Challenge Control: Day In The Life

Beginning life in 1978 as an aerial installation and AV repair business, Challenge Control has evolved impressively over the years to its present position as a fully-fledged installation company with commercial and domestic arms not only supplying technology, but electrical infrastructure as well.

The fruits of the company’s latest achievements can be witnessed on at The Heights Brooklands, in Surrey, a business park home to the likes of Sony and Samsung. Tucked away in a leafy corner is a beautiful example of German building brand Huf Haus. Known for its cutting edge design, sustainable materials, energy efficiency and ‘factory build’ technique where the house is created in the company’s factory before being shipped to site and constructed in a matter of days, Huf Haus is the epitome of modern building, so a natural progression was to add the technology to go with its design, this is where Challenge Control comes in.

Recently coming into the firm after the install business was recommended to him by a friend who was working for Challenge, Aydin James, technical sales, explains that the relationship with Huf Haus goes back a long way: “Our very first job with the company was actually 12 years ago, just a simple aerial installation job. However, it was the start of a really positive relationship which has developed to where we are today. We are delighted to be the company’s official technology partner and have a presence at this brilliant site.”

Aydin also explains that Huf Haus is not the company’s only high profile partner, as there are also relationships with the likes of developers Millgate Homes.

Aydin’s role is to meet with the end user and take them through the journey: “We take the client right through the whole process from establishing exactly what their needs will be, so we can plan the backbone and cabling of a system as well as adding the more exciting AV and control aspects of the project as we go along. The real pleasure for us as a company is in creating systems that really deliver something that makes the client happy and building those relationships so we create repeat business and recommendations.

“Obviously you have to have your quoting procedures and present yourself is a very professional way to win business, but as often as not it’s the trust we build with the clients old and new that helps us the most. We have won projects were our quote has actually been a bit higher than other companies, but our track records and ability to deliver has won the day.”

Offering a full range of services, as well as the sales and admin arms, the company can call on 10 AV engineers, 10 electrical specialists and three security focused installers to provide everything the company’s client group could want.

In terms of the exciting new relationship with Huf Haus, the company met with George Huf in March of this year and decided a more formal partnership would be mutually beneficial with the company creating a new showroom on the Brooklands site and wanting a technology partner.

Afra Bindewald, from Huf Haus, manager of the showroom, explains: “Our homes were already known for being very energy efficient and so adding technology to make this even more the case was natural. “Our clients and the market is asking desperately for the new technologies and AV experiences, so we decided we needed a partner for this new demonstration home and were happy to bring Challenge on board due to the existing relationship.”

Aydin explains: “The relationship works really well as if the client wants to add technology to their Huf Haus we get involved right from the earliest planning stages, vital for the way that the houses are created, but also great for the client and us as there are less surprises along the way and we can deliver real integration. Obviously having this facility is also really positive as customers can come here and see the AV and Crestron control system we have here and the decision making process becomes much easier for them.

“The level of knowledge of the Huf Huas customer varies a lot, some are really up on their tech and have already researched what they would like, others are more cautious, but again to have this facility makes it much easier to show how the tech will add to their home and complement it and not feel l like an un-welcome add on.”

The Huf Haus construction approach, with all of its clean lines and glass, means the products used obviously have to be carefully chosen to match. In terms of speakers, the company is a big fan of Artcoustic for its aesthetic abilities and quality sound, the products can either make a statement in obvious view or melt into the background being coloured in the same hue as the internal construction beams. It’s a really nice fit, you could be forgiven for thinking the house and the speakers were made by the same company. Control4 and Crestron (when the client wants to really go into detail) are the automation platforms the company prefers and all of the automation sits on top of a KNX systems which comes as standard on Huf Haus homes controlling the basic utilities.

Aydin explains that Bang & Olufsen is another favourite brand, as it tends to be popular with the Huf Haus client group, but again has an aesthetic in line with the rest of the property. Other popular brands include Autonomics for music delivery and Samsung TVs.

The company does get involved in home cinema too, again Artcoustic being an important partner in that sphere. With all the light that cascades into a Huf Haus this of course can cause problems for a dedicated cinemas room, so if available, the company tends to place those in a basement room, away from its work with the Huf Haus of course the options are wider. Kaleidescape situated in a rack is also popular with Huf Haus customers as the open plan clean line construction means obvious AV kit on show is mostly not what is required.

Getting started

Aydin explains: “The way the Huf Haus design process works, with the design laid down right at the start and the house being constructed in the factory and then shipped to the site, is really positive for us as an install company. It streamlines the process and removes some of the headaches that come up if a client sees the home being constructed in the normal way. In the conventional method, clients can get a bit lost in the detail and start to change their minds as the building comes together. However, as long as all the planning is done right at the start, and we make sure it is, the whole process offers less headaches all round from start to finish.

“The houses arrive on site and can be put up literally in a matter of a few days. The fit out depends obviously on exactly what is going into the home, but three to four months is about normal.”

Aydin adds: “Also, the modular way the houses are put together means we know very accurately when we need to be on site and what exactly we will be doing, this allows the install process to be very efficient and accurate, with no wasted trips to site, which of course can happen with conventional builds”

So what is the company up to right now?

Aydin enthuses: “We have a really nice job just coming to hand over in Richmond, it’s the first Huf Haus project I have been involved in right from the start and it’s a been a real pleasure to see it all come together. It is in a great setting and this client has really gone to town including loads of tech. The client came to the project already knowing what he wanted, but we were able to further open his eyes and add elements he was not aware of, so it’s been a great experience to see the process through from start to finish.

With the UK being Huf Haus’ biggest market for AV and automation, the relationship looks set to flourish and why not, these houses might well be the perfect pallet for an AV and automation company to paint a picture of what it can offer.