Chapter Corner

Creating Contractor Opportunities with Smart Building Technology

Posted in: Features, January/February 2018

A smart lighting control solution helps decrease lighting energy use, meet building code, and enhance comfort and productivity to add value for both owners and tenants. This is essential for creating the right environment and optimizing performance in any building.
For contractors, delivering a smart lighting control solution in a changing market can be both challenging and rewarding, especially since electrical contractors are increasingly asked to do more with less.
A shrinking labor market combined with a demand for highly skilled labor makes it harder to hire qualified workers at a time when customers are looking for greater functionality and more robust integration. In addition, demanding time frames mean that job details are often vague or incomplete, and can change frequently throughout the project process. And, finally, electrical codes vary widely from state-to-state, adding to the challenge of selecting and installing code-compliant lighting control solutions.
Smart lighting control systems can simplify both design and installation, make it easier to respond to customer changes without adding cost, and help contractors hit project estimates while minimizing callbacks that reduce profits. This is especially important in lighting retrofits, where the customer is looking to take advantage of smart building systems and the Internet of Things (IoT), but older buildings are not designed to accommodate advanced technologies.
Choosing the right lighting control solution is the key to success. The labor market is changing, but the lighting industry itself is very different than it was a decade ago. Energy-efficient LEDs are becoming the predominant light source in commercial buildings, and energy savings is just one aspect of building performance. A well-chosen solution also enables superior lighting performance, code compliance, better space utilization, and delivers the right lighting environment for the people in the space.
Lighting control manufacturers can help by providing products and tools that facilitate better system design, offer solutions that are easier and faster to install, and provide intuitive software that can adapt over time to improve space utilization.
Wireless Solutions Expand Installation Opportunities
Wireless solutions offer simple, flexible, and scalable options that expand opportunities, especially in retrofit situations where wireless allows you to deliver projects with virtually no disruption to the existing space.
With simple, wireless components, projects install up to 70% faster than a typical wired job, allowing contractors to do more jobs, in less time, with their existing work force, as well as submit competitive bids and still maximize profits. Flexible control systems make it easy to essentially mix and match components to deliver the right solution in each space. Start with these basic components to provide essential system control for virtually any project:
  • Load controls – a flexible system lets you choose from wall controls or ceiling mounted power packs that communicate wirelessly to control points. You don’t have to run wires from the load controls to each dimmer, switch, or sensor.

  • Wireless sensors and remotes – Provide control wherever your customers need it. With battery powered wireless remotes, you can mount controls on any surface – glass, wallboard, or plaster – with no back box, and you can provide free-standing control on tables, podiums, or workstations.
  • Adding a wireless hub can take these simple components and scale up to deliver smart, centralized lighting control solutions. For larger spaces, systems can easily scale with the installation of multiple hubs, creating a lighting network that can be easily managed from a smart device or laptop.
Wireless hubs and simple software enable advanced functionality, such as timeclock integration and energy reporting, accessible on any smart device. With builtin, step-by-step instructions, systems such as Lutron’s Vive solution are designed with contractors in mind. With virtually no training or previous experience with the software, contractors and engineers can easily design and implement fully integrated lighting control solutions.
Hit Original Estimates and Accommodate Customer Changes

Many contractors are seeing project specifications with fewer details up front, but the customer still requires quick, accurate project estimates. This is another clear advantage of wireless control solutions. With a wired solution, if a customer adds points of control or changes control locations, labor costs go up – sometimes significantly.
This is another advantage of a smart, wireless solution. If the customer requests an additional control location there is no need to drag out the ladder, cut a new hole, and rush to clean up. Wireless control typically takes less than 15 minutes to mount on the wall and setup with push-button association or by using the simple software on a smart device. There is no need to cut new wall boxes or pull additional wires.
As building or tenant needs change or expand, smart, wireless solutions make it easy to scale up quickly, providing the same functionality the customer has come to expect. And, softwarebased solutions make system updates seamless, future proofing the lighting control system for years to come, and helping to create customers for life. 
Design Tools and Manufacturer Support

If all this seems like uncharted territory, then work with manufacturers who simplify the process. Online design tools, installation videos, code compliance guides, and typical room layouts reduce design time and improve accuracy. Work with smart control solutions that can meet the customers’ needs today, but are also built to grow and expand as time and budgets allow. For example, a Lutron Vive wireless solution allows you to install control in a single room and scale up over time using the same basic building block components to
meet a wide range of specifications.
A wireless system is generally much simpler to set up than a wired solution, but here, too, the manufacturer can make the difference. A responsible provider understands that projects aren’t always completed between 9am to 5pm. Many organizations want electrical and renovation work to be complete when offices are closed to ensure minimum impact on productivity. When you are selecting a control solution, consider manufacturer support, ask about factory technicians ready to help 24/7, and choose a provider committed to helping contractors get the job done with the least impact on the customer.
Wireless control solutions can go a long way towards maximizing the performance of a building, enhancing the building owner’s investment, and building the contractor’s opportunities. Customers are looking for lighting control solutions that enhance value, save energy, and increase occupant comfort – smart solutions for smart buildings can do all three.
Brian Donlon is the Vice President of Sales for Lutron Electric.