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The Builder’s Perspective

Notes from a CEDIA Tech Council Podcast on Builder/Integrator Collaboration

Adam Gibson sings the song that every integrator’s dying to hear.

“A client’s interested in tech? Here’s the first thing I do: I usually talk about home automation or integration right at the beginning of the project and stress the need to have structured wiring because nothing–nothing–can compensate for structured wiring.”

Gibson is the brains behind Adam Gibson Design. He’s an architectural designer who specializes in high-end kitchen and bath projects in the U.S. Midwest. His watchwords are “warmth, simplicity, and clarity in design,” but that doesn’t mean he’s tech-averse–he embraces it, and he knows how to respond when he gets a familiar pushback regarding, say, adding cable to a project.

“I’ll suggest, ‘Well, maybe if you’re worried about the obsolescence, let’s run some conduit in some important areas where you think it might serve you in the future?’”

Tech Issues? They’re Universal

The client concerns that Gibson noted in this chat echo the issues that integrators have dealt with for decades. “When it comes to technology, I think there are the usual customer fears of obsolescence, as Adam noted,” said Christopher Wright of Wrightworks LLC. “They [also] fear that the system is going to be overly complicated. They fear that they’re going to be over-sold. That it’s just going to start spiraling out of control. A lot of my projects are partnerships with people like Adam, and so a lot of the designers that I work with have a fear that any dollars spent on technology are going to come right out of the beautiful things that they want to put in a house, so those are some of the things that we have to get around.”

Both Wright and Gibson are CEDIA evangelists. They talk to other builders at events like the annual Design and Construction Week Show in Florida. If there’s a single message that Wright wants to impart to his colleagues, it’s this: “You don’t have to be a techie. That’s what your CEDIA partner is there for.”

Gibson hears all the time from clients that have tried the DIY approach, saying, “Okay, I did this, this, and this and now this, this, and this don’t work.”

“That’s why the knowledge and experience of someone who knows this stuff is critical,” he noted.

Wright summed the problem up. “There’s this increasing challenge of having homeowners go to some home center and then there are all these end caps of connected products. They’re marketed like this: ‘Just take it home, plug in your Wi-Fi password, and install an app!’ “So now we have all this app clutter because our clients are buying these little one-off things, and then when they do a major project, they bring them to us and say, ‘Hey, I have all this. Can we incorporate this into the project, too?’”

And When the Builder Talks to the Integrator …

After we’ve established that builders are hearing the same things that CEDIA integrators hear from clients, we turned the discussion to the builder/integrator interaction.

“When we start a project, we talk about project management,” Wright said. “At what points are the integrators going to be on site? What are they going to be doing? How do we talk about the budget question?

Wright believes that seeking the answers to these questions makes him a better builder, and gives him a competitive advantage when he has partners that can help provide more reassurance to his clients when the subject of technology comes up.

“My goal is not to be a CEDIA member and learn how to hook up networks and wire TVs,” Wright acknowledged. “I believe in CEDIA because I believe in the elevation of the professionalism of the industry and the relationship between the various partnerships in a project: design, build, technology, architecture, and homeowner. I think that the more we can develop healthy relationships with one another…”

Wright paused for a second, and then put a bow on it: “The end goal is to build beautiful things and have happy clients.”

For more, listen to Episode 46 (1807 on iTunes) of the CEDIA Tech Council Podcast. Find more podcasts at