AV & Architects, Part 2: Can a new organization make any difference?

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By Linda Seid Frembes
rAVe Columnist

edit-CHART-0110So I apparently hit on a hot topic when I wrote my December 2009 column about AV & Architects that shared an architect’s view on working with AV. Your feedback was immediate and fantastic. Even so, it wasn’t my intention to do a second part to the story until a press release hit my inbox just before the holidays that caught my attention and gnawed on my brain for a bit.

As a member of rAVe’s editorial team, I receive a constant stream of press releases. Some of them interesting, a few are relevant, but most are destined for the recycle bin.

This press announcement was an FYI about a new organization called The Council of Home Automation and Residential Technology (CHART) formed to bring architects, builders, interior decorators, and what they call home electronics planners (or what we would call home AV installers or custom integrators).

What caught my eye was this quote:
“Most architects, builders and interior designers do not take home electronics under consideration until very late in a project, if at all,” stated Brusa. “This is not due to a lack of professional concern, but rather the absence of clear standards and budgetary guidelines. CHART is a grass roots effort among architects, builders and interior designers to demystify increasingly complex home electronics. We’re not going to use obscure acronyms and protocols – just plain English.”

The premise of CHART is that their web site, which will launch sometime in Jan/Feb 2010, will serve as a central repository for industry guidelines and standards, and its forums will foster interaction between the four industry segments. The founding members are insiders from each segment:  Tom Catalano, principal of Catalano Architects in Boston, MA; John Brusa, president of Image Tech Design in Worcester, MA; Robert Ernst, president of FBN Construction and former chairman of the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Council; and Derrell Parker, Nevada Registered Interior Designer and International President of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA).


When I spoke with Brusa, he told me that their survey data showed that home electronics were considered in design only after the homeowner asked. “Architects and designers felt they didn’t have the tools to incorporate AV into their design,” he said. “We are trying to create the opportunity for architects (and others) to understand that electronics are included from day one, and to create the generic pathways for home electronics planners in the design.”

Brusa stresses that CHART’s ultimate deliverable is a set of guidelines, and that they don’t plan on recommending types of technology or tech manufacturers. CHART also refers to their constituents as “participants” and not members because there are no membership fees to join the group.

Don Lawrence, their media relations guy, explained it to me like this: “We are not spending any money to develop content.”  Instead, they are taking available home AV guidelines and standards, and translating them into jargon-free, CHART branded guidelines for architects, builders, and interior designers.

But any organization doesn’t keep going without costs, so I’m not satisfied by the non-answer about their funding. Brusa says that next phase is partnering with other trade associations for educational opportunities. Development of educational materials, even when using existing content, still has a cost attached to it. It takes time, and time costs money unless someone is working for free. So, again, I wonder who foots the bill for CHART if the members do not?

You can check them out at http://www.TheChart.org or join the LinkedIn group here: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=2508294&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

For now, CHART is focused on home AV but Brusa notes that it would be a logical future step to move into pro AV. The question is: Does home AV need another authority? Does it need another organization trying to assert its authority? Will you join? Why or why not?Write me at linda@ravepubs.com and let me know your thoughts.

Linda Seid Frembes is a rAVe columnist who covers AV technology, installs, market trends and industry news. Linda has worked with high profile AV manufacturers, trade organization, systems integrators, rep firms and dealer/distributors in the industry including John Lyons Systems, Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW), Northern Sound & Light (NSL), and InfoComm International, among others. Reach her at linda@ravepubs.com