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The Center of the Design-Build Universe

Custom installers are the glue that holds the modern home design-build team together.

As I was putting together both the interior design feature for this issue of Residential Systems and the recent Residential Lighting Best Practices Guide, a common theme kept emerging — custom installers are the glue that holds the modern home design-build team together.

Sure, none of the pros I spoke to or who contributed to the Guide said that exactly, but I can read between the lines. What I heard and read repeatedly was that it is up to the custom installer to make nice with everybody. Not only that, we are ones to facilitate clear communication to make sure each trade’s needs are addressed.

So, why us? That sounds like a lot of work. And it is. It also makes sense.

Of the key building trades, which include architects, interior designers, builders, electricians, and residential integrators, the integrator will have the most contact with the homeowner once the design-build phase is finished. The interior designer is next in that list, but tech will likely need to be updated, upgraded, or replaced before the first major redesign. Making sure everyone is on the same page throughout will make the transition to service and maintenance that much easier.

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It will also make the overall job run smoother and gain integrators allies in the architect and interior design trades — those that get on jobs the earliest. Being aligned with them will make it easier for the other trades to take us seriously and include us in their processes.

And let’s face it — we would want it to be us anyway. With each piece of the design-build puzzle that finds its way under the purview of the custom installer, the project gets better. Better tech, better design, better documentation… All that comes together only with proper communication (and timing) between all the trades.

Of course, there is a learning curve that comes with this responsibility. Each trade has its egos and its preferences for communication and how they do things. As Luke Germain of Tune Street Design Center says in this issue’s cover story, “There is no ego here — let’s just work together. And don’t be territorial about what you’re doing — if the designer is not interested in what your solution is and is comfortable with something that you don’t sell, support them anyway. Try to be as supportive as you can and don’t push them in the wrong direction when it’s clearly not what they’re looking for in their end product. We can always make some changes down the road.”

The initial prize for this extra work is being brought in earlier in the design phase — hopefully before anything is even built. However, Germain’s experience points toward an even greater goal: More and more, his company is being brought in first by the architect, with builders and electricians coming to Tune Street Design Center for the plans that they need to bid on the job.

The integrator as center of the design-build universe.

Seems right, don’t you think?