The Architect's Guide to Home Automation

Sandy Howard, Managing Director of AVD Australia Pty Ltd has spent 30 years in the Systems Integration market and has seen it all. From the fledgling industry that it was back in the late 80's to one of the most exciting and vibrant industries of today, it has been something to behold.

Having founded AVD Australia in 1987 we have worked primarily in the advanced home automation industry where about 60% of our business occurs both as consultants and integrators for the high end residential market. Though we have earnt many awards and accolades over the years our most recent (and very exciting) was to be part of a LEED Platinum certification awarded for a commercial project where we designed, engineered and implemented all the systems technology to a 6500 square meter space.


However despite this this, the market in general, refers to what we do as "AV" with a little IT thrown in on the side. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The role of the Information & Communications Technology Integrator is the melding of all things electrical and electronic in an environment to ensure a client's experience is simplified and maximised. From the simple consolidation of controls to full integration of all elements within a space, including acute awareness of sustainability and efficiency, the role of the integrator plays a major part in the build process of today.

In short, today's Modern Buildings MUST provide better experiences for its users and to achieve this the Systems Integrator must not only be aware of, but be skilled to a level where they can advise the project team across all areas of technology used in present day buildings. For AVD this means design, engineering and implementation of electrical, AV, ICT, Security/Access control/CCTV, Lighting control/light harvesting, integration to HVAC/Co2 levels, motorised devices, etc and the bringing together of those systems to create a simple user friendly experience.

Back then, the 80's I mean, the biggest single expense on a high end residential build was probably the concrete, bricks and mortar. Today it is by far the combination of the electrical and electronic systems and with the plethora of different systems and gadgets, what comes with that is a high level of responsibility to the client and project team to ensure the end user experience is maximised.

Though we are not particularly aligned to products or systems we do have our favourites - because they just work, and that is part of our job, to find out what does work and what doesn't! As such we would spend about 25% of our time in research & development.

What we have learnt over the years is that early involvement and collaboration with the client and project team is absolutely imperative. Too often we find however that this never occurs and the results speak for themselves, an unhappy client, with system that don't work to the clients expectations or even worse, they just don't work. Not only does this potentially lose the client from any future interests in adopting levels of technology (because they have been burnt) but our industry yet again gets a bad name for shoddy workmanship.

Despite this still being our experience today, whereby little value is placed on systems integration design, we find the Architect or Project Manager that does get it, that understands that if this side of the project doesn't work then the entire project fails, as it is the integration of modern systems and technologies within a build that makes the spaces useable on a daily basis.

The outcome of this early involvement sometimes means changes to the architecture to ensure proper containment of the equipment in what we called our CDP (Central Distribution Point) or it could be the cable routing paths or incoming infrastructure or anything that impacts the smooth integration of systems and services and its impact on the Architecture and Interior Design.

As a company we learnt early on that a structured and considered approach was absolutely necessary to achieve a successful outcome. To assist with this process we wrote a white paper entitled 'The Architect's Guide to Home Automation' with the purpose being to assist the industry to understand the growing need for structure in this field of rapid technological advancements. Though the paper was written in 2007, the principals remain valid today whereby due process must be adhered to so that the desired result can be achieved.

Those key elements we wrote about 10 years ago were;
1. Develop the Scope of Works
2. Design and Document
3. Select and Electrical Contractor
4. Cabling and Infrastructure installation
5. Project Management
6. Product Selection and Installation
7. Handover and Tuition

Adding to this we now provide High Level Budgets during the Scope Development stage and for us they are not simply a guess. They are the culmination of our 30 years' experience in understanding what is required in modern buildings and is often broken into 20 different cost centres for both the electrical and electronic systems. In doing this the client and Architect achieve a better understanding of costs and consequences from the outset of the process and prior to committing to any Architectural or Interior Design changes that may be required.

With an industry that has matured substantially in 30 years we have found that sticking to these principals has allowed us to achieve extraordinarily successful outcomes on our projects. We can only hope that the industry as a whole can understand the importance of the Systems Integrator and the role they MUST play in today's technology filled buildings.

Sandy Howard
Managing Director
AVD Australia Pty Ltd

For more information:
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Published in Cedia Communicates Spring 2017 issue

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