DESIGN BUILD – team profile
Beautiful Places, Smart Spaces
Working with architects, builders and designers to build seamless smart home technology, BRAVAS provides bespoke solutions that include health and entertainment.
BY DOUGLAS WEINSTEIN
BRAVAS IS A LEADING TECHNOLOGY DESIGN FIRM AND SYSTEMS INTEGRATOR boasting 15 locations across the country. Focused on the luxury market, BRAVAS completes over 3,500 residential and commercial projects every year and supports the leading technologies in the field of performance buildings.
Working with architects, builders and designers to build seamless smart home technology, BRAVAS provides bespoke solutions to optimize a family’s lifestyle that includes health and entertainment. From acoustic treatments and sound damping, to pristine air, water and climate control, the level of expertise across the entire company assures inspired results in those beautiful spaces BRAVAS works in.
I had the opportunity to sit down with BRAVAS CEO Nigel Dessau and three members of the national sales and business development team – Kyra Winsky, Angie Casey, Jason Roberts – to talk about the advantages of unifying multiple successful integration firms under one umbrella, how they are collaborating in the design-build space, and some of their thoughts on existing and emerging technologies.
DOUG: Tell us what scale brings in the way of advantages for the group.
NIGEL: Our industry – and let’s focus on the residential systems integrator – is mainly comprised of individually run small-business firms. Those companies who are successful typically get to about three million in sales, which affords a nice lifestyle for the Owner/Operator. At BRAVAS we could bring together some of the nation’s top firms and create a national brand, where we could leverage each other to get jobs done efficiently —especially large jobs that can wreak havoc with small firms — and provide higher-end service that our best customers demand.
JASON: Let’s also look at scale from the point of view of the reality of our existing customers. Say we have a client in Minneapolis who is comfortable with their ELAN whole house control system and they decide to build a winter home in Boca. Now, our team here in Boca specializes in Crestron and Savant control systems, but if the client wants ELAN, we simply bring in the expertise from Minneapolis to support that homeowner.
So collectively, we have access to more brands and more solutions, even if each individual location specializes in certain technologies they have found works for that geographical area year-in and year-out.
KYRA: And with over 300 techs and engineers, we have much more expertise than any single integrator. Our customers demand perfection and they don’t want to hear any excuses. So within our group, we are able to tap into a large pool of resources to provide the level of service and expertise that the luxury market expects. And when it’s January and Minneapolis business slows down since it’s minus 20, we can move technicians down to Florida where business is booming. So scale brings many assets to our group.
DOUG: Talk to us about how you are bringing in projects and your interaction with the other trades.
ANGIE: Here in Minneapolis, I’m interacting with builders most often when it comes to partnering on projects. Up to 85 percent of my introductions to homeowners is through one of the builders we have a relationship with, so that just goes to show you how much pull the builder has in this particular area of the country.
Educating our builders about what’s going on with technology is critical to our continued success, so that’s why we have a program for builders where we can help get some of this technology into their homes and let them play with it and experience it, so they get more comfortable talking to their homeowners about it.
JASON: In our Boca office, we’ve developed deep relationships with design-build colleagues over the years. Our builder and designer partners invite us into projects early on because they know we will be able to educate their customers about choices they should be making. We offer that service at no charge, because I’m willing to invest my time if a design-build colleague asks for help in explaining lighting control, shades, security and just the comfort and convenience of today’s smartest spaces.
I mean, when you’re talking about two or three-story shades and have to understand the motor assembly and the weight of the fabric that the designer is considering, someone has to do the math and present a realistic scenario of how much that level of luxury is going to cost and the most practical way to integrate the design into the project.
KYRA: In the Philadelphia market, I’m brought into projects most commonly by the architect or designer. They reach out to us when the client has an interest in technology and they need a professional to translate the homeowner’s expectations into an easy-to-use solution. My job is to really listen to the way they live.
I tell my colleagues and clients all the time that any integrator can walk in and install technology. Having a seamless experience is the ultimate goal though, and if my client isn’t having that expected experience when they move in, then we’ve not completed the job.
NIGEL: That’s a great point, Kyra. And as I listen to each of you, it becomes clear that in each location across the country, there are certain ways that the design-build process works and there are certain technologies and solutions that are more common depending on climate, architectural design, etc.
