Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New Form Factors Mean Rethinking Unit Design

Many TVs today are only 3-4 inches thick, and entertainment centers are being redesigned to be far less conspicuous in the home.

So here's the question... are you considering electronics trends like this when you lay out units for a new building?

In most new construction, space is at a premium. Material costs aren't going down. Together, that means that every inch you can get back without sacrificing rent dollars means considerable savings.

So, if you could make each living room 8 inches narrower, how much could that save you in labor and materials? Multiply that savings across 100, 200, 500 units... you're talking about putting real dollars back in your pocket. Many apartment living rooms today are still designed for the old tube TVs, but a walk through Best Buy will tell you that's not what consumers are in the market for. As flat TVs become more prevalent, that extra space simply isn't necessary any longer.

Following consumer trends like this is a great way to gauge how you should consider designing your units. Coordinate your architect and your low voltage engineer to make sure that changes are being made thoughtfully... If you're planning for flat-panels, make sure the living room wall is reinforced to support mounting. Consider including additional video and power outlets at eye level. Think about what other connections the typical couch potato or sports buff will need to make to get their home theater up to par.

If you really want to sell your renters on technology, include it in the rent. This morning, I could pick up a 42" flat-panel TV on for under $850. In-wall surround speakers can be wired and installed for a couple hundred bucks per unit. Are the potential savings during construction enough to offset these costs? Depending on where you're building... quite possibly.

These are just a couple ideas, and they certainly won't apply to every project. So let me ask you this... How else has technology affected the way you design a community?

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