Buckeye Builder-Integrator Team Boosts Profits through Tech

Buckeye Builder-Integrator Team Boosts Profits through Tech

When homebuyers near Cleveland, Ohio meet custom builder Fred Zumpano and A/V integrator Dan Gawne, they come away with a strong impression:

These guys know their business inside and out.

The two professionals have been working together for nearly 20 years, and their collaboration shows no signs of slowing down.

What makes their partnership so successful?

A Zumpano custom home.
A Zumpano custom home.

Zumpano, owner of Zumpano Design & Construction in Akron, says it comes down to three things:

“I found in Dan and his company, A/V Environments, a capable integrator who is tuned in to the latest industry trends in home automation, home theater and sound systems. These trends need to be attuned to how they serve and enhance the homeowner’s entertainment experience, not merely pushing the boundaries for their own sake.

“Next, I bring Dan on board during the design process. It’s much easier and less costly to move HVAC ducts or integrate lighting from a plan on paper than in real time in the field.

“Finally, we need a client willing to define their interests and wishes. If the client will talk about their dreams and desires, the design professionals can craft a solution that will fit seamlessly into their lifestyle.”

Like Zumpano, Gawne stresses the importance of close collaboration. “The more closely we work with the builder and their trades—especially the interior designer, who often has the vision of a space—the better the chances of a completely uninterrupted and cohesive product.”

Controlled lighting in a family room.
Controlled lighting in a family room.

Lighting control, Gawne says, can help make that vision a reality. “With scene lighting, the room will look exactly as the designer wants, and you can change it within seconds. Brightness and color, lighting one bulb at a time or all at once, occupancy sensors, motorized shades—these are key factors not only for aesthetics, but also for energy efficiency and better heating and cooling.”

Proper planning is also essential. “We take into account what the homeowner is going to need in the future, and that means talking about possibilities with the designer, builder, electrician and client. Planning ahead saves clients a lot of time and money,” says Gawne.

“Ideally, if we do our job correctly—in the order we like to do it—we’ll come in right after the electrician so that he or she doesn’t have to work around us. We can avoid his wiring needing to go in a certain place. It’s the most efficient way to get it done. After the walls go up it can be very difficult to fix things.”

Related Article: Inside View: An “Elite” Builder-Integrator Relationship

The Result of Synergy and What’s Ahead for the Team

Dedicated home theater.
Dedicated home theater.

Zumpano and Gawne recently finished a dedicated theater in a client’s basement, themed as a “Doctor Who” space, and worked closely with the client and an interior designer. “This is a very personal theater for that client, and we were involved in everything about the room design. We also installed a music system in more than a dozen different areas of the house,” says Gawne.

In addition to A/V and electronics, Zumpano’s company is moving towards a standard for products for which they most commonly receive requests: controllable LED lighting, Nest thermostats and interior and exterior security cameras.

“Nobody needs what we do. They want it, but it’s definitely a luxury item,” says Gawne. “Many times builders don’t use our products, and they see it as unnecessary expense taking away from the budget for finishes or furnishings. It isn’t brought up unless the client brings it up.

“Fred wants to build the kind of house the customer wants to live in, and clients love him when he’s done, no matter how stressful the process of getting there might be.” 

About The Author

Steve Withrow, editor-in-chief of TecHome Contractor and TecHomeX, is a writer and award-winning author with 15 years of experience in science, medicine, technology and the arts. He joined the AE Ventures team in January 2015. He studied writing, literature and publishing at Roger Williams University and Emerson College. He has spoken to audiences around the world about comics, animation, poetry and children’s literature.

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