speed Internet applications and IP telephony.

If you plan to be in Las Vegas during January, be sure to come by, say hello and see the reality of all this. The best way to understand the applications in the showhouse is to experience them in person. For those who are unable to visit with us in Las Vegas, we'll write a summary of the key applications and visitors' reactions, and will include links to videos so you can get a closer sense for the beauty and benefits of the house and the applications it demonstrates.

Craig Savage has been a General Building Contractor, remodeler and custom homebuilder for over 25 years. Craig was an editor at The Journal of Light Construction magazine, and then Director of the JLC LIVE Training Shows. His most recent position was Vice President of Marketing & Sales at Bob Vila.com

Craig is also a computer consultant specializing in computer solutions for construction managment. He published Construction Business Computing and Macintosh Construction Forum newsletters. His articles have appeared in: Architectural & Engineering Systems, Architectural Record, Fine Homebuilding Magazine, Computer Applications Newsletter, Remodeling News. NAHB Commercial Builder, NAHB Single Family Forum, Remodeler Magazine, MacWeek, Document Imaging, Imaging World, and A/E/C Computer Solutions.

Craig is a regular speaker at AEC Systems, NAHB, NARI, CSI, and PCBC annual conventions. He also instructs at seminars sponsored by University of Wisconsin College of Engineering and University of California Santa Barbara Extension.

His books include:Trim Carpentry Techniques, Taunton Press; Construction Forms and Contracts; Craftsman Books, Quicken for Contractors, Craftsman Books; and QuickBooks Pro for Contractors; Craftsman Books.


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