As news spreads of Ideaworks ‘Rescue Works (stepping in to fix people’s AV/IT and lighting control woes) I have sadly become less surprised by the poor standards of installation that I witness but am increasingly surprised by the frequency with which I encounter the same problems. So much so that I feel compelled to share my experiences. (Consider this a moment of self-counselling via the medium of LinkedIn without which I fear I would start crying into my laptop!)
Last week alone, I was asked to survey three failing installations where either the original contractor is no longer in business or the clients have totally lost faith in their contractor through countless broken promises and their unwillingness to respond to emails, texts or phone calls.
There are a number of consistent themes that run through these projects. Notably it is not the specification of the hardware. I’ve said it before, but the hardware selection has a much smaller bearing on an outcome than the skills, expertise and the processes of design, installation and ongoing support that are required to deliver and maintain a project.
What I have seen with every one of these Rescue Missions is desperately poor cable management, insufficient ventilation and ill-conceived user interface programming.
Some of these installations are pretty dated and limitations of the user interface can be forgiven, considering the capabilities of the technology at the time. But what I find most offensive is the lack of precision, detail or care applied through clear attempts to update or repair systems over the years.
It appears to me that the contractors made their money with the original install and every subsequent visit to site has been a rush job (there is little profit in adding a new Apple TV to a system). Little attention is paid to the need to maintain and support the installation going forward. As these ‘patch-jobs’ multiply, each compounding the lack of care taken with the previous visit, the system quickly becomes an unmanageable failing mess.
What could and should be a simple install to add some additional functionality or improve reliability now ends up with having to strip an entire system back to the bare bones and start again. Costing considerably more money than it would have done if it been carried out properly the first time.
Speaking to the clients about the selection criteria used in appointing the contractor, another consistent theme came to the fore: ‘They were cheaper…’
Other clients have told me that they purchased the house from a developer and therefore had no say in the selection of the AV/IT contractor but felt that they are obliged to use the original contractor to support the installation. Knowing the developer market as we do, it is safe to assume that cost was a factor in their selection of contractors, too!
One such client has been so deeply offended by his experiences that he has lost faith in an entire industry. He is insisting on resorting to numerous remote controls for his AV equipment and wants separate wall controls for lighting, heating, air conditioning and video entry. The aspirations of the architect and interior design teams all destroyed in an instant by one contractor unable to deliver the level of performance or support expected.
The failings of a contractor to deliver installations to the expected standards, therefore, has a much wider impact than you might think. It must be the responsibility of everyone on the Design Team to ensure that the right contractor is selected and that they are selected against the criteria of being able to deliver the project to the desired standard and that they can provide the necessary level of support in years to come.
The frequency with which I see the same errors being made would indicate that the market is not learning from its mistakes. It’s time we all stepped up and recognise the truth behind the lower price tag.
If your system is in need of rescuing, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0203 6689870