Partnership Management

As a homebuilder or architect, the key to establishing and maintaining a healthy technology partnership is communication. Communication is important during all phases of work. Following are communication guidelines you can implement on your next job.

During preconstruction, provide the most current set of construction documents and a detailed scope of work to your technology partner. This allows the partner to understand exactly what is included in the base price, and provides a framework for future upgrades.

Provide a detailed contract before work begins to allow the technology partner to review it prior to arriving on the job. This will eliminate late starts, and payment and insurance issues that can cause delays later in the project. Spell out various tasks, and for which ones they will be allowed to charge extra.

Establish in the contract that payment will be made only for contracted items or items for which your have signed change orders. This also is the right time to establish any parameters for upgrades during construction, such as if you expect a certain percentage built into the upgrade or if you’ll be on a cost-plus system.

Provide your technology partner with a tentative schedule at time of contract and give them written notice at least two weeks prior to the start date. This will allow them to schedule walk-through dates with everyone involved.

The rough installation walk-through is the most critical and most often forgotten checklist item. I typically do my electrical walk-through right before framing is complete. I prefer for my technology partner to create a room-by-room description that corresponds to my contracted scope of work, and a la carte pricing for items such as adding or removing recessed cans, receptacles, home office drops, HDTV prewire, etc.

Take the time to locate drops and find out where the audio/visual equipment will be located. The ability to hand the framers a diagram of where the plasma television will be recessed into the wall will eliminate delays and costly change orders later.

The builder and superintendent should check with local inspectors regarding low-voltage wiring systems. They should have copies of the building code that allows you to put low-voltage wiring in the same box as high-voltage wiring with the proper separation.

Once the technology partner has started to fill all the holes and trim the electrical systems, the superintendent and technology company should be able to review the room-by-room scope of work and confirm that everything is installed per the contract. The builder and/or technology partner should take pictures of the job after the rough stage to be able to find wires in the future without potholing brand new interior walls.

The builder and his clients should know exactly what they are getting by this time and the technology partner should be installing the home automation products such as lighting, HVAC, security control and the audio/visual components. The room-by-room checklist should include what levels of programming are expected and what levels of control are to be completed. By understanding the exact scope of work, the builder can pay the technology partner for significant completion and hold retention for the final payment.

Prior to completion of the job and before the house is turned over to the homeowners, the technology partner should have begun a customer service form that explains the systems that have been installed and the customer service procedures for their new house.

When electrical systems are involved, there will always be customer service issues. However, the homeowner also should know that these systems can be changed to fit their lifestyle after initial installation.

I give my clients a form to keep track of lighting levels, temperature settings and various scene changes they might want and then schedule a 30- to 60-day customer service call. This lets the client know that in an emergency they will have our undivided attention, but the more they live with and use the system, the more we can make it work for their lifestyle.

John Cioe is a practicing design/build professional and member of CEDIA and NAHB. Co-founder of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Newport Custom Homes and Custom Home Technology USA, he uses his technology company to educate and develop partnerships with designers and builders across the country. Cioe can be reached at jcioe@customhometechnology.com or (480) 797-8163. Read his past columns in the archives at www.designbuildbusiness.com.

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