Contest Winners: Technology Caters to
By John Filippelli
LAS VEGAS While most people assume that the “e” in “e-mail” stands
for “electronic,” designers may be happy to find out that the
newest “e” in a designer’s high-tech vocabulary may well stand for
efficiency. After all, clients can certainly test a designer’s
mettle and expertise by requesting the newest gadgetry be
incorporated into their homes.
But designers, too, are quickly learning that high-tech
amenities can’t just be technically advanced to appeal to today’s
tech-savvy clients they have to make the home more efficient to
live and work in, as well.
Jason Knott, editor-in-chief for Framingham, MA-based TecHome
Builder magazine, believes that recent technological advances are
going to have a huge impact on home design. Some of these new
technology trends were illustrated by the winners of the 2004
Innovative Housing Technology Award competition, co-sponsored by
the Upper Marlboro, MD-based NAHB Research Center, a subsidiary of
the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and TecHome
Knott explains: “The goal [of the competition] was to recognize
building technology that builders use to improve their efficiencies
while making homes themselves more efficient.”
This includes various home products, from Smart thermostats and
touchscreen Internet access in the shower to structured wiring and
closed circuit security capabilities.
One such item, he notes, is an online design center catalog that
a builder can use to load product photos onto his or her own Web
site. Consumers can then select amenities they want in their
“We’re seeing builders create password-protected Web sites that
homebuyers can visit to minimize the amount of time a designer/
salesperson needs to meet with a homebuyer on his
He adds that the competition which had seven category winners
who were announced at the International Builders Show (IBS) held
here in January aimed to focus on issues facing design
professionals. “The categories were essentially broken down into
two areas the technology that helps the builder improve his
efficiency within his company, as well as how he [works] with the
consumer, and the technology that is actually installed,” he points
According to Knott, the use of distributed audio products, or
built-in speakers in multiple rooms in the home, is one of the
fast-growing trends in terms of home technology. “People want
audio, not only in a media room where they are watching television,
but they also want to have music built into the walls, such as in
kitchens and the bathrooms,” he offers.
Knott also notes that this trend has led to an influx of home
automation and lighting-control innovations as well. As an example
of this, he cites a submission from Home Automation, Inc., which
allows a user to control the home lighting, air, heating and blinds
all from a remote location.
“It is a complete home control product that allows you to work
lighting, window shades, heating and air conditioning using key
pads,” he notes. “The user could also control the built-in audio
and home theater with it, as well.”
He continues: “If you’re leaving work and know that it will be
hot when you get home, you can via the phone or the Internet
program an exact time to turn the air conditioning on and turn on
the outside lights. This is all coordinated under one control
mechanism. It can do the same with your home security system,” he
To that end, Knott also cites the iCEBOX Flipscreen box that
combines cable-ready television, DVD, CD broadband Internet access
and home video monitoring capabilities.
Safe at home
Home security is also an issue in new construction, Knott notes.
“One thing I see as a trend is residential Closed Circuit TV and
video applications,” he says.
“Builders will also put a multi-port jack in homes, like on the
porch and in a kid’s room to act as a front-door cam or nanny cam,”
he adds. “There is also a system that enables you to have a camera
in your home that can be accessed by outside monitors but cannot be
activated unless an alarm sounds.”
For builders seeking
to speed up field work, Knott suggests that the winner of the
competition’s “Back Office and Field Productivity Product” category
may reflect one new trend. “The product allows the in-the-field
person to ensure a completed punch list of the things that need to
be done,” he says.
This technology will allow builders to use a palm pilot-like
device via codes to track what is unfinished with the project.
“When the person gets back to the office or back to the laptop,
he or she can send that information back to the headquarters and it
will generate the parts that are needed. It will also generate an
additional invoice for all extra items,” he adds.
Whether in the office or at home, technology is key to future
growth. As he concludes, “Technology is part of the ‘electronic
lifestyle,’ where everything is connected for entertainment
purposes but it also makes things easier and safer.”