So while we have all the scale benefits of a national brand, I think it’s important to point out that each location acts locally – who they partner with among the other trades and what technologies they present upfront in the discovery process. And that means local relationships mature over time, as well as the advantages of scaling our business.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JESS BLACKWELL PHOTOGRAPHY
DOUG: Your amazing Solution Guide brochure highlights all of the latest in performance home technologies. From acoustics to clean air, from entertainment to lighting and shading. Is there a consensus across your locations as to how you lay the groundwork when you talk technology design with the homeowner?
JASON: Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure! I come from the world of IT and so I know that almost everything in the house that plugs in or runs on batteries is going to connect to the network. So we start with pre-wire. And we pre-wire the entire home because no one knows what the family might want to do five years from now. We pre-wire every window in case the family finally decides to automate their window treatments.
We design robust networks and think about reducing wall clutter and how we will automate the various processes the family wants to interact with. Because from our experience, we know that our interior design partners want a clean look and love all of the tech – they just don’t want to see it!
KYRA: I was brought into the group to expand our lighting and shading opportunities, so I completely agree with what Jason is saying. As I sit with the homeowner and designer and we talk about window treatments, I point out that automation allows them to harvest natural light during the day, while at the same time we are able to save energy and provide UV protection. As we move into the night, we are then able to provide privacy and another layer of thermal control. None of that happens without designing and developing the proper infrastructure.
“We pre-wire the entire home because no one knows what the family might want to do five years from now. We pre-wire every window in case the family finally decides to automate their window treatments.“Jason Roberts
NIGEL: As I mentioned earlier, each location has their own local feeling and vibe, but in each there is a consensus that without proper infrastructure we are really doing the homeowner a disservice. I mean, who wants to move into this beautiful new home and find out it’s obsolete technologically?
ANGIE: I think one of the biggest advantages of the types of networks we’re specifying is that we are able to remotely monitor all of the products and control scenarios that are going on in the home and then react pro-actively. In other words, if a bank of security cameras were to go off-line, our 24/7 technology support technicians can be alerted – long before the customer finds out and has to call us! – and they can go in and remotely fix the problem. When they can’t fix things remotely, they still know they have a problem and can roll a service truck so our client isn’t inconvenienced. You just can’t provide that level of service without the property having the necessary infrastructure in place.
DOUG: You listen, you explain and educate, you build the infrastructure. All good. So what are the cool technology solutions people are asking for? What’s going on in your markets?
KYRA: I’m working with a landscape designer on almost every project, so outdoor living is really big. And based on a lot of clients who have experience with older control technology, I’m being asked about the user interface and user experience. The client describes to me what they want and how they envision living in the various spaces, and I reverse-engineer what they are describing into the control system – so if they want classical music in the background when they come back from work and are bringing in groceries, we make that happen for them.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JESS BALCKWELL PHOTOGRAPHY
JASON: We have terrible power issues down here in Florida, so we’re doing a lot of power cleaning and integrating WattBoxes so customers can reboot cable boxes when they periodically lock up. Even though we have 24/7 service, our customers still ask for the ability to reboot devices if and when they go off-line.
And I agree with what Kyra said: our clients aren’t just looking at how to automate a room, they want to walk through their residence and have multiple things happen at once as they go about their day. Especially for the larger residences, we spend a lot of time with clients going over whole house control and how to maximize their lifestyles.
ANGIE: Music is a priority for most of my clients. They want to listen to music in every space and often times they don’t want to see speakers, so we’re seeing a lot of movement into invisible speakers so that nothing clashes with their décor. Wellness is starting to take off, so circadian rhythm as it relates to lighting is big, along with indoor climate control. We’re also seeing the outdoor category grow rapidly, with not only weatherized TVs and Landscape Audio Systems, but also including control of our clients’ pools, irrigation systems, firepits, fountains and more through our automation platform.
NIGEL: Proper home offices. High-Definition cameras, great microphones and lighting. Working from home is not going away and I think we will be seeing more and more customers asking for upgrades to their offices. Which takes us full circle back to our discussion about infrastructure.
At BRAVAS, we realize that the majority of people will suffice with a DIY solution that runs on an app. But for those homeowners who are looking for a more unified and integrated platform, and are concerned about their privacy, our expertise and guidance when it comes to infrastructure and rock-solid technologies we specify into each project is what really separates us from the pack.