Strauss Architectural Systems LLC
For lighting and fans, alternative energy and architectural products, Strauss Architectural Systems LLC (SAS) has become a trusted name in the construction supply chain. Formed in 2005, SAS works directly with architects and engineers to get products specified and job ready, then the firm works with electrical distributors, as well as general contractors and subcontractors, to get top-quality products in the hands of people in the field.
Handrails, wall panels and coverings, woven metal fabrics, expansion joints and numerous architectural components — SAS offers it all as the go-to manufacturers’ representative. “We’re manufacturers’ representatives for lighting, hand rails, woven fabrics and a whole range of other architectural products,” says Mark Strauss, founder and president of SAS. “Manufacturers sign exclusive contracts with us to market their products and we call on architects and engineers to demonstrate the products’ capabilities and we get them specified for use in construction projects,” he says.
A broader range of products
The difference with SAS is the company doesn’t have a particular niche. “There are hundreds of manufacturers’ representative firms all over the U.S., but you either have a lighting rep firm or architectural products rep firm; we’re the only ones in the country that do both,” explains Strauss.
Serving western Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa with remote salespeople in most major cities such as Des Moines and Omaha, SAS has an extensive reach. The company has even established a mobile showroom to bring products directly to customers.
Strauss says SAS offers a broad depth of products, more than any of its competitors. This unique business model allows SAS to penetrate a range of construction markets, including the massive LED/lighting market, where Strauss began his career. “I’ve been in the lighting business for 40 years,” he says.
While working on the contracting side for the first half of his career, Strauss saw an opportunity in the supply side while working on an art museum project. “The architect on the project asked me to research a solution for a lighted hand rail for the project in 2005,” he recounts.
After some research, Strauss started filling orders for hand rails. “When the recession hit in 2008 I knew it was time to get out of contracting and it wasn’t what I really wanted to do,” he says.
Consequently, Strauss began filling more orders and SAS was formed. Although he didn’t see himself working as a contractor for the long haul, Strauss’ contracting background has translated well into SAS. “We fully understand each installation and the structural requirements of each product,” he says. “I’m not going in and saying, ‘look at how pretty this is.’”
A whole new world with LEDs
Today, SAS has five employees, with boots on the ground throughout western Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa. One of the company’s most robust divisions is LED lighting. “We’re known throughout our territory for cutting-edge products and the early adoption of LED lighting,” says Strauss. “The products we represent are going into signature projects throughout our territory every day — especially LEDs —within the next five years the market will have switched entirely to LEDs. It’s a whole new world with LEDs.”
One aspect illuminating the LED market, especially in high-profile projects, is the ability to create custom, colored lighting. This is the case in SAS’s work with Schnackel Engineers in relighting the USC Competition Swim Stadium with high-intensity discharge (HID) sports lighting. “After showing some computer simulations, we suggested LED as an option,” says Strauss. “The results were even more amazing in real life.”
SAS worked with Schnackel Engineers and project crews from concept to completion, doing all of the lighting calculations and meeting with manufacturers from around the world who would supply the California-based project. The set up includes Carolina High Mast lighting, which has also been used in large stadiums such as Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears.
Quality over quantity
“Lighting is a super competitive industry,” says Strauss. “There are thousands of light fixture manufacturers in the U.S. and more globally every day, but we only work with the highest-end tie-in products.”
Strauss says it’s not part of SAS’s business model to chase commodity products to turn a quick profit. “9 times out of 10 if we lose a job, it’s because a bid came in over budget and our products are some of the first to get cut because they’re more expensive and higher quality,” he says.
Strauss continues to travel around the continental U.S. and corners of the globe — China, Japan, Germany and other countries — searching for the latest and greatest manufacturers to partner with. “But we have to ensure they have the ability to do business in the U.S. and that the products are/will be code compliant,” says Strauss.
“I attend many trade shows and expos every year,” he says. “We have the American Institute of Architects [AIA] Midwest conference coming up and I’ve purchased 10 booths for some of our existing manufacturers. This is one way we help promote our products.”
With its sights set on quality, Strauss Architectural Systems LLC continues to search a growing global marketplace for the best manufacturers across lighting, alternative energy and architectural products.
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