2006 was the last time construction was booming, banks were lending and low voltage wiring was of any concern. In 2006 the cloud existed in very few lives. The trendiest mobile phone of the year was the Sony Ericsson Z610i, the LG Chocolate was the most innovative phone and the biggest improvements to mobile phones were based on cameras and GPS. During the nine years since the last real estate boom technology has done anything except slow down, and as technology continues to progress the need to outfit buildings for data is drastically changing. The need for a high speed network has also increased due to the size of the data being brought into buildings through music and video streaming services, as well as the changes to telephone services. Because of these changes contractors need to understand how the specifications they require will drastically affect the end user of the building.
The greatest changes in residential construction have come in the form of streaming entertainment services (like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora), wireless audio systems (such as Sonos) and home security systems that stream live feeds to the owner’s smartphone. All of the data that makes these innovations work is run on the network that is built into the house. In addition to increased bandwidth considerations is the fact every homeowner wants it to all be wireless; which means they will have a wireless data network built on top of the low voltage. The low voltage wiring that is installed will dictate whether these services function properly, and more importantly to the home owner is whether these will even be possible.
The biggest changes in commercial construction have come in the form of hosted phone systems and cloud based IT infrastructure that can be used to run entire IT departments. Both of these place increased demand on the network that is operating in the building, and can have a significant impact on the building owner’s ability to lease and sublet space. For instance, tenants may share a space where their phone system rolls over so it can be answered by one person, but these businesses do not want any of their computers or printers on each other’s network. If there are not multiple data jacks at the individual workstations the computers cannot be separated to different networks without going completely wireless. This renders the space functionally obsolete for a building owner or landlord until the data network is rebuilt, which is far more difficult and expensive after the construction is completed.
As construction begins to grow again in the commercial and residential sectors it is important to recognize the changes in data that have taken place since 2006, and educate yourself about the components that are required to properly run a network in 2015. It is also an opportunity to create a new revenue stream for contractors where they can work with vendors to put together security, home entertainment or data packages that can be sold to the building owner. The approaches may be different, but making sure the low voltage vendor understands more than just pulling wires is important to the quality of the finished product and the ultimate happiness of the customer.