Wired. It's More than the Name of
by Darin "Sid" Cameron
Recently I posted a couple of articles on my blog that
discussed the new products that were being introduced
at February's International Homebuilder's Tradeshow in
Orlando, and how they will ultimately change the way new
homes are built in the future. (See: http://www.stlagent.com
for these articles).
Some of the products are novelty items (like a magnetic
chalkboard door), some are trendy (like a built-in coffee
machine), but some will truly change the landscape of
new home construction for years to come by addressing
issues like environmental changes (such as the plethora
of recycled products designed to reduce builder's consumption
But to really understand many of these new products and
why their development is important, you have to look at
the underlying changes in our society and culture that
drives their inventions.
Steel, for example, was invented to build skyscrapers
which could house the hordes of people cramming into America's
cities during the industrial revolution of the 19th century.
Cookie-cutter subdivisions and timesaving construction
materials like drywall came into play during the post-war
housing boom of the 1950's which demanded homes be built
cheap and quick. And what of the past few years? I wrote
earlier about the many recycled products that are coming
to market, but another cultural change that is shaping
the design and construction of homes from luxury to low
end is our cultural desire to be WIRED.
Today's new homes feature a dizzying array of cabling,
wiring, and jacks. As recently as 30 years ago, the average
new construction home would have only been wired for one
or two rotary-dial telephones, a mast antenna for picking
up the local TV channels, and perhaps an intercom system
in the occasional luxury home. Today cable TV and telephone
jacks are a virtual requirement in every room of the house
and many homes are coming standard with high-speed Ethernet
connectivity for the Internet. Add to that wiring for
built-in stereo speakers, intercom systems, and video
security cameras that even a modest homeowner can afford
to buy, and the typical new construction home can have
as much wiring as NASA's Mission Control!
"Our customer's demands for technology has changed
the way we build homes," says Jack Cavanagh, owner
of St. Louis based Highland Homes. "If you had told
me 10 years ago I was going to be including a TV and a
computer router with every home I made, I would have told
you that you were nuts. Yet that's exactly what we are
doing today. A 42-inch Plasma TV comes standard hanging
on the wall of our living rooms connected to a datacenter
in the basement that supports everything out there-- from
multiple phone lines to high speed internet, satellite
and cable TV, security cameras and alarms, wireless networking,
and built-in stereo speakers."
"A few years ago," Cavanagh adds, "you
didn't sweat running a couple of phone lines-- it was
an afterthought. Today, it's an important part of the
design and construction phase just like running plumbing
or electricity. We also have to stay up on what's new
out there because you can find yourself setting on a house
that people don't want because it's missing wireless or
some other new thing."
Fourteen million households now have high-definition televisions.
Products like TiVo, which records TV shows on a hard drive,
and PC's with high speed network capabilities to download
and play audio and video files will replace the VCR and
DVD players of today-- blurring the lines between technologies
and putting an even greater demand on our home network.
The only thing that appears to limit the needs for greater
wiring solutions in future new home construction is the
rampant advancement of wireless networking.
Nation's Building News Online (http://www.nbnnews.com),
reports in an article titled, "Structured Wiring
Among Technological Advances Transforming the American
Home," that home connectivity is, "one of the
fastest growing trends in home technology."
So, what does the wired home of tomorrow have in store
for you? For every gimmicky refrigerator with a built-in
TV, there are real innovations that will change the homeownership
experience. Computer controlled water heaters and furnaces
that send out e-mail alerts over your home network when
there is a malfunction or filter that needs changed may
sound trivial until you are setting in a freezing home
on a cold January with a broken furnace.
Once the network is in place, connecting the "odd-ball"
appliances like the furnace and water heater becomes a
minor expense. Computer automation of heating, cooling,
and lighting-controls can produce dramatic energy savings
by using the home PC we already own- which makes putting
a solution in place easy and affordable.
About The Author
Darin "Sid" Cameron currently works for the
STLagent Team of Real Estate Consultants in St Louis,
MO. His website is http://www.stlagent.com, where he co-publishes
the St Louis Real Estate Blog. He also moderates the St
Louis Community Forum Message Board at: http://www.stlagent.com/forum.
© STLagent.com 2005