4 Things You Are Doing Wrong
with Home Technology
I have been fortunate to be a systems integrator for the last 20-plus years in the Los Angeles market. I have worked alongside the very best architects and designers in the world. I am very grateful that my clients are typically successful enough to hire unbelievable world-class design teams. This affords me the opportunity to see excellence in action, and also be in awe of how really smart people do really dumb things sometimes.
I know a lot of architects, and there is one common trait they all share. They hate egg on their face. I have never met a subculture as obsessed with getting everything just perfect. It is impressive – and occasionally maddening.
In this article, I would like to help you architects avoid egg on your face and make the journey to perfection a little easier. Let me share the top four things that architects usually get wrong, as I see it.
1. Transferring Data from Other Projects
There are many architects that take data from their last project and apply that to their new project. This could be data about TV sizes, rack room space requirements, heating/cooling requirements, home theaters, etc.
Here is a great example. I once had a world-famous architect plug in a 13-foot-wide movie screen for a billionaire’s screening room. The last billionaire’s screening room he designed used that exact size screen, and the room size was virtually identical. They carefully designed the risers and sightlines based on that screen size. Foundation was poured. Risers were framed. Construction was full-speed ahead. Then I got hired… and asked the client, “How big a screen are you expecting in this theater?” His reply: “Big as I can get. I want it to go wall to wall!” The wall was about 20 feet wide. The sightlines for this new, larger screen would not work as built. The room was not tall enough. Fast forward to new plans, demolition, and backhoes digging out dirt to make way for another six feet of height in the room. The cost of this assumption? About $150K. I am not sure who paid for this, but if the architect didn’t write the check, I am sure it was not a comfortable conversation with the client.
So don’t assume that anything from a technology standpoint can be assumed. A 10,000-square-foot house can have anywhere from one to five equipment racks. One homeowner might hate a pop-up TV at the foot of the bed, while others might love it. Some homeowners want really great speakers that have different space requirements than not-so-great speakers. The short advice is… don’t assume, and verify every tech detail with your technology integrator before hammers start swinging.
2. Burying Your Head in the Sand
Lots of architects are not technology fans. They want to design beautiful homes for owners who do not own TV sets. They avoid dealing with the technology unless the client or builder forces their technology guy on them. Even then, they huff and puff when they have to deal with these details. This is an extreme example… but not that extreme. The best results come from avoiding design compromises.
A very well-known architect would never take my calls about a project through the entire planning stage of the project. He buried his head in the sand, deep. I mostly got what I needed from his staff, but the moment of truth happened when the client, the builder, the architect and I were in the foyer of the home as the owner’s prized work of art was being delivered. This was a wall that had a 12-inch touch panel on it. The wall had a very expensive fabric finish. Because of the supporting lumber around the edges of this wall, we had to mount our touch panel with an 8-inch reveal from the edge of the wall. The client beamed as the art was being brought in. He turned to me and said, “You know we designed this wall just to fit this piece of art.” As the art movers brought it closer to the wall I could see that the touch panel was going to be in the way, and they would not be able to center the art without covering the touch panel. The builder strolled by and shot me a look that said, “Nobody told me about this art!” I could see the architect start to fidget uncomfortably… and then the client saw what was happening. The builder and I were in the clear. The architect was the only one besides the client that knew about this art. The rest of the story plays out as you would expect when a wealthy, powerful person realizes somebody on his team dropped the ball. It was not pretty for the architect. The wall was redone. The touch panel was relocated, and many thousands of dollars of fabric was re-imported from Belgium. Oh, and the move-in was delayed by two weeks because the homeowner wanted everything perfect before he would sleep there.
Every client wants tech at some level, so you need to find out what your clients are going to put in the home so your vision remains uncompromised.
3. Not Aligning with a Great Partner
I know, I know, I know… you hate us technology dudes. I get it. The barrier of entry in our industry is soooo low that there are a lot of folks in the tech installation world that should not be allowed to run a business. The odds that you have had a bad experience are high. Unfortunately, finding a solid, reliable partner with a good reputation is difficult. They are not ubiquitous... they are unicorns.
That being said, you need to find that great integrator in your town and get him on your team. You need someone to come in early to your projects and help you plan properly. A great integrator will help you solve a lot of problems and keep you looking smart.
The best way to find a great integrator is through the Home Technology Association (HTA). This association has an intense certification system that weeds out the zeros and points you to the heroes. If you find an integrator that is HTA Certified, latch onto him! He is a unicorn. The HTA also does a great job of classifying these integrators so you can find your perfect match. If you design standard American homes, you choose a “Foundation” company. If you consider your wheelhouse to be luxury homes, well, they have “Luxury” level integrators. For those of you that only deal with the type of clientele that build very fancy homes and also own yachts and private planes, then your integrator should be rated “Estate.” So find that unicorn by strolling on over to HTAcertified.org and typing in your ZIP code.
4. Not Having a Technology Plan
When you are lining up your consultants at the beginning of a project, you immediately think of your lighting designer, electrical engineer, structural engineer and mechanical engineer. This is the time to also bring in someone to design the technology.
Most architects don’t know that most home technology integrators are more than willing to come in to a project in a consultant role to advise the client and the design team, create a spec, draw up a set of plans, and if necessary, create a bid spec. In this planning process, you can get all of your questions answered, like space requirements, cooling, electrical, framing, and conduit requirements. The costs for this work can hover around $1 to $3 a square foot... but having a completely coordinated plan and a defined budget is priceless!
Add a technology pro to your consultant team today!
I hope these tips motivate you to consider technology design as an important component of your process going forward. Great integrators are typically great team players and highly motivated to help you deliver a great design without compromises. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your technology partner to ask them questions. They would prefer to give you some free time now, rather than have to bail you out of a problem later if they get hired too late in the process.