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architect's pet peeve no. 15 – dinosaur electricians

When was the last time you used a phone that didn't need an electrical outlet? It is not uncommon on older homes to find phone jacks seemingly miles away from electrical outlets, but in new construction this is inexcusable. Electricians, often the prima donas of the trades, pride themselves in not just being some dumb gorillas lifting bricks.  They are highly educated and experienced professionals handling critical and potentially dangerous tasks.  However, many of them are still ensconced in the 1970's.  So are many architects, I know.  I don't even have enough time to start my pet peeve list about architects. But the electrical systems in a house are not rocket science, it's just a house, but it is a house in the 21st century. This is not to say that all electricians are ignorant of the new requirements and necessities of structured wiring, wireless networks, low voltage applications and such.  Some folks can handle all of this and throw in the coordination as well.  But I am constantly surprised that as the architect I am often the one on the jobsite with the most extensive knowledge of these systems and their capabilities.  And my knowledge is thin and at least 6 months behind the curve.

So, now to my pet peeve.  Okay, so the electrician doesn't know about X-10 wiring for renovations or that satellite internet systems need two coax wires.  But surely they don't still have rotary phones at their houses.  I hate going to the jobsite, after spending many painstaking hours locating outlets and jacks on drawings, just to find that not only have the electricians moved them, they have separated the phone jacks from the electrical outlets.  Or the electrical outlets from the coaxial cable jacks.  Really, you have televisions that don't need electricity?!  Or placed two switches to the same hall light so close together I can actually touch them both at the same time.  Of maybe electrical outlets behind doors.

It is time that electricians and electrical supply companies got into our century.  Standard outlets do not allow for two devices with transformers to be plugged in simultaneously. No one should have to try to remember which of the 4 or 5 switches in a row actually turns on the light.  I know that there are plenty of new products out there that solve these problems but they are not even vaguely within the realm of standard materials and procedures.  This is crazy.  I don't think I should be the person on the jobsite with the most knowledge of potential conflicts between electrical and magnetic transformers or the ground-wiring of electrical panels.  And frankly I don't think we should have to hire a phalanx of consultants - a/v systems, wireless networking, data distribution, energy monitoring, etc. just to get a house built.

Oh yeah, one last thing.  This is not really the electrician's fault, chock it up to the mechanical installer.  But really, do you have to install the thermostat directly in the middle of a wall?