The year 2007 has been one of angst and change for many in the residential design/build industry. New housing starts have plummeted this year with no immediate end in sight. This trend has caused many to attempt to diversify in an effort to grow, maintain and in some cases, to survive. Diversification has many definitions when creativity is a fundamental component of value-added services and products. I would like to share some of the different methods in which technology can play an integral part in providing avenues of growth and differentiation for the custom residential design/build professional.
One of the more stable areas of housing is the retrofit channel. Many consumers, in lieu of starting or purchasing a new home, are exploring remodeling projects. A significant number of savvy builders are banking on this channel as a solid path to survival in this current unstable marketplace. Technology provides a vast wealth of new retrofit opportunities. Based on past applications, the following are excellent opportunities for the builder to provide differentiation with a respected technology partner and to provide added value to their services.
With the growth of WiFi and other wireless communication media, almost any form of control can be achieved after the fact. Another format that fits nicely into the retrofit community is the utilization of powerline communication to achieve control over existing A/C power lines. Here are some of the different methods of retrofit technologies to consider:
- Wireless computer access and networking
- Lighting control
- Wireless security systems
- HVAC control
- Audio/Video distribution systems
- Closed-circuit camera systems
- Home theater and flat panel video systems
Most homeowners desire the freedom of wireless computing within their homes. Being able to log on to your laptop from any room in the home without the encumbrances of plugging in creates a new freedom from the traditional desk environment. Wireless computing can include access to the printer, scanner and other peripheral devices from any location.
Numerous manufacturers are offering wireless and retrofit solutions for control of lighting throughout the home. Most of these systems operate on radio frequency or through some of the newer wireless technologies including Zigbee and Z-Wave.
Lighting can be controlled from virtually any location in any configuration utilizing these types of controls.
Wireless security systems have been around for longer than most of these other technologies. It is no longer necessary to have wired motion sensors, window-break or door sensor devices in the home. These easily can be integrated using wireless technology.
Control of heating and air conditioning has also entered the wireless world. A number of control systems offer bi-directional control of a climate with feedback that allows the homeowner to see the temperature from a wireless remote control device. There are nonstop opportunities for the design/build community and their technology partners to provide these products in their remodel projects.
As more technologies evolve, I will keep you informed on the newest opportunities. Until then, think about utilizing the resources that are at your fingertips to assure that your business will continue to survive and grow.
Andy Willcox is past president and founding member of CEDIA. Willcox is actively involved with outreach programs that deliver CEDIA expertise and value to other trade associations. He has 15 years in the custom electronics industry and has taught courses at venues throughout the country. Willcox is president of ProLine Integrated Systems, a company with locations in Chicago and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. ProLine is involved in high-end audio/video, home theater and residential systems integration. Willcox can be reached at email@example.com.