This guide provides a full review on the tips and considerations to make when procuring a Home Automation Contractor. The guide broken down into sections: Tender Analysis, Value Engineering, Programming.
The Tender Analysis
When you receive Subcontract tender documents, invariably they’ve got differences and it’s important to make sure you’re comparing Apples with Apples.
Look out for these important cross-checks to make sure you’re comparing like-for-like proposals.
Check for standard finishes supplied. Like anything, the systems finish is important - check that your required finishes are included is important e.g. are you getting the recessed or metal faceplates requested in the tender?
2. First and Second Fix
It’s important to insure the correct amount of time has been allowed to develop, design and program your system. Reduced labour rates can leave you with systems you cannot customise or support.
It’s also important to find out what each company is expecting other trades to do. E.g. will all tenderers carry out their own second fix?
3. Racking and Cabling
This is often overlooked area as this is behind the scenes but having the correct cables and racking hardware not only for the install today, but for future maintenance is essential. Making sure that this is the same across all bids is a must.
Ensuring that zones you would like separate haven’t been combined. Combining audio zones in open plan spaces is a good way to save costs but linking unconnected rooms leaves you with limited fixability on your system (e.g. are you always going to want those Lighting circuits on together or those rooms linked for audio?).
5. Lighting control
While most lighting control products control the lighting levels in a given room or circuit, the level of that integration can differ greatly as well as the levels of control you have. It’s important to ensure that the lighting control panels have been sized correctly for the system, for example - do you have the correct number of circuits on each tender and do they have the same levels of electrical breakers and constituent parts?
In the AV industry there is a great deal of variance on product costs and performance. A speaker is a speaker, right? No that’s not the case, cheaper speakers will still produce sound, but the quality and performance will be reduced. The same applies to many of the products in the AV space and these can offer varying levels of performance and longevity.
This next section identifies six simple, intelligent solutions to Value Engineer an Audio Visual, Automation and Data package…
1. Vesting materials Off-Site
It may not sound like Value Engineering but off-site vesting a) reduces the chance of damage on site; b) reduces the chance of delays on site if materials are missing during your installation, when in a factory they can be found instantly; and, c.) reduces on-site commissioning periods as the units are pre-tested and simply installed on site.
2. Off-Site Focus
Manufacturing and testing off-site reduces site durations. Well-considered sequencing and off-site manufacture will save you time and therefore, money. Preliminaries are incredibly expensive and so are damages for delays – we can reduce site durations significantly with this approach.
Looking at the level of finish for the systems can have a great impact on cost. Do the touch screens or lighting keypads need to be in a metal finish or will a standard plastic do – consider this as an option for value engineering.
4. Lighting Control
Do all zones in the property need to form part of the lighting control system, or can rooms such as the utility room be excluded to save money?
Maybe there is a utility room or secondary bedroom that will be seldom used that you wouldn’t miss whole home lighting control in. Assuming these rooms and the number of circuits that are in them add up, then you can make some savings while still keeping the lighting control system you want in key areas.
Are there any zones that can be pre-wired? Getting the correct cable to the correct locations is very important, but do think if there are zones, systems or devices that could be added at a later date and pre-wired during the initial works.
6. A Defined Brief
Make sure to be clear with your brief and ask your chosen specifier if there are any areas that could be reduced in specification without impacting performance too much. Be honest about areas that are of less importance to you.
Audio Visual, Automation and Data is a package of works that often falls on the critical path of the project and just before Practical Completion.
Too often however, little attention is paid to them to the detriment of the project - don’t make this mistake and follow these six tips for a snag free handover:
1. Focus Off-Site
Manufacture and test materials off site where possible. If you allow the subcontractor to programme, test and semi-commission the equipment off-site in a controlled environment, you improve the quality of the installation.
Design Coordination with the Electrical Contractor. Electricians are almost always on site prior to us and they run cabling on our behalf. What we do is colour code wiring to match drawings and reduce errors - arranging coordination meetings at design stage means everyone understands the process early.
3. Spot Checking
This sounds simple but once you’ve implemented colour code wiring, it’s important that spot-checking of the Electricians work prior to the AV and Automation Contractor being on site is paramount. Paying a Prelim of maybe 1 day per week to spot-check the Electricians work will save time and money during installation.
Agree engraving for lighting keypads and base programming for both the AV and lighting system as early as possible this will allow the integrator to build this into the base build of the system and mean at handover the system is easier to use as it will already be customised to your needs.
5. Design Approval
Ensuring the specification doesn’t change once agreed, or once key milestones are passed is vital. If changes need to be made communicate them as quickly as possible.
6. AV and Controls
The AV and control elements of the job tend to be delivered at the end of the project. It is imperative that this time is not squeezed to ensure systems are delivered correctly to prevent post-PC problems.
This content was created in Collaboration with KNEKTD, a leading Specialist in Audio Visual, Automation and Data.
Knektd Ltd specialises in bespoke audio visual, home automation and entertainment solutions for prime and super prime residential properties in London. Our clients include private individuals, interior designers, architects, well respected building contractors and property developers.
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