In todays’ living and work environment, technology has become an important part of form and function. No longer is buying or building a “smart home” only a consideration for the wealthy. Some home buyers actually make purchases based on the homes ability to accommodate all of their gadgets. Home buyers are looking at a Bedrooms and assessing whether or not their plasma television and surround sound system will fit and work well. Homeowners who are selling their fully functional “smart home”, may not be able to convert back to a traditional home.
In commercial buildings, technology is also a crucial consideration. Business technologies have grown by leaps and bounds, especially over the past five years. Companies are constantly scrambling to keep up with the latest technology to help their companies grow and improve efficiency.
For architects and builders it is very important to remember when to bring in a low voltage consultant. Architects typically hire low voltage technology consultants to help them implement an appropriate solution for their clients as well as plan an infrastructure for future technology upgrades. Consultants should be brought into the project at the preliminary planning stages.
This introduction should be after drawings are created but prior to submitting for client approval. This will assure smooth communication with all sub-contractors once the construction begins. Since low voltage “smart” systems can affect many subsystems within the home, good communication is the key. For example, if a home will have a “smart” lighting control system, the electrical contractor will change the layout his cable and box locations from a traditional lighting scenario. Lighting keypads may cause an electrician to relocate dimmers and switches. Therefore, inform them prior to creating their bid, so when the bid is submitted it is accurate. If this is not done, the client can look forward to a flurry of change orders, delays and possibly some frustrated contractors. This reflects poorly on the architect or builder.
One difficulty that architects’ face, is when the client wishes to use a low voltage contractor they have selected. I’ve said “good communication is the key” for a project to be successful. Having to learn how to handle new people on every project costs time and money. Additionally, the low voltage contractor needs to complete the system on time. This means before the client moves in! Unfortunately some low voltage companies fall subject to inefficiencies and micro-management. The client and the architect would be better served utilizing a qualified contractor that the architect has worked with on other projects. The trust and efficiency in this relationship will reduce the possibility of an unsatisfied client.
Whether it be a simple surround sound system or a whole house control system, the most important thing to remember is when to start planning. As an architect or builder, you will find that if you involve a qualified low voltage contractor early in the planning stages, they can make your job easier, less stressful and provide a finished project.