Leviton Manufacturing Co., Little Neck, N.Y., has gotten a foot in the door with Pulte Corp., Bloomfield Hills, Mich., one of the biggest homebuilders in the United States. Last month Leviton agreed to provide Pulte with its Integrated Network package of residential low-voltage wiring products. Graybar Electric Co., St. Louis, will be the primary electrical distributor of these products for Pulte's housing developments throughout the U.S.

In a statement that Pulte Corp. released announcing the marketing alliance, Bill Marshall, Leviton's vice president of marketing and product management, said the number of new homes wired with structured wiring systems capable of supporting high-speed Internet access, security applications, state-of-the art home entertainment systems and other low-voltage systems will double this year.

"In 1998, 38,000 new homes had some type of structured wiring," he said. "That number more than doubled to 90,000 new homes in 1999, and this year the figure is predicted to reach 200,000 new homes. The need to `future proof' a home is becoming more and more necessary as consumers do office work and kids surf the Internet for homework."

Marshall said the marketing agreement with Pulte makes Leviton the first in the U.S. homebuilding industry to collaborate with a national homebuilder to provide customers access to the leading-edge technology necessary to support the latest low-voltage wiring systems for these applications.

Marshall added that because structured wiring provides Internet service, it will become the fourth utility, alongside electric, telephone and gas service. As these systems get installed into more homes, he expects that they will become a critical selling point when homes go onto the resale market. In just a few years, buyers of existing homes will expect homes to be networked.

"These systems are becoming `must-haves' for customers to participate in the digital revolution, allowing them to work or do schoolwork at home, or even use the TV as a baby monitor and start the oven by using the phone," said Alan Laing, Pulte's vice president of e-business development, in a company release. "Your home can become obsolete without the necessary communications infrastructure to automate your home."

Starting with housing developments in Texas and Florida, homes will be equipped with the Pulte national standard package, which includes an enclosure box and panel, eight drops, amplifier, wall plates, jacks and connectors. The company will provide homebuyers with two upgrade packages, and customers can customize any package to include additional options for more sophisticated systems, such as a video unit and Ethernet hub.

"In joining with Leviton, we are transforming the home into a high-tech environment where the average homeowner can have the `home of the future,'" Laing said.

Pulte Corp., which has built over 250,000 homes, has operations in 41 markets across the United States and Puerto Rico, and is the one of the largest homebuilders in several of the nation's fastest-growing housing markets, including Atlanta, Phoenix and Charlotte. In 1999, the company sold 26,622 homes and had total revenues of $3.73 billion.

In another effort to offer homeowners the benefits of structured cabling, Pulte recently inked a deal with Cox Communications Phoenix Inc., Phoenix, to deliver broadband communications services at Springfield Lakes, a Pulte master planned community with 1,500 homes in Chandler, Ariz.