Business: Lighting Control in MDUs - A New Opportunity for Custom Installers

By Guy Simmonds, Lutron. Residential towers, or multi-dwelling units (MDUs) are making a significant impact on the skyline in London and in many other major cities around the world. The demand for city-based living in areas that are already densely-packed makes building upwards the logical solution. The developers who are catering to those needs are targeting a range of buyers, as well as competing with each other in a vibrant but well-supplied market. Lighting control is an early consideration in the project for a variety of reasons, not least because it has become the norm, and as such, an expected minimum specification for these new homes. Historically, one of the key reasons for including lighting control was the aesthetic advantages; giving the ability to control the look and feel of a space according to activity or mood. [caption id="attachment_4930" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Lighting control has become an expected minimum specification in modern MDUs.[/caption] The LED Effect The advent and ongoing adoption of LED lighting has brought control to the forefront of project design. LED sources are now used in most lighting schemes as they are efficient, save energy and thus help the project to meet the latest legislation. These LED lamps and fixtures bring a level of sophistication over traditional lamps, offering significant advantages and flexibility, most notable of which is savings on electricity usage - as long as they are correctly controlled! Glass Walls A feature of many MDU buildings is the glass walls that afford the owners spectacular views across the city. That expanse of glass means that incoming light and heat will have a significant effect on the internal environment, and must be correctly managed through motorised shades. The correct shading will help to prevent solar heat gain, shield from glare and allow privacy, but also provide the ability to maximise the amount of natural light that enters at any given time. Effectively 'harvesting' that daylight and balancing it with the artificial light levels from the lamps in the building means that the owner will always have just the right amount of light and be energy efficient. [caption id="attachment_4929" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Glass walls afford spectacular views but require shading to control the effects of incoming light and heat.[/caption] Opportunities for Custom Install Professionals MDU developments provide a great opportunity for custom installers to bring their expertise to bear in securing significant contracts. The project requires the correct system design, project management, installation and commissioning in the same way that any project would - but on a much larger scale. The correct design for the project and integration capabilities are perhaps the most valuable assets the installer brings to the project. Developments are marketed and sold as modern and convenient, making best use of the latest technology from recognised brands. Someone then has to deliver that dream, across multiple units. The experience and skillset required to bring together lighting and shade control, door entry, AV, end-user interfaces, the home network etc, are not found in other trades involved in the project, and are the value-add that the custom installer can offer. The specification often varies across apartment types, with the level of sophistication dictated by the market value of the property. The penthouses on the top floor have the best views, and will include every option as standard. Entry-level apartments will be designed such that the buyer can choose to upgrade their technology once they have moved in. The key is being able to offer an integrated lighting and shade control solution that meets the requirements of the different apartment types. For example, Lutron offers a HomeWorksQS solution for the penthouses and four-bedroom apartments, Grafik RA 2 for the two- and three-bedroom apartments, Grafik Eye QS as a standalone solution in the one-bedroom apartments, and a Quantum system to control and monitor the communal and exterior areas. [caption id="attachment_4931" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Lutron Grafik RA 2 offers RF capabilities, direct LED and shades control, and app control that the developer and agent can also use to promote and show the apartments.[/caption] Conclusion Home control for MDUs requires a different approach to a single family residence, but many of the same skills can be applied. Given the number of MDU projects that have been granted planning permission, and the evolution of technology, there is most certainly a role for the custom installer as a key component of the project team. With MDUs, there is often a mock-up phase early on in order to help the design team make its final decisions, there are myriad stakeholders to interact with through the life of the project, and at the end, there are often upwards of 150 homeowners that could be potential clients. With the right infrastructure in place, each of those homeowners could choose to upgrade their system, perhaps add more shades (if using a battery-powered RF product for example), make system set up changes, add AV elements, or retain services for on-going maintenance - all great opportunities to add new revenue streams to your business! Guy Simmonds is the Sales Director for Lutron, designer and manufacturer of lighting controls and automated window treatments for residential and commercial applications. 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