How "Smart" Are You?
2017: Your Winning Season
Everybody loves technology. As a society, many seem almost obsessed with it! Doubt me? What’s a bigger deal these days: the roll-out of the new cars each model year, or the latest version of the I-phone? I mean, my gosh… if I don’t get that new thing, what does that say about me? Of course I’ll stand in line overnight just to get the newest model from Apple!
Okay, maybe I’m kidding just a little bit, but you get the idea. Technology is important these days and, like it or not, people seem to expect it, and it had better be the latest and greatest. In fact, the term we often hear to describe it is ‘smart’: smart phone, smart home, smart car, smart building, smart watch, smart tv, You get the idea.
In a world obsessed by smart technology, what’s a hard-working masonry company to do? What…blocks and bricks and rebar and mortar and grout…are you kidding? Pretty plain, not very sexy and not too ‘smart’ sounding!
So…when realtors and property managers are, themselves, obsessed with smart homes and buildings, what is it we have to offer these groups and, of course, promote and grow our businesses along the way? Good question.
Well, as it turns out, we have great answers. In fact, we have very smart answers to these questions of the day. Let me illustrate the point by putting on my architect/engineer hat. (Disclaimer: I only play these in magazine columns, and not in real life!) Here goes.
Let’s say that a developer hires an architect for the design of a new, very smart, office building. This developer wants the building to encompass the latest and greatest in technology…all the better for enticing top companies to sign long-term leases and locate there.
Or, on the residential side, imagine a young family looking for a new home. The younger that demographic, the more likely the family is to insist on smart design.
Despite their best intentions, both the developer and the young family, along with the various architects and engineers, are likely to get this smart business all wrong! Clients will pay loads of money for the highest-tech gadgets of the day, only to find them outmoded in a matter of a few years.
The last house I bought came with upgraded CAT-5 cable to all the rooms, so it would be easy to connect our computers. I think that cost about $2,000 back then. Nobody knew about wi-fi, so that wiring sits unused these days, because we certainly know all about wi-fi now!
Pre-wire for speakers? You bet. Never know when you might want to listen to tunes in any room of the house. $1,500 please! Who knew I would soon be able to pull up 100,000 different songs on my phone? My phone!!!
A built-in cabinet for my big screen TV? Sure. About $3,500 I recall. In fairness, I do use it, although not for my first big screen, a projection TV. That one died a painful death, going very dark, just before the end. I felt so bad about it that I still have its carcass upstairs. Heck if I know why. In its place is a pretty nice high-definition flat screen we still use, but I probably watch just as much video on my laptop, tablet or my phone. My phone? And my phone is even higher def than my flat screen.
Taking up most of the room around the flat screen are four pull-out drawers that used to house video tapes (remember them?) but now are for CDs and DVDs. But these days, I hardly even know what these discs are since we stream most of our content!
While writing this column I happened to think about Disneyland. Really! You know, when their park first opened in Anaheim, in 1955, it featured an attraction known as the ‘House of the Future’. By 1967, just 12 years later, that attraction had closed, the supposed ‘future’ displayed there having become irrelevant.
On TV, many years ago there was a cartoon show, ‘The Jetsons’, about a family living in the future. Everyone driving around in flying bubble cars. Remember it? I’m still looking and hoping for my own personal flying car to get around from jobsite to jobsite.
The fact is that successful technology has to become invisible. Seamless. Smart in that way. By definition, ‘smart’ these days almost means ‘the newest’ thing, and not the best thing. No guarantee that it will be long-lasting. The first I-phone came out in June of 2007, and we are up to version 7 already, and version 8 due out this June. I rest my case.
And so, back to my original premise about the struggle of the mason contractor in the land of smart, high tech, current attractions, and what to do about that. Well, it’s remarkably easy, because too many companies are missing the obvious. So…let me go back to the question confronting the architect needing to design the ultimate smart building or home. And here it is.
To spec out the smartest structure you can think of, knowing all you do about available high technology, if you had to build something that would last and function for 100 years, what would it look like?
Here’s the answer: One hundred years from now, the only thing likely to still be functional is the masonry wall system…if the developer was smart enough to insist upon it.. Probably not the HVAC with its climate control monitored by a smart phone somewhere; probably not the double or triple-pane windows, whose seals have failed at least a couple of times; not even the roof. Just the envelope, which houses everything. Kind of like an oyster case on a Rolex watch…or so I have heard! Looks good…works great.
Hey…I could be wrong about this. After all, I’m just a make-believe architect for the purposes of this article, but we’re probably close to the truth. Simply, design the best envelope you can and stuff into it components which can be changed easily. The masonry will last. The components will need to be changed. It’s smart to know this. It’s even smarter to promote this fact to your potential clients.
You have at your disposal what many consider to be the highest technology material ever used to build a structure. Its history dates thousands of year, yet remains fresh as today. The longest surviving examples of architecture are masonry. Not iron, not steel, certainly not glass or wood. It’s downright futuristic.
Old timey stuff and ideas? No way. Mason contractors are the vanguard of the building industry, bringing the most time-tested and durable of all possible solutions in the majority of cases. You are, in a word, the SMARTEST guys and gals out there!
Just make sure everyone else knows it.
Copyright 2017 Gary Micheloni
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