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Planning for technology integrations in the design process prior to breaking ground can help avoid paint points, change orders, and job delays during the build cycle while delivering elements that buyers want in their home.

During the Two-Story Talk: Builder Essentials for Home Tech Planning & Products session at the 2023 International Builders' Show, Josh Christian of the California-based Home Technology Association shared how buyers are increasingly demanding more technology in their homes, but builders are struggling to plan for its inclusion in the project cycle.

Christian, a former technology integrator, said oftentimes integrators would be brought onto a jobsite after framing, electrical, and drywall work was completed. In order to integrate the technology, electricians would have to be brought back to projects, change orders would be issued, and timelines would be disrupted. Christian said since technology will be integrated into every home, it is the builder’s responsibility to determine the technological elements that need to be incorporated into a project as early as possible to understand how the workflow can be facilitated most efficiently.

Christian said several technological elements, including internet and security systems, have become essential to almost every project. However, integrations can range from smart technology and home automation to smart lighting to wellness technology that monitors air and water health.

“People think we want to see touch screens everywhere,” Christian said. “I think it should be blended in with the design and serve the homeowner. [Do] not put technology in for technology’s sake. Have the technology serve the needs of the home.”

Kris Barber of Blue Heron shared how by embracing technology earlier in the timeline, design can be more thoughtful and incorporate technology more seamlessly into finished homes. By thinking of technology early, Barber said the builder is able to have a goal in mind and seamlessly integrate technology into the home to achieve that goal.

“Technology was always last [in our build process]. Now it’s part of our early design,” Barber said. “It’s allowing us to capitalize on locations where we can hide things in the wall and hide things in the ceiling.”

Dan Ross of Miami-based Responsive Living said approaching technology design upfront eliminates complexity and inoperability between systems and contractors. Additionally, thinking of home technology earlier in the project allows designs to incorporate important elements for home buyers without providing visual disruptions in a space.

“From a design perspective, 10 or 15 years ago manufacturers and technology integrators were pushing to have their products seen in the home,” Ross said. “Fast-forward a decade, and that mentality of having technology front and center in the home has changed. Now, we’re more focused on the design intent of a home and how a home is supposed to look and feel. [We] hide technology to create a space that is accomplishing the exact same thing you would accomplish if you had the technology splattered all over the place.”

Christian said while many high-end technological integrations may be associated with custom projects with specific customers in mind, semi-custom and spec builders can also integrate technology into projects to provide an opportunity for homeowners to incorporate technology in the future as needed. By providing specific infrastructure, such as cabling, wiring, and empty conduits, builders can provide the basics for a technologically integrated home without catering to a specific buyer, providing a spec home with more value beyond its first buyer.