How can architects and integrators work together for project success?

Architects’ Datafile talks to home automation expert Tas Kyriacou, Director Intelligent Digital Solutions about how a strong working relationship between architect and integrator can lead to long-term project success.

Your main role as an architect is to assist your clients in exploring the design of spaces. Today, a fundamental part of this is the lighting and automation strategy. Architects and designers can draw on the expertise of integrators by building strong relationships to help stay informed on the latest developments in technology which in turn provides added value for clients.

Research has found that millennials (who account for three-quarters of the current property market) are most concerned about health and wellness when purchasing new homes. With the ever-increasing prioritisation towards both sustainability and the promotion of health and wellbeing in design, smart home technology is becoming a vital component in achieving these desired outcomes and can no longer be ignored or left to the last minute.

The most efficient way of ensuring that correct smart home technology is installed is the early engagement of the design team with the correct consultants. Having a clear brief will enable early coordination with integrators, which will also ensure that the most cost-effective solutions can be explored.

At what stage of a project should an integrator be involved?
RIBA stage 2 or even 3, this way we can be involved in the design. It is crucial that the correct infrastructure is factored into the work to enable the appropriate technologies to be deployed. I believe architects working with integrators is an essential part of today’s residential build, most projects require some form of technology and as great as an architect are at their job, our elements of the project are sometimes overlooked, bringing integrators in early will prove to be very beneficial when the project is at its latter stages, which is where we come in.

What prep will be required? First the technology team will have to fully understand the client’s brief. This can be achieved by sitting with clients and discussing their lifestyle, habits, needs and wants, ultimately understanding their smart home aspirations of the end client. After a full site survey, detailed drawings should be prepared– these play an integral part of the process, ensuring that all the work is conducted concisely and to spec.

Who will do the work?
The typical process is for the technology team to liaise with the clients and/or the contractor’s in-house electrician, helping them to follow the drawings and run all the cables to the correct places; the engineering team will then deploy all of the second fix equipment, followed by the programming team conducting the testing and implementation of the program for the home automation system. Finally, although custom integrated systems are intuitive to use, the integrator should never leave a project before ‘training’, making sure they are happy and comfortable with all the controls.

How long will it take?
This depends on the size of the project and the number of solutions to be integrated. Typically, a second fix would need 2-4 weeks and around 2 weeks for programming.

How to project manage this effectively?
It all hinges on a good relationship and working closely with all parties involved from architect to contractors onsite with excellent communication at its core. Without this, a project is extremely difficult to deliver on time and on budget.

With so many people involved in the project how can you avoid possible complications?
Make sure you work with a specialist team who fully understands the home automation market. There are many DIY systems out there but for a custom integration spec, to avoid issues with interoperability, contracting an expert to take control is the best option. Wherever possible bring every team involved around a table from the beginning of the project to clearly define the requirements and what is involved from each trade; in doing so, there is clear direction of what is required from everyone at each stage of a project to ensure smooth delivery.