Even the most seasoned custom integrator admits that the concept of whole-house lighting control may seem abstract. Presenting the potential of dimmers, scenes and automated window treatments to uninitiated or “hard-sell” clients like homebuilders can be tricky. There is only so much that a dealer can simply explain.
Enter Lutron’s new Experience and Training Center in Plantation, Florida. The Center offers spacious classrooms for learning and industry certification, as well as eight fully operational residential vignettes that demonstrate how lighting control is best served in an experiential environment.
The 40-year-old lighting control leader, based in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, originally envisioned its Florida Center as a classroom-type facility where it could train customers. A long-term plan emerged, however, adding to that initial idea and placing increased importance on the Center’s identity as a showcase and demo center for Lutron’s sophisticated suite of residential products.
In February of 2003, the Center was officially finished in Plantation. It is currently open by invitation to a select clientele of designers, architects and other industry members curious about Lutron. It is also open to “walk-in” customers, who usually assume the form of dealers in the local market of Miami that stop in for facility tours. Lutron offers periodic training sessions for residential and commercial customers as well as several courses for CEU credit. All classes of this nature are scheduled through Karl Lutgens, the Experience and Training Center supervisor, who is stationed on site and runs the facility.
The eight vignettes within the Center are fully outfitted with functioning systems and integrated controls. For example, the living room was installed with Savoia shades and other automated Lutron window treatments that can “black out” a setting to demonstrate how quickly a room can become viewing appropriate-even in bright midday sunlight.
“We definitely feel that our products are best served in an experiential environment,” stated Lutron’s training manager Roland Ledyard. “It is hard to experience something like this in an advertisement, though we do that. But for someone to really become interested, embrace this and say ‘yes, I’m really going to do this,’ we found that the Center is a very helpful tool.”
Recently, the Center has hosted seminars for builders from various regions of the country, offering them the rare opportunity to see lighting control firsthand and then talk about it in a classroom setting. “It is a positive way for builders to keep the homes that they are building on the cutting edge, and provide things that will truly benefit their homeowners,” Ledyard said.
In other seminars, Lutron has invited residential builders specializing in custom homes, architects, and Lutron reps and dealers to create dialogue about technology and how various products can work together. “The Center provides the concept of understanding first-hand why someone might want this,” Ledyard added.
“Builders who have never experienced it for themselves can sometimes be a ‘tough-sell,’ and instead of bringing them to another company’s home, or even setting up a system up in their model home, here is a place that is neutral, a non-threatening environment in which they can truly ‘get it.’”
To that end, the Center also affords Lutron reps unique control over the demonstration environment, allowing them to help steer builders and architects in the right direction and flesh out all possibilities for installation in their specific marketplaces.
“It is great if we can get the builder interested, but it is a lot better if we can get the builder interested and he sees an interior designer discuss why he thinks it is a good thing, as well as hear a dealer/contractor discuss how they can design that system for him,” Ledyard said. “Then we bring them all together to have an open discussion about what it will require to do that project.”
The opportunity to push buttons, ask questions and view firsthand how technology creates lifestyles is essential to Lutron’s vision, but a fully outfitted demo space is uncommon. In relation to general A/V systems, very few local dealers have installed extensive lighting scenes in their own showrooms. This reality makes the Center an indispensable asset.
According to Tom Wells of Integrated Media Systems in Sterling, Virginia, Lutron’s new Experience Center is an example of how a manufacturer is “putting their money where their mouth is,” by building an exciting facility that will help funnel business through the doors of their dealers.
“They’re talking about putting one of these in my market and I can’t wait,” Wells said. “They’ve created a magic space. You take a client in a place like that and it just says ‘technology friendly,’ and ‘look at all of the neat stuff I can do with this keypad.’ It’s just fantastic. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dealer or an interior designer, you call them up, make an appointment to come down there and they’ll run you through the tour. It helps the dealer, it helps the builder, it helps the electrical supply channel, it helps Lutron and I think they’re right on the mark with that.”
Margot Douaihy is managing editor of Residential Systems