news – November 2020
Technology and the Architect’s Perspective
how the tech integrator can help fulfill the vision of the architect and the client.
By Bill Hensley
THE POWER STAYED ON. Last month I wrote about installing a back-up solar generator to ease the stress of fire season outages and using it in non-emergency moments to power my solar office. So far, so good. The sunny Autumn provided a steady stream of solar power and my neighborhood was lucky not to get caught in any of the “wind event” blackouts. Others were not so lucky and it was another terrible fire season, but it seemed PG&E did a better job limiting scheduled outages than in 2019.
During one of those non-event “wind events” I enjoyed a few conversations that informed a story for the next issue of Technology Designer. The first was a chat with an old friend describing what I do for a living (marketing at RTI) and the role of the control and automation system in the modern home. This seemed like a good topic to cover. The story began from the same “Team Client” perspective that ended the “Living in Place” article in the Summer issue, this time expanded to highlight the technology — and technologist’s — role on the design-build team and in the project.
As the story progressed, I reached out to Mike Libman, National Sales Director for Residential Systems at DMF Lighting. The thing about lighting is that, while every home might not need video distribution or multi-room audio, EVERY home gets lighting. Mike is a wealth of information and his broader lighting perspective made perfect sense. Mike had one point which he didn’t claim as his own, but which was most salient: Design lighting for people, not for architecture.
The third conversation was with Malika Junaid, Cofounder at M•Designs Architects in Palo Alto, California. At my previous company, we got her incredible home — which she designed —featured in the Wall Street Journal and knew her to be very proactive about technology in the home. Not just her home, but the homes she designs for clients.
Our conversation began with a two-part question: When do you begin discussing technology with the client and when do you bring the home technology professional into the project? “We always try to bring the technology partner into the project early,” she said. “But first we are including technology in our discovery discussions with the client, keeping the conversation at a high level initially.” She elaborated that they are testing the client’s excitement and their budget expectations. “We discuss these with the tech consultant before they meet the client so that they are aware of the general budget guidelines. It’s essential that they don’t scare the client who may be more budget conscious with too many ideas.”
Ultimately a key deliverable from the home technology professional on Team Client is to bring all the technology together so it works seamlessly. It helps when the integrator is also a good explainer and teacher. It’s essential to convey what’s possible to the client as each client has a different level of comfort and familiarity with home technology. But my conversation with Malika reminded me that more than ever that it’s important for the architect, designer or builder — whoever owns the client relationship — to also be fluent in explaining the technology. Not installing it, just explaining it.