The following is an article supplied by River North Design District (RNDD) Member, BGD&C Custom Homes.
It seems everything in our homes, from refrigerators to doorbells, is getting smarter these days. Which is precisely why we decided to pick the brain of Sound Specialists’ Leor Elfassy to learn more about home automation and its impact on our lives. Sound Specialists is a full-service, lifestyle technology firm that offers consultation, design, installation, and programming services for both residential and commercial projects. For over two decades they have specialized in integrating innovative technologies into elegant, coherent solutions based on each client’s needs. Let’s get started!
BGD&C: To start off with, what types of things are automated these days?
Leor: Everything can be automated today! When this industry began and we were a very young company in the early 90s, the primary focus was entertainment. We installed mainly speakers and distributed volume controls. However, by the mid-1990s, we began controlling media rooms and video distribution as more forms of video consumption (VCRs, DVDs, Cable boxes, Satellite Dish,) became popular. In the early 2000s, there was a massive explosion in what I like to call “aesthetic automation.” People began automating more than what was on their screens, but now extended this to the environment around them. Lighting, LEDs, window treatments, all of this became a primary focus.
Today we are on the eve of the next big shift. With IOT (the Internet of Things) in which almost every device will be connected to the internet, we are moving towards what I call “functional automation.” Today, the technologies being automated are geared at improving the speed, quality, and efficiency of life. Appliances are the first thing. We are seeing a lot of activity in kitchen appliances and utility appliances.
BGD&C: How is home automation enhancing our lives? Is it making things easier? More secure?
Leor: Home automation is important for a variety of reasons. The applications of home technology are immense and we are only scratching the surface. From assisted living and senior care, innovations in safety and security, and environmental protection, technology will be at the core of connecting everything. We have always believed in technology’s power to enrich lives. Our first large project was for a paraplegic client who used our systems to control his house given that he could only use one index finger. This project really showed me the value of what we do. Since then we have also worked with clients who are visually-impaired, handicapped, or simply clients who need remote control over their homes when they are away.
As a whole, the value of automation is the focus. Automating your home enables you to allocate time to more important areas of your life. For example, take a homeowner with a large five-floor townhouse that is leaving for a business trip. To prepare, they need to check every door and window and ensure they are closed and locked, check every thermostat to ensure that they are set to a lower temperature before they leave town, walk through the entire home and ensure that all lights are turned off, and ensure that their security system is set up properly. Alternatively, our clients press a single button and every single one of those actions happens instantly. A single command simultaneously locks all doors, arms your security system, turns off your lights, lowers your shades, sets your climate 10 degrees cooler, and a variety of functions that are specific to each individual home. In a large home, that kind of preparation could easily take an hour and would need to be planned for in advance. Now, it can be done on your way out the door.
Alternatively, imagine that you are preparing for a large dinner party and have a home with many rooms. Setting up each room in the house could easily take over an hour to prepare. Consider selecting playlists for each room, selecting music sources, volume levels, lighting, temperature, and more. Instead, we can create specific scenes for entertainment, dinner parties, and any assortment of events one may host.
BGD&C: Does having a home automation system increase the home’s value?
Leor: Studies show that a home automation system increases a home’s value by up to 5%!
For commercial buildings, smart amenities are not only highly requested but are now becoming a standard in most luxury homeowners’ minds. They are a very large part of boosting the image of the property.
Furthermore, a lack of high-end technology offerings is the easiest way to make a building or home look less attractive. While most people spend large sums on finishes, the reality is that most people interact with light switches and other areas of the home much more often. Showing prospective buyers that you have paid attention to all of the little details in the home, including how it will be used, is a very attractive way to increase the prospects of a sale.
BGD&C: When in the custom home project should a home automation company be enlisted?
Leor: Just as in every custom project, proper planning is the key to success. Since we believe that technology should be embedded into the infrastructure of the home, we believe that you should involve an integrator in the design phase of the home. We invest heavily, perhaps more than most, in our design and engineering, because we believe that great experiences come from great design. Ensuring that the system is properly planned and in alignment with the overall vision for the home experience is the key to our clients having great experiences with us.
BGD&C: And finally, can systems be upgraded or does the technology become obsolete after a few years?
Leor: While technology always changes, most of it happens at the edge. There are many parts of a system that can last for 15+ years. That said, the key to maintaining relevance is to cultivate great relationships with clients, understand their needs, and make sure that they have opted into our preventative maintenance services so that we make sure that all of their equipment is consistently up to date and being swapped as needed rather than ending in a situation where a system has been neglected for so long that it will be a very complex, and expensive, undertaking to modernize it.
About BGD&C Custom Homes: For over 30 years BGD&C has been designing and building absolutely the best in new construction custom homes in Chicago’s Lincoln Park & Gold Coast. Each home reflects a family’s exact specifications coupled with meticulous craftsmanship, timeless aesthetics, and unparalleled service. www.bgdchomes.com