Give them what they want

Over the past several months I attended several conferences focused fundamentally on the residential building community. These events intrigued me because the content was based primarily on how the demand for consumer electronics technology in the home has grown exponentially over the past several years.

The fact is, this demand is significant of design/build firms with whom consumers contracted their new home or remodel. The most powerful statement made during these events was that many builders are becoming sensitive to these needs, and they are interested enough to learn more.

In recent studies, home theater and structured low-voltage wiring are two technologies now in the top 20 percent of all upgrades and options requested by consumers. What’s compelling here is the list includes such venerable upgrades or options as kitchens, master bathrooms and many other traditional items that people want in their new homes.

Let’s briefly talk about the two most popular items: home theater and structured wiring. A home theater, or the integration of a video display and surround-sound system in the home, comes in many different flavors. It reproduces movies, television programming and sporting events at a more dramatic level. A home theater can be as simple as a standard television with a speaker system that can provide surround sound, a video source such as a DVD, digital cable or satellite, and a surround-sound audio/video receiver. On the other end of the spectrum you can take a large movie screen with a front projection system, a surround speaker system and a myriad of electronic equipment and install them in a dedicated theater room with theater seating, lighting, interior design effects and popcorn.

There are numerous methods by which to create a home theater system. I recommend contacting a local residential electronic systems contractor in your area and have them show you the dozens of options available today. To find a technology partner, check out the CEDIA website at and click on the dealer locater service.

Another requested option or upgrade is structured wiring. Structured wiring comes in numerous configurations as well, which are dictated by the specific needs of each customer. A basic structured wiring package will include cabling for distributed broadband Internet access, cable/satellite television and the telephone system. A buzzword you may hear in the discussion about this is CAT5, or category 5 cable, a popular wire that can distribute most of these technology mediums. Structured wiring also can include cabling for security systems and closed-circuit cameras, multi-room audio distribution, lighting control, HVAC and window treatment control to name a few.

This may sound complicated but trust me, it’s not. Certainly, it shouldn’t be your responsibility as the design/build professional to be an expert on structured wiring or any other low-voltage technology. You have your hands full making certain all team members are in sync with the schedule and customer expectations.

Again, my suggestion is to find a technology team member from within the CEDIA community to assist you in understanding the options and educating both you and your customer about the wonderful technology they have at their disposal. If you do this, you will find your job much easier and your customer will thank you for having the foresight to have a technology team member in place.

Take advantage of technology to differentiate you from your competition; you will not regret the decision.