Going for the Gold with Light Management
Jason Moore, Vice President, Moore Electrical Contractors, Jacksonville, Fla.: I have quite a few projects driven by shades—and at least one large project a year—that I get primarily through interior designers and architects. The conversation often starts with shades and then grows into whole-home automation or expands to include the audio/video portion of the project.
In oceanfront or riverfront projects, you need to address shading, because of the amount of natural light that needs to be controlled. It starts at that point with the architect, and we design pockets to conceal shades. Out of that, it quickly snowballs to a lighting control system that ties it all together. Sometimes, I end up with only a piece of the pie, but sometimes it grows into lighting control and sometimes, the whole-home automation and audio/video package.
That side of our business is probably one of our most profitable categories. Shading and lighting control are much more common than drapery.
TI: How does emphasizing these project
elements help deepen your relationships with
interior designers and architects, and your
relationships with clients?
Lotto: Clients and designers view us more and more as one of their own, and not just AV guys. Our goals are very similar to theirs: create an environment that amazes and sets a mood. We create more impressive projects when we integrate with each other. The client recognizes the importance of this, and gets a better product in the end.
Moore: With lighting control and shades, the interior designers and architects I work with are on board with it, because they know that doing it from the beginning is the best way to not compromise the aesthetics. If we’re pocket-mounting shades, they can keep all nice, clean lines, they don’t have to put top treatments over windows, and they don’t have banks of switches. It’s a plus for them.
I’ve got one architect in town who’ll spec every oceanfront project with shades, and they’ll call me to tell me they’re putting the project out to bid, and that it’s going to three builders—because they want me to bid on the job. They clue me in. And I’ve got an interior designer that treats me the same way; she’ll bring me in on a project where all I’ll do is shading, and it’ll sometimes end up being an $80,000 shade job.
I focus on designers and architects, because it’s easier to get their ear on this kind of thing than it is to get a general contractor’s ear. Even if the architect gets me into the job for shades, general contractors see it as a difficulty they have to deal with. Particularly when you’re talking about a totally concealed pocket system, where it’s all built into the head, getting the details so they can construct the pocket to house the shade is their problem.
Feulner: By emphasizing shading control systems with architects and designers, the dealer is showing breadth of capabilities and expertise with all subsystems. Since not all dealers offer shading solutions, you can position your company above the competition by offering these desirable products.
TI: Which types of lighting/shading/drapery control products are favorites of yours in these
categories, and why?
Moore: I use Lutron; their shading is natural lighting control. I try to stick with them unless I have a client who has something else existing or has something that’s a little outside the box which Lutron may not provide—which is minimal. What I like about Lutron is it’s a profitable line, it’s got a great warranty, and the consistency between the systems as far as marrying up the lighting control with the shading—it’s all one cohesive setup. The line is really broad and is constantly being innovated; they had three new product categories at the recent CEDIA Expo in their shading line.
Feulner: Most of our shading control systems match the lighting control system being installed.
Lotto: They are the most simple and quiet. Motorized drapes certainly are great to offer in certain situations, such as over a French door.
We tested and began specifying Crestron shades six months ago, and have been happy with the results. They came out swinging with shades that met or exceeded the existing offerings, and they continue to innovate in many ways. However, Lutron still has a lot of styles that Crestron doesn’t yet, and they have some very nice battery-operated types.
We have simple design philosophies that we maintain and try to follow. However, every project has odd situations and outliers. We prefer to utilize wired low-voltage keypads in areas where multiple scenes are required, or more individual control is of benefit. We have been very successful with wireless dimmers and switches for local load control. This keeps the lines of responsibility between us and the electrician very clear. Both Lutron and Crestron have very nice lighting control offerings that are very similar, and we specify either, depending on the client.
TI: What trends are emerging for these categories—and how have the trends changed
since last year?
Lotto: Many lighting control and window covering companies are expanding their lines to include occupancy sensors and wireless devices. This allows us to make more sales on the basis of energy savings and being able to stretch the system into areas of the building where pulling wire is cost-prohibitive, or impossible. Motorized shading products are getting quieter and more flexible. Using efficient motors allows them to be powered via DC voltage, which makes for more consistent wiring, saves on copper and power supplies, and allows for battery-operated shades. They can now be installed where wire can’t be pulled. They can also be mounted on swinging doors.
Feulner: The shading industry is mature, and thus any emerging trends are typically iterative improvements. We are seeing new options in lower-priced and battery-operated products in the past year, though.
Moore: In our market, I see a lot more contemporary architecture. The floor-to-ceiling glass lends itself to shading very easily, for privacy and light control. The more contemporary design I see, the more shading business I see.
Another trend is true wireless controlled through a wireless lighting control, such as
RadioRA 2, where you can drop wireless shades and battery shades right into that system and
easily retrofit everything.
Trends are moving along just as they did
last year. With Lutron, we saw the introduction
of the roller battery in 2013, which filled a hole
in their line.
TI: Are you doing more single-zone jobs or multi-zone jobs involving shading/drapery/lighting? What strategies do you use to morph single-zone jobs in to multi-zone jobs?
Feulner: Most shading control projects include multiple windows in multiple rooms being
integrated into the installed control system in the home. Usual exceptions to this are when a standalone home theater is being installed, and we need to control the light from windows in the room. It is rare for us to be approached for a shading system that does not include multiple rooms, but when we are, we try to convince the client to allow us to wire to additional windows in the home so they can be easily added to all windows at a later date. This is standard procedure for us.
Moore: I can’t even think when the last single-zone job I did was. They usually end up being everything on the east side of the house.
Business in those categories is already on track for 2014 to be as good as it was in 2013, and better. And it could be 15 to 30 percent up in 2014.
Lotto: We very rarely do single-zone lighting jobs. It’s almost always the entire home.
Shading is typically done in a couple areas of the home, such as the master bedroom or the theater. We’ve only had a couple opportunities to put motorized shades throughout the home. Having the homeowner agree to prewire more areas of the home leaves future sales opportunities.
Once a client has been sold on motorized shading for one area of the home, it’s typically not too difficult to help them realize the benefits for another area or two of the home, or at least prewire for it. •