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A Sound Investment:
Structured Wiring offers Future Flexibility

By Judy Penz Sheluk

According to Statistics Canada, consumer spending on televisions and home theatre systems increased by more than 10 percent in 2005, the strongest annual increase among all major expenditure categories. So it stands to reason that members of the Appraisal Institute of Canada cite home theatre rooms as the top trend in home renovation - above hardwood floors, main floor laundry rooms and updating kitchens and bathrooms.
Home theatre is also on the wish list of many new homebuyers, and some savvy builders are starting to offer media rooms as an upgrade. But the upgrade potential doesn't have to stop there. As homeowners become more immersed in technology, offering structured wiring packages as a standard or optional amenity can be an additional revenue source.
Simply defined, structured wiring is a planned cabling approach which systematically lays out the wiring and wire management necessary for in-home communications (including voice, data and video) into a single consolidated wiring system.
The sales pitch? By pre-wiring, homeowners will be able to expand their home automation system with a minimum of fuss.
"It can be both difficult and expensive to wire an entire house after the walls are up," said John Scott, owner of The Sound Choice in Ottawa, a member of the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA), and a CEDIA Certified Professional. "While most of us can't predict what technology we will want to install around the house in the next 10 years, high bandwidth cabling in each room will ease the process."
"By explaining this, new home buyers may elect to pre-wire their home to handle these requirements - even if they will not be utilizing all of the cabling right away," said Scott. "This is also true of the homeowner looking to remodel or build an addition. Pre-wiring for the future just makes sense."
Installing structured wiring allows for a host of major home automation and technology integration systems, including: Data Networking (links each PC in a home directly to the residential gateway of a high-speed Internet connection or a shared modem); Distributed Audio (makes it possible to install speakers and controls in every room of a house, while maintaining audio equipment in one central location); Distributed Video (allows any video source device around the home to be selected and viewed on any TV); Voice Communications (hassle-free telephone/intercom installations); HVAC Interface, Home Security and Surveillance, Lighting Control and Sprinkler System Control.
So how do you choose a company that is qualified and trained to install structured wiring which is geared towards tomorrow's technology? According to Marilyn Sanford, owner of the Vancouver-based La Scala Home Cinema + Integrated Media, and a founding member of CEDIA in Canada, the solution lies in viewing low voltage installers as a 'fourth' trade in the building and remodeling industries, alongside electrical, plumbing and HVAC professionals.
"There are many professionals who specialize in some of the technologies, such as security, telephone and cable, electricians, IT technicians and A/V dealers, however, other than the electronic systems contractor (ESC), no one trade is currently certified or trained to install all available home electronics," said Sanford.
"Even electricians, who are trained to handle electrical current, are lacking in the depth and knowledge necessary to effectively integrate the current array of diverse and rapidly evolving technologies."
"As such, builders, contractors and other professionals can only benefit from hiring a CEDIA-certified ESC to assist with the design, engineering and installation of structured wiring. Unfortunately, it's a relatively new industry, and the A/V person is often regarded as noise in their already hectic environment."
"In fact," continued Sanford, "the reverse is true. In a field that is fast implicating most areas of the home, hiring an electronic systems contractor can minimize risks, in the same way that hiring a qualified electrician or plumber minimizes risk."
It also doesn't preclude the builder or contractor from scheduling, coordinating and keeping a watchful eye on the quality and completeness of work. Just think of it as pre-wiring your business for the future.

Founded in 1989, CEDIA's 3,000 member companies work closely with homebuilders, contractors and homeowners.
1-800-669-5329 www.cedia.org

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