Pardee Homes. Photo by Eric Figge Photography, Inc.
One in five Americans, or about 30 million people, work from home. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, that number is expected to increase by 69 percent in the next five years. This is a great opportunity for homebuilders.
Even more people work some of the time at home, or need a place to work on nights and weekends. As Mel Brooks’ character, Gov. William J. Le Petomane, expressed so eloquently in Blazing Saddles: “Work, work, work, work, work.”
“Technology advances quickly, so we’re always evaluating new features for Pardee Homes, but a solid foundation for any office starts with a comfortable and productive space,” said Matt Sauls, regional marketing director for Pardee Homes.
“Equip the room with overhead and task lighting, as well as an ergonomic desk chair and work surface. Wireless connectivity provides access throughout the home and supports multiple devices. Conveniences like a USB charging station, mini fridge and sound system are simple additions.”
If someone works from home, chances are they are going to surf the Internet and stream videos. That’s in between the constant bandwidth needs for teleconferences, Skype calls and cloud-based activity. It would be wise, then, to have wired Ethernet.
Wireless networks are not as fast as wired networks, they’re susceptible to inference and slowdowns as different people throughout the house or area hop on the network, and they may not have the capacity to stream high-definition video formats and advanced resolutions like 4K (Ultra HD) that are becoming available.
“Hard wire is always better so you don’t drop connections,” says Tim Boyd of Save Electronics. “You can have wireless access points or an extender, though.”
Robust Wireless with Access Point
In order to go wireless, you are going to need a solid structured wiring backbone. Builders should consider moving beyond the now standard Wireless-N devices (802.11n Wi-Fi standard) to the new “ac” standard recently ratified and certified, with products just starting to roll out. Wireless AC is faster than Wireless-N, and operates on the less-crowded 5 Ghz range, instead of the now overcrowded 2.4 GHz range. What that means is less interference and better performance, at least for now.
Joshua Roberson, national builder sales manager of NuVo and On-Q Electrical Wiring Systems for Legrand North America, highly recommends commercial-grade routers and switches, as most off-the-shelf routers often can’t support the number of wireless devices streaming video and other services from the Internet. Legrand recommends wireless access points (WAPs) that act as signal repeaters to be placed out of sight in attics, while still providing a reliable whole-house wireless signal. Legrand also makes desktop wireless access points. Pakedge and Luxul have various commercial-grade offerings as well.
Strong Cellular and Broadband Connections
How many homebuyers check the cell signal as soon as they walk into the home? Make sure your community has adequate cellular coverage like 4G LTE and watch for gigabit-per-second speeds. Without good cell coverage homes may need cellular boosters like those from Wilson Electronics that can be mounted in closets and attics with an inconspicuous antenna outside. For high-speed broadband Internet service, don't settle for the cable company’s tired hybrid fiber/copper (last mile copper) that is quickly becoming antiquated. Aim for fiber to the curb (FTTC) or fiber to the home (FTTH or FTTP for “premise”). Savvy tech buyers will look to future-proof for their ever-exploding bandwidth and speed needs.
Incandescent lighting is being phased out to make room for more efficient and long-lasting LEDs. They cast good light, especially in study spaces, and cost less to operate. Be sure to go with at least 800 lumens, the equivalent of 60 watt bulbs, which will provide enough lighting to work in. If builders want the lights to be controlled by dimmers, they must check the product for compatibility so it won’t flicker or hum while owners are trying to work. Since LEDs are considered electronics, they can utilize Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology. This means they can be powered and controlled by networked devices through an Ethernet cable.
Another thing Boyd says must be included in the office is some sort of built-in speaker system. How else are you going to pass the time without getting bored? Home control company Control4’s Wireless Music Bridge enables homeowners to instantly and wirelessly connect smartphones, tablets, computers and all the music stored on those devices to a Control4 system, allowing everyone in the house to enjoy their personal music collections through the home’s audio system. They can also choose to turn on the music in every room but the office or play something different with zone controls. The $300 Wireless Music Bridge is available with Control4 home control systems.
Small spaces like home offices can get stuffy. The best way around this is to install zoned HVAC. ZoneFirst’s Plug and Play Control Panels and dampers allow HVAC systems to be zoned so areas of a house can be heated or cooled upon need, saving energy and money. Control Panels, installed near HVAC units, and can service up to three zones for single-stage, two- or three-stage systems. Up to 103 zones can be controlled, and ZoneFirst says the systems are compatible with any forced-air heating and cooling systems. Remember, you’ll need a thermostat in each zone, wired or wireless. The approximate cost range per zone is less than $300 for a builder.
Whole-house Surge Suppression
It’s not as complicated as the words above look. Whole-house surge protective devices (SPDs) are typically wired to the electric service box and located nearby to protect all the appliances and electrical systems in a home. They are typically a $200 to $500 add-on. Companies like Eaton, Leviton and Schneider Electric offer these helpful add-ons that more than pay for their investment. And they’ll help protect all those valuable computers, devices and other home office techno-gadgets.
Surge Protected Outlets
Not only should a house be protected from in-coming electrical surges, motors and appliances can cause surges inside a house, so surge protection should be “layered” or cascaded as the whole-house level and point of use. Rather than have homeowners use unsightly and clunky surge strips, offer surge-protected outlets as an upgrade option. Many are also tamper proof, and look for an LED light indicator to let you know when surge protection is depleted. Some even come with audible alerts for use behind furnishings and flat-panel TVs. We’d like to see in-wall smart surge protection that shuts off devices automatically.
USB Charging Outlets
We love the convenience of in-wall USB chargers, in groups for four for mega-charging or with dual ports in combination with electrical outlets. If you value your mobile electronics, however, be sure to use these with whole-house surge protection, because there isn't enough space to build surge protection into these units. They won't be useful if your devices fail. Almost every electrical company sells these, such as Legrand, Eaton and Leviton.