It takes an army of people to the bring blueprints of your new or remodeled house to life. The same is true of electronic systems. Home theaters, whole-house music, automated lighting and thermostats, high-speed networking … they all require more than just the knowledge and skills of a qualified home systems installer to be integrated pleasingly into your house. Your architect, builder, interior designer, at the very least, should be involved in the process, too.
“There are so many things we can do to make electronics fit aesthetically into a space, like recessing a flat-panel TV into a wall, but often this can only happen if we are brought onto the project early and can collaborate with the architect or builder,” says Brian Richards, a custom electronics (CE) professional at Precision Media, Denver, Colo. In the case of mounting a flat-panel TV, it might require that an architect add structural support within the framework; on a big automation project a special room might need to be constructed to safely house all the necessary electronics equipment. If the architect isn’t aware of the electronics plans from the very start of the project, items important to the implementation of the electronics system may not be executed.
Richards offers another example: “It’s really easy and costs basically nothing to excavate a few extra feet in a basement as a house is being built to make room for stadium-style seating in a home theater; it’s nearly impossible and costly to do so after the concrete has been poured.”
Even things like your choice of paint color or selection of draperies can impact your electronics investment. For example, light colored walls could make video on a projection screen look less vibrant and draperies could get in the way of in-wall loudspeakers.
For these and other reasons, it’s important that your CE pro and interior designer coordinate. “It often comes down to form versus function,” says Bethany Johnson, an interior designer at Gramophone, a Timonium, Md.-based custom electronics design and installation company. “By working together, a CE pro and I can come up with solutions that will make everyone happy, both the husband who wants to see the gear and the wife who wants it hidden.” She continues, “The last thing I want to do is tell a home systems installer ‘no, you can’t use that piece of equipment because it will clash with my design. There’s always a way to make electronics and aesthetics work together, but only if the interior designer and CE pro collaborate at the very beginning of the project.”
So who’s responsible for facilitating this “meeting of the minds?” Sometimes, the architect will take it upon himself to bring all the subcontractors together; other times, it could be the CE pro to initiates contact. “We’ve learned from experience the importance of teamwork at the onset of a project,” says CE pro Mark Hernandez of Cliqk, New York, N.Y. “The biggest problems arise when all the partners aren’t fully aware of each other’s scope of work.” To ensure understanding and cooperation between all parties, Hernandez specifies on a written contract precisely what his company will provide, down to details like the location of each piece of equipment, and clearly states what his team will need from others on the project to properly execute each part of the electronics plan. Each party—the architect, interior designer, cabinet maker and others, must sign off on his/her duties before Cliqk can continue with its part of the project.
“The implications of being unaware of each other’s scope of work are tremendous,” says Hernandez. When a builder realizes too late that he needs to alter the construction plans to accommodate a motorized video projector, for example, the extra work may result in a costly change order. “If everyone has the ability to comment on each part of the project and adjust pricing accordingly, there are no surprises to the contractors or to the client,” Hernandez says.
Naturally, not everyone will be in agreement of your CE pro’s ultimate electronics blueprint. “Compromises are a given on any project,” says Johnson. “We strive to be flexible and play nice with everyone,” adds Hernandez. Cooperation is the key, and is best fostered before the architectural renderings of your new or remodeled house are finalized. Consequently, be sure you have all your subcontractors lined up before construction. And be proactive, suggests Hernandez. Don’t assume that your architect or CE pro will hold the reins. If you need to schedule a meeting of all subcontractors, do so. It’ll save time, money and frustration, and ultimately result in the type of house you’ve always wanted.
If you’re considering a high-tech project, also check out:
6 Important Pieces of Info to Share with Your Tech Installer
Integrated Control vs. Multiple Apps for Home Automation
How to Add Lighting Control to Your Home
Follow Electronic House
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.