When Ivan Baran, Todd Neal and Gary Conrad founded Arc Light Entertainment in Baltimore, MD in 1999, they had the best of both worlds: They brought with them solid experience in the commercial systems integration market, and they had clients in the residential field. Drawing on their knowledge--Baran is an electrical engineer, Neal is a project manager and Conrad is a licensed master electrician--the trio believed that their roots in the process-driven world of commercial bid work positioned them perfectly for the residential arena.
"We believed that our engineering skills could be applied to the residential market," Baran explained. "We brought a level of professionalism to the projects that we took on. We figured that a lot of the technology that we were familiar with in the commercial market could be parlayed into the residential market."
At the same time, the partners discovered that the residential field was significantly different from commercial contracting. "There was a lack of clear standards," Baran reflected. "It seemed like it was much more open-book than the commercial market. In our previous work, we did a lot of bid specification projects, and we saw a lot of consultant specifications and drawings. In the residential market, that was almost nonexistent. Most of it was design/build. That wasn't such a big issue, however; the bigger issue was getting a handle on all of the technologies that are available for the home."
Today, Arc Light comprises seven professionals that divide their time between commercial and residential projects. On the commercial side, the company provides systems to the education, religious, entertainment, corporate and cultural markets, boasting clients such as the University of Maryland, the Kennedy Center Opera House and the American Association for Advancement of Science. Offering the integration of performance audio systems, large-format video displays, whole-house audio/video, home theater systems, networking, lighting control and backup power systems, Arc Light services clients through the state of Maryland and the Eastern Shore, in addition to the District of Columbia and northern Virginia.
Presently, Arc Light is focused on generating design/build projects both for the commercial and residential areas of the industry. Baran noted that improvements in technology have made systems integration at the residential level a little easier. "With technology, I would agree with most people that there is much more interest generated around media servers, and they have matured to the point that they are much more workable," he said. "In addition to media servers, in the past, home automation was much more prototypical. It was more of a tweaker's kind of system. It has matured to the point now where we are able to control things that homeowners really want: HVAC, security, pool, spa, lighting, and whole-house audio and video."