When residential and commercial construction slowed to a crawl, the owners of Integrated Environments, which sells "smart" control systems for homes, decided to get a move on.
With $250,000 in personal savings, Chad Tierney and Geoff Greene outfitted a 40-foot rolling showroom so they could bring their wares directly to their customers.
The two partners bought a used Gulf Stream motor home, installed audio and video equipment and two on-board theaters to create a simulated "smart home" on wheels.
Hartford-based Integrated Environments LLC sells and installs devices allowing homeowners to control everything from thermostats to video monitors from inside a dwelling or from anywhere in the world through the use of a computer keyboard, touch screen device or iPhone.
The 12-ton showroom made its debut late last year, allowing homeowners, architects and builders to see the systems in action without having to visit the company's office at 56 Arbor St.
"Now we can roll up to the job site," Tierney said. "It's easier to demonstrate what we do than try and describe it."
Their systems range in price from $8,000 to more than $100,000. Last year, Integrated Environments had revenue of $500,000, Tierney said. The company as yet has no employees.
"People with second homes really like these systems," Greene said. "They can set the thermostat and deactivate the alarm from their iPhone as they're stepping off the plane. By the time they get there, the house is warm and the lights are on."
When an out-of-state homeowner complained that the heating bill at her vacation home had soared one month, the system pinpointed the cause. It turned out that a contractor hired to install new flooring had turned the heat up in a room to help dry out some resin, Tierney said.
If the house gets chilly, the system can be configured to send an e-mail alert.
"If the temperature goes below 55 degrees in the winter and you're not there to know about, it notifies you," Tierney said.
Even though the RV only gets 8 miles per gallon of gasoline, it's still more environmentally sound than a typical brick-and-mortar showroom, Tierney said.
"If you compare what it would take to keep a showroom open seven days a week, it's a big savings. The RV is only running when it's needed," he said.
Being able to hit the road and meet with clients in Cape Cod, Baltimore or Ottawa has helped boost sales during the construction lag, the partners said. The only glitch they've encountered so far occurred on the way to a construction site in Ottawa. At the border, Canadian customs officials pulled them over.
"They wanted to know what we were doing with all this equipment,'" Greene said. "It took them six hours to go through everything."