High Tech Frat House

Link Your House recently completed the low voltage re-wiring of the the Beta Fraternity at Columbia University in New York City! Read on for details....

December 6, 2004

Case Study: The New Animal House

Digital integrator Link Your House gets Columbia University frat home all wired up

By Michael Gros

It was back -to -school time when digital integrator Link Your House was hired to help renovate a Columbia University fraternity house.
Norcross, Ga. -based Link Your House does a bit of everything, from home installations and small -business integrations to software development and Web design, and works with customers throughout the United States. In February, the company opened a second office in Hewlett, N.Y., to serve the New York metropolitan area, and in June it began low -voltage installation work as part of the renovation of the Beta Theta Pi frat house.

"The renovation includes everything -phone, data, audio," says Nick McCullough, president of Link Your House. "In the common areas, we're putting in projectors, movie screens. [It's] definitely more upscale than 'Animal House.' "

For years, Columbia's Alpha Alpha chapter of Beta Theta Pi has been located in a five -story brownstone built around the turn of the 20th century. In preparation for the chapter's 125th anniversary in 2006, its alumni organization embarked on a complete renovation of the building, both its physical features and the technical conveniences available for its residents.

"After having endured several generations of fraternity members, the building was in real need of updating, both in the underlying mechanical systems and in the modernization of the interior systems," says Matthew DeFilippis, treasurer of the Alpha Alpha chapter's alumni foundation and chairman of its renovation committee. "With the tastes and desires of today's students, it wasn't a viable building."

But students are sure to like the digital transformation being implemented by Link Your House. The integrator is installing CAT5e structured wiring and RG -6 quad coaxial cabling throughout the brownstone, along with cabling for projectors and speakers, while the university is putting in the phone cabling. Plans call for the building's apartments and common areas to have TV/video cabling, voice/data cabling and phone lines, while the main lounge will have a partially recessed 5.1 surround -sound system, a projection television with an 80 -inch pull -down screen and wall -mount volume controls. Audio zones with ceiling -recessed speakers and wall -mount controls also will be set up in the dining room, library, lobby and chapter room.

With the CAT5e cabling, residents will have access to a front -door intercom and be able to unlock the door remotely. The house also is being wired for security cameras and will have a phone surge -protection system. "Fraternity renovations don't occur too often, and even when they do, they don't reach the level that we're doing to meet the needs of the modern student," DeFilippis says.

The Alpha Alpha chapter is paying for the renovation through fund -raising and alumni assistance, DeFilippis says. Once the project wraps up this month, 18 of the chapter's 40 members will live in the building, which has a maximum capacity of 24.

Besides helping to mark its anniversary and preserve its heritage, the chapter hopes the renovation and systems installed by Link Your House will attract new Beta Theta Pi members by offering better amenities than those available in other fraternities or campus housing, according to DeFilippis.

"We have the only fraternity house not owned by the university, and that's given us a great source of pride. Now that we're erecting something better than what they offer in [other] fraternity houses, it's a great feather in our cap," he says. "Not all fraternities at Columbia have a house, and those that do, they're typically university"owned buildings that lack the charm and attractiveness of our building. That will be a big attraction."

The networking and entertainment solutions being installed by Link Your House will be an especially big draw for students, DeFilippis notes. "Even though most campus rooms have university Ethernet, our audio/visual and entertainment areas will be much better than what's found in student lounges," he says. The Beta Theta Pi renovation reflects the variety of work that Link Your House can do, due in large part to its diverse technical capabilities. For example, the integrator developed WebcastMaker, an application that allows users to easily create and deliver online seminars, meetings and video -on -demand presentations. The company is positioning the software as an inexpensive option to the popular WebEx tool, and it can develop presentations for customers using the tool or sell them the application, along with training and storage for their presentations, McCullough says.

In addition, Link Your House does high -end home integrations for Bowen Homes, a Buford, Ga. -based builder, and earlier this year landed a contract to redo Bowen's Web site. The integrator used WebcastMaker to develop presentations for the site that allow potential customers to take virtual tours of Bowen's houses and communities, as well as explore some of the home -control and entertainment solutions that Link Your House can install.

McCullough says Link Your House has seen a lot of overlap between its residential and commercial offerings. A few months ago, the integrator installed a network of surveillance cameras for Arcadia, Wis. -based retailer Ashley Furniture. The cameras were installed in delivery bays, front offices, repair shops and retail floors in the chain's stores and warehouses.

"Since they put the networked cameras into their warehouses, they have had zero theft," McCullough says. The successful installation led Ashley Furniture to discuss hiring Link Your House to design a home theater for one of its stores, he adds. One of the integrator's key offerings, SteadyPower lightning -protection products from Coffman Electrical Equipment, also has been a top -seller. Link Your House installed 10 of the products in the 911 emergency center of nearby Douglas County, Ga. "SteadyPower is one of the most awesome products out there. Lightning can do some massive damage," McCullough says. "The SteadyPower unit installs in the electrical panel and has a million -dollar warranty on anything attached to it. So you don't need surge protectors. It's not just for residential use but commercial use as well."

Link Your House's growing menu of products and services help sustain the company's income stream as hardware margins drop and pricing pressures from Internet marketers and unauthorized vendor sales erode business, according to McCullough.

"Security margins are shrinking, and the Internet is killing a lot of sales. Now anyone can buy through distribution and set up a Web site to sell at 5 percent over their costs. Therefore, we're getting into other lines of business to stay afloat," he says. "We've lost several thousand dollars because of unauthorized Internet sales. Manufacturers need to do secret buys to find out who's selling to [unauthorized dealers] and shut them down. Vendors don't take action because they're enamored with the numbers, but it's hurting the legitimate dealer."

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