TWICE: How can the industry stimulate awareness and demand?
Rich: The biggest issue is educating the homeowner and the design community. We are the electronic architect or solutions providers. We have to be involved in the design stages of homes just like architects, pool consultants, electrical consultants and security consultants.
The design community doesn't understand that. They still think we put speakers in the wall and run wire. My company, manufacturers and CEDIA are all trying to educate associations outside our industry that there is another industry out there that's part of the home.
The homeowner ultimately must be educated, but as far as the design community is concerned, it's just not there. It has to start with the construction business, high school, college, the American Institute of Architects, and home builder's associations.
Project management, support, and service are all part of the presentation that must be made to the design community and to the home owner so that we are all on the same page, and so they know we're not just the guys putting in speakers and running wire.
I've met a lot of architects over the years, and they are afraid [of our trade] because they fear that even if they design a beautiful house, the whole house dies if too complicated to use, if the technology isn't a part of the homeowner's lifestyle.
Bodley: CEDIA took its house of electronic lifestyles to the AIA [American Institute of Architects] convention, and it was the largest booth in the show. About 12,000 people attend the convention, and the house received an incredible amount of attention.
Keith is right that many architects are afraid of our technology. Builders, too.
Weisenberg: Builders pound nails. They don't have any idea what this stuff is about, their margins are eight to 16 points and they're hesitant to make any changes to the structures they are building because there goes their margin.
Goldstein: My group's focus in the past three years is when going out to promote and advertise to the building industry, it's never about Sony gear. It's always about using authorized AV designers.
The building community is a tough bunch to get close to or get a warm reception from. There are exceptions, but it is tough explaining to an architect what needs to be done to make a media room a media room. Right now, a media room appears in every house plan, but the builders have simply taken off the word 'den' or 'family room' and replaced it with 'media room.' Very few architects really understand what the term means, where you place the windows, and so on.
So we are in the process of developing our own architect training. They are going to be a very positive ally for us.
My group has also shifted all advertising to the architectural community. We're in all the key architectural journals, and we have been accredited by the AIA with a course we are going to deliver, perhaps in conjunction with dealers, to promote the concept of AV design in larger-scale homes.
Weisenberg: Whenever I meet with an architect on a job site, I ask what they're putting in and how they got the job, and every one of them tells me the homeowner asked for it.
So I go to the homeowner. And they say they had a couple of computers and wanted a local area network in their home, and that started them thinking about wiring the house. They say they had to find somebody with a higher knowledge level than their electrician.
So, the homeowner is driving home theater and distributed audio. But when it's not the homeowner, then it's the architect and the interior designer. And when does an architect or an interior designer go to the homeowner and say you ought to have this? We've found it's when the architect and the interior designer own a home theater or distributed audio system. Then they understand what the electronics lifestyle is all about.
Architects have no time to learn it, but if they are users, they will incorporate it. They will move the fireplace from the center of the wall and put the big screen in.
We have several programs right now in which we have identified key architects across the country, and we are going to help them become users. We are working with key installers across the country in this because every installer-retailer has an architect, builder or interior designer that they have targeted but can't get to sit down and understand the concept.
Rich: An architect is like the general contractor for consultants. Most architects do not have in-house structural engineers, in-house electrical engineers or HVAC consultants. They go out, hire them, and they all sit at the table and talk about concepts, designs, visions, all the things that it takes to put together a lifestyle that's driven by the architect with the homeowner.
Well, the architect has to call on somebody like us, too. We have to be involved as one of those team members.
Ekblad: Our approach is to provide value-added service to builders. We get them to offer a wiring package to the consumer and assure them that once the consumer buys the package, and once it is installed, we will follow up and install the equipment. The builder can leave it to us to make sure the consumer is happy.