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Wired. It's More than the Name of a Magazine
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 of wood).

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.

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