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It Takes a Team to Design the Digital Home

According to DIGDIA research, creating a Digital Home with a home theater, multi-room music, networking, and integrated lighting, heating, cooling, and security controls involves more than just knowledge of electronic systems.

Consumer electronic product designers, architects, interior designers, and building contractors are important, too. These multi-disciplinary requirements were very obvious at CEDIA's (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) Electronic Lifestyles EXPO, a venue designed to promote cross-industry dialog.

In a new custom home or major remodeling project the process used to be fairly straight forward. The architect, builder and interior designer worried very little about electronics. Now their decisions impact the Digital Home's performance, usefulness and cost in many ways. DIGDIA offers a few examples:

- Because many flat panel electronics are integrated into walls, decisions made on the placement of load bearing studs and utilities can affect where the electronic systems contractor (ESC) can place the screen.

- Custom homes now need an equipment closet to place a rack (or several racks) of electronic equipment.

- Schedules need to factor in time for electronics installation and calibration, or risk a disappointed home owner if everything doesn't work when they move in.

- The choice of fabrics and shape of a room can affect audio fidelity.

The solution is to form a team of all the disciplines before the design starts. Doing so lets everyone understand the client's desires and requirements. A common understanding of requirements results in a better custom design. Skipping this step can result in finger pointing.

CEDIA and NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) have now formally recognized the importance of this relationship by creating the "Home Technology Alliance" within NAHB. This initiative will create a set of management tools that will help these two disciplines work better together. Similar initiatives don't yet exist with AIA (American Institute of Architects) and ASID (American Society of Interior Designers), though CEDIA is reaching out to them, too.

Ironically, one discipline that was less represented at the Electronic Lifestyles EXPO was the consumer electronics product designer. While some of the specialized companies like AMX, Lutron and Sonance were there, major companies like Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Philips were not.

They did not participate in the cross-discipline debates and forums, and consumer electronics were sometimes mentioned as a source of frustration by the other disciplines. Home theaters and Digital Home functions are increasing in popularity.

As such, architects, builders, interior designers, electronic system contractors and consumer electronics product designers will need to find more ways to work closely together and develop new standards.

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