One of the National Systems Contractors Association's (NSCA) strategic goals has been to encourage the outreach to, and collaboration with, the nation's architectural and engineering community. To help create an interactive forum for this collaboration, NSCA launched its A/E Toolkit website (www.nsca.org/aetoolkit) in 2005. Since then, the site has been continually updated and additional content is added monthly. The site is designed for members of NSCA, and, by extension, all of the low-voltage integrators, consultants, manufacturers and reps that work in the private, commercial and/or public, institutional markets, who will benefit if they have a better understanding of how to work successfully with architects and engineers.
An extension of some of NSCA's pioneering work in the creation of communication and technology sections for the Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) MasterFormat '04 update of industry-standard specification format, the A/E Toolkit site provides hundreds of downloadable PDF files summarizing best practices in marketing and business development, design guidelines and specification and engineering documentation.
This online resource offers relationship-building tools in four categories: marketing and business development, needs analysis and design guidelines, engineering specifications and documents, and continuing education. Designed by a team of industry experts, the A/E Toolkit site strives to connect the people, rather than the systems, of the industry by providing detailed information on business practices, project cycles and hot issues specific to each industry group.
Paul Chavez of the Harman Pro Group, and member of the A/E Toolkit design taskforce, commented, "As communications technology becomes increasingly woven into our environments, the NSCA A/E Toolkit can help to fill the gap between our high-tech systems integration world and the more traditional architectural design community."
"The key to building ongoing business is relationships," said Randy Vaughan, president of NSCA. "The A/E Toolkit website provides a unifying resource that offers people a medium to participate in online dialogues, brainstorm possible solutions and collectively understand how to work more effectively with other industry groups to ultimately increase their personal success and the advancement of the industry."
The A/E Toolkit is structured by the audience, with unique content specifically targeted at the association's different membership categories (integrators, consultants, manufacturers, and independent reps), as well as a section designed to help architects and engineers learn more about the low-voltage technology industry.
"One of our main goals is to make this information more accessible and user-friendly to industry professionals," commented Chuck Wilson, executive director of NSCA.
A unique aspect of the new A/E Toolkit website is the "A/E Forums," online discussion platforms that allow members to post questions, solutions, experiences and teaming opportunities. This open dialogue component is intended to help build a collaborative community between NSCA members and A/E professionals.
Daniel Benjamin, AIA, LEED AP, architect and studio director for Detroit-based Harley Ellis Devereaux's Civic/Cultural practice, noted, "We are always looking for a competitive edge. That can come in the form of pre-project information on some new aspect of technology or systems that will benefit the client, or during the design/documentation to solve a particular design challenge. The A/E Toolkit provides a simple resource for our project managers to find input at the level of detail they need."
For system integrators the site provides a plethora of information on marketing and business development practices, MasterFormat specification information and new developments in continuing education programs integrators can offer architects and engineers. For design consultants, the site provides insight in the preparation of effective design guidelines and engineering specification sections in the new MasterFormat '04 format for Division 25-Integrated Automation, Division 27-Communications, and Division 28-Electronic Safety and Security.