Focus on Home Technology 2006

What’s the hottest home technology product your customers demand?

We’ve found that the whole-house multiroom audio and/or video distribution systems are near commonplace in new homes. These systems have become extremely user-friendly and incredibly convenient for homeowners to listen to their favorite music or watch their favorite show in just about any room in their home. With an intuitive wall keypad combined with a pair of in-ceiling or in-wall speakers, the customer’s musical experience can follow them throughout their home; in the kitchen while preparing meals, in the master bath while getting ready for the day or out at the pool to relax and unwind with a glass of wine or cup of coffee.

The next most popular product is a dedicated home theater. Years back only the most affluent home buyers could afford a dedicated home theater. With the advancements of today’s technologies, the average homeowner can now enjoy a very sophisticated Dolby digital high-definition surround sound theater with multilevel stadium-style seating in their home at aggressive prices that are causing nearly every homeowner to jump at the option.

Anthony Lightman
vice president
Osprey Custom Homes
Orlando, Fla.

We build more complex homes these days, which need to be looked at, and designed, from a systems approach instead of the traditional building approaches my grandfather used when he started our business in 1902. Modern building materials and systems are essential when building these high-performance homes.

Because we are located in the Northwoods (of Wisconsin), where colder weather and climate conditions start earlier and end later in the year, we see an increased demand from our clients to build homes with narrower temperature/thermal comfort ranges. Multiple heating sources, backup generators, zoned HVAC layouts, all wired to smart controllers necessitate the use of modern building materials and practices and skilled laborers and technicians to install and troubleshoot.

We currently partner with a number of the specialty “technology systems contractors” referenced above, primarily in the HVAC and electronics fields. But I have to also note that with the wide variety of material choices in windows, roofing materials, sealants, etc., technology is not limited to systems alone but also very applicable to building materials and suppliers. Having knowledgeable suppliers for all aspects of building today’s homes is really a must. I believe that learning is fundamental, continuous improvement and review is a must. You have to be inventive and flexible. You have to be able to respond creatively. With each new customer your creativity will be tested. Finally, you have to appreciate these tests and challenges, not run from them.

There is no single technology product our customers demand. In reality, they demand many.

Paul Zimpelmann, president
Zimpelmann Builders and Supply, Eagle River, Wis.

Standard technology offered varies quite a bit, but at a bare minimum we offer smart wiring for audio/video/computer install. Our community is very tech-oriented so we get a lot of people who already know what they want. They just need the expertise to install and make it work. We typically connect our client to Dream Theater and let them work out the systems and the processes.

Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, president
Associates in Building & Design, Fort Collins, Colo.

Most of what we see is the same products as far as the products that we are installing, up to a certain price point. What we do differently has mostly to do with accommodating what homeowners are going to bring into their house. That is influencing some design trends of interior layouts and architectural elements. Today’s wide-screen format DLP and plasma TVs are the items we accommodate the most. Interior design elements such as entertainment centers, fireplaces, etc., are being adjusted to accommodate these products including special wiring run to those locations. An example of this would be a plasma TV hanging above the fireplace.

Lower-end to mid-price custom homes have remained relatively constant over the last five years with security systems, structured wiring panels (more important to younger buyers), and new format wiring to accommodate today’s electronics. Higher-end custom home buyer levels of $700,000 and more will have the same systems but will demand more sophistication.

Whole-house audio, lighting control, wireless repeaters and cameras are all popular. We install standard in all homes: 1) Security systems with one to two keypads, all exterior windows and doors contacted, motion detectors, internal and external sirens; 2) Structured wiring panels; 3) Prewire for surround sound; 4) Phone, and TV/phone outlet in all bedrooms (accommodates satellite and cable boxes); 5) Home office module to accommodate modems and routers; and, 6) TV outlet in master bath and outdoors on back patio.

We install in more expensive homes: 1) More sophisticated wiring packages; 2) Lighting controls; 3) Whole-house audio; 4) Pool/spa controllers; 5) Programmable HVAC controls; and 6) Automatic controls for landscape lighting.

Gregory Boyer, president
Boyer Custom Homes, Schertz, Texas

We design into our homes lighting control systems with Lutron, audio designs, theaters, etc. We work with the designers of these systems. The general contractor has his sub-contractors install these various systems that we design.

We like working with the clients and the various designers better. When you work with contractors, they sometimes have an agenda and we don’t want the client to feel any pressure to have to buy a particular system. We include lighting controls, theaters, Crestron, which talk to all of the various disciplines, i.e.: HVAC, security, lighting, computer systems, pools, audio, etc.

We feel that a custom home needs to have all of the flexibility that a custom client needs. These systems can have all of the flexibility to be complicated or user-friendly; it all depends on the client and his needs.

Robert Williams, AIA, principal
KTGY Group, Irvine, Calif.