Why An AV Integrator Needs to Be Involved Early In New Building Planning
Are you leading the charge into the future with end-user technology for a new building or major facility renovation? Are you trying to establish the perfect blend of displays, functionality, and inspiring aesthetic? And, of course, you want your project to be completed on time and on budget. Staying on top of end-user technology developments may not be in the mandate or capabilities of many architects and construction engineers. As a result, they are often unaware of the impact the latest and greatest audio visual (AV) solutions can have on the overall design, project progression, final results.
When a knowledgeable AV integrator is included early in the project team, you can consider the best solutions for your workflows and/or making the best impression. Advanced technology planning will help architects design the best environments for all use cases. Construction teams can build right the first time, avoiding rework caused by unexpected changes to accommodate technology decisions made too late in the project.
There’s More Than Pre-packaged Displays Solutions
Off-the-shelf AV/IT solutions may have plug-and-play appeal restricted in their capabilities. because they are treated like televisions for collaboration. But their capabilities can restrict some use cases. Typically, pre-packaged systems offer a stand-alone appliance that only allow joining meetings from specific platforms like Zoom, or Teams. They are locked to that single platform, and currently are unable to join other platforms with full functionality.
Plug and play systems may not be adequate for all of your end users’ needs. Projects that involve massive datasets or multiple windows of information shown simultaneously might not work on standard displays. Meetings, where multiple remote participants and data share the same visual space, may need a larger canvas.
Here are a few examples of situations where AV/IT and even virtual reality technologies will impact design and construction.
- Many users or situations may require functionality beyond a single laptop connection to a single display. More involved meetings may require design of an interactive and/or hybrid room. Talking through all required use cases and functionality with a professional integrator can create the best solution for you. The necessary technology becomes more complex, as to the space allowances.
- Conference and board rooms are often areas where organizations are trying to impress clients or prospective employees. The scope of technology in the space can be a factor in showcasing the work environment and company.
- Direct-view LED (DV-LED) displays are increasingly popular for many reasons. DV-LED display can be almost infinitely scaled in size and configuration with a pixel density that now is similar to many projection systems. These displays can be created to fit any environment, even in areas where a curved display would accent the area.
- 4K/UHD has become the standard for office and home use. New 8K display technology is the resolution of tomorrow but will need some expertise to get all the benefits of the increased resolution. All allowances for proper content sources, computing, and video distribution should be factored in to get the full benefits.
- Large-scale, complex, or immersive displays for research, design, experience centers, and other collaborative applications also require specialized hardware and a larger footprint than “standard AV” systems. These complex systems often plan-in allocations for future expansion or areas for experimentation. Looking beyond the installed technology is necessary.
Building Aspects Impacted By Technology
Now think about all of the elements of a building that can be affected by technology choices. It’s not always just the wall holding a display. For example, when displays can be any size, curve, or move, the potential for awe-inspiring spaces becomes almost limitless. These behind-the-scenes considerations seem obvious, but examples, where they have been missed, occur regularly:
- Allowing Enough Space – Many non-standard systems need a designated space for equipment storage. Getting an integrator involved early will allow for specific needs within or outside the meeting space. Some projects have had to get creative with storing the equipment to drive the system.
- Structural support – The support must suit the technology. Technology has weight. Walls, floors, and ceilings need to take into consideration the scope and scale of integrated technology. Also, DV-LED panels have extremely tight tolerances when tiled together. Mounting structures need to remain rigid over time and possible vibration isolated.
- Power – New and especially high brightness displays often require dedicated circuits to make them work. Some even require a special voltage to work properly. Also, when the technology is not a plug-and-play system, locations of outlets and the power in each become design elements. Computers, audio systems, and more need to be allowed for.
- Cable Pathways – Some thought needs to be given as to where cable pathways are going to need to be placed for specific systems. If it is discovered that a cable needs to go from a table to the display on the wall after a poured concrete floor has been set, the only ways to hide cables are to core-drill a pathway to the wall or place an un-attractive cable-bump. If the AV functionality discussions happened earlier, a conduit would have been placed in the concrete from the table to the wall to ensure a clean installation.
- On the network infrastructure side of cabling, new passive fiber optic network solutions can connect call technologies with greatly simplified cabling, less power, and less space.
- HVAC – The heat generated by displays, computing, and accessory equipment adds up quickly. A space could have a floor-to-ceiling display that looks amazing, but if the HVAC is not designed accordingly, the viewing space could get so hot it becomes uncomfortable to use. Valuable meeting and collaboration spaces may be avoided altogether.
- Ambient Light – A meeting space with expansive windows may look gorgeous with the natural light, but all that light can wash out any projected image. Windows also create a highly-reverberant space which affects audio quality.
- Hard Surface Echos – Having a minimalistic design for a space looks very clean, but hard surfaces create a highly-reverberant space. Placing microphones in un-obtrusive locations, like the ceiling, in a high-reverberant space will not pick up speakers’ voices clearly. The microphones also picking up all the echoes in the room. Good audio quality is extremely important since hybrid meetings are likely the future. In-person and remote participation will be a common way of collaborating. Room design, technology placement, and decorator finishes will impact audio pickup and reproduction.
- Finishes – Often trim or decorative panelings have already been installed before integrators are added to a project. This either limits the technology that can be recommended for the space, or worse, the end-user has to have finishes updated to accommodate the new technology. When AV is discussed at the same time as the rest of the room design, finishing trim can be designed perfectly to suit the space.
- IT Requirements – The next big thing in AV distribution is placing signals on the network. Sources, like computers, placed on the network can then be accessed and displayed anywhere else on the network. Connecting high bandwidth technologies require collaboration between the AV integrator and IT stakeholders. IT teams need to plan well in advance for such network additions and to ensure other user applications are not impacted.
Too often, AV is considered at the very end of a new construction or renovation project to avoid issues, AV should be considered earlier in the planning phases, before shovels in the ground. AV can be integrated seamlessly into the room and networks. Costly change orders and schedule delays to add conduit, power, HVAC, cable pathways, or other aspects can be avoided. No one likes to do the same work multiple times. Build spaces once, the right way, the first time by considering audio visual technology an integral part of project design.
Architects can get more detail by requesting an AIA-accredited course on this topic. Visit our AIA course page for more information.