3 AV Tips for Architects

3 AV Design Tips for Architects

As an Archi­tect, you have the broad knowl­edge base need­ed to pull togeth­er each ele­ment of a new build. So, it’s not always real­is­tic for you to be a res­i­dent expert in work­place tech­nol­o­gy too. You have a lot on your plate, and AV tech­nol­o­gy changes fast! How do you effec­tive­ly include AV in your project plans?

We have 3 tips to help you suc­cess­ful­ly incor­po­rate AV tech­nol­o­gy into your design.

1. Understand AV’s role in the physical workspace and organizational processes.

The term “audio visu­al design” may make you think of dis­plays, speak­ers, micro­phones and cam­eras. That’s part of it, but AV goes much deep­er as it inter­acts with oth­er ele­ments in the envi­ron­ment. This includes phys­i­cal space and tech­nol­o­gy con­sid­er­a­tions like room shape, fur­ni­ture, net­work infra­struc­ture and mul­ti-pur­pose room considerations.

AV design empow­ers bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion, whether it’s over­head audio, video con­fer­enc­ing, or video walls. To hit the mark, an AV solu­tion needs to be designed around the customer’s exist­ing plat­forms and work­flow. Just as the archi­tect brings mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines togeth­er in their design, the AV team cre­ates a plan for the equip­ment, process­es and space to work together.

To cre­ate a holis­tic tech­nol­o­gy design, your AV part­ner should consider:

  • Room Shape and Material
    As an archi­tect, this is no news to you. Room shape affects the rever­ber­a­tion and qual­i­ty of acoustics, like how the shape of a gui­tar or a piano affect the instrument’s sound. From the AV per­spec­tive, this can affect whether sound mask­ing is designed into the solu­tion. It also informs which micro­phones will best pick up the voice of meet­ing par­tic­i­pants while decreas­ing the back­ground noise and echoes.
  • Fur­ni­ture Placement
    Tables are an impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tion in AV instal­la­tion. It’s com­mon for a client to request con­nec­tion box­es in the tables. This allows meet­ing atten­dees to plug into pow­er or access the HDMI with­out clut­ter­ing the table.Pulling wire and cabling for table pow­er before pour­ing the con­crete is an impor­tant step that can some­times be over­looked. This can lead to an expen­sive fix if the con­crete must be retrenched in order to run con­duit. Oth­er­wise, clients can be left with unsight­ly cords or floor tracks from the wall to table.

    Final­ly, know­ing if the fur­ni­ture will be sta­t­ic or mobile will fur­ther impact AV design deci­sions. Espe­cial­ly if the client is plan­ning to video con­fer­ence or present in the room. Cam­era type and place­ment becomes crit­i­cal in the selec­tion process.

  • Walls and Ceilings
    Walls are specif­i­cal­ly rel­e­vant when it comes to wall-mount­ed dis­plays. Although dis­plays are get­ting lighter, walls still need to sup­port the dis­play. Be sure to think about weight considerations.In-ceiling speak­ers and micro­phones are a big trend for those that want a clean table. In-ceil­ing tech­nolo­gies often share space with items like HVAC vents and returns, light­ing fix­tures, fire strobes and light­ing motion sen­sors. The AV part­ner will need to be aware of these in order to appro­pri­ate­ly place the technology.

Your AV part­ner will also need to be in-the-loop on plans and changes in ceil­ing mate­r­i­al, as well as the avail­able space above the fin­ished ceil­ing, as that will affect what type of micro­phones and speak­ers will fit in the ceiling.

  • Net­work drops and elec­tri­cal outlets
    If they aren’t placed in the cor­rect loca­tions for dis­plays and oth­er tech­nol­o­gy, your beau­ti­ful­ly designed walls will have to be cut into with after­work con­struc­tion box­es. It can be an unfor­tu­nate and cost­ly oversight.
  • Bonus:  Make sure the AV draw­ings are incor­po­rat­ed into the mas­ter draw­ings. This helps avoid instal­la­tion delays due to light­ing or emer­gency alerts placed where speak­ers and mics are designed into the ceil­ing. An AV team can work around these spa­tial ele­ments, but they need to know about it at the design phase to meet time­lines and reduce costs.

2. Involve the AV team as early as possible.

Tech­nol­o­gy-rich col­lab­o­ra­tion spaces are per­va­sive across indus­tries. Whether it’s a new-build or ten­ant improve­ment, busi­ness lead­ers expect the tech­nol­o­gy to sup­port their oper­a­tions and enhance the over­all work­place envi­ron­ment. While the bar for work­place tech­nol­o­gy con­tin­ues to increase, tol­er­ance for clunky, poor­ly inte­grat­ed spaces has become rel­a­tive­ly non-existent.

His­tor­i­cal­ly, AV is one of the last trades con­sid­ered in a new-build or refresh. By being ‘late to the game’ tech­nolo­gies aren’t always placed where they should be for ide­al audio cov­er­age, micro­phone pick up and cam­era angles. Ear­ly plan­ning and coor­di­na­tion with the AV trade will help ensure the solu­tion is designed and deployed to it’s most effi­cient use.

As ear­ly as pos­si­ble, get the AV inte­gra­tor on a col­lab­o­ra­tive phone call with all the involved par­ties: archi­tects, design­ers, con­sul­tants, the client and the client’s IT team. This is crit­i­cal for 3 rea­sons. It allows the AV part­ner to:

  1. Hear the tech­nol­o­gy vision and exact­ly what it needs to do direct­ly from the client. By under­stand­ing the ‘why’ behind the needs, the AV inte­gra­tor can ensure the design meets the client’s expectations.
  2. Ensure the designed sys­tem and bud­get are accu­rate. An ear­ly call pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty to catch over­sights or mis­aligned expectations.
  3. Iden­ti­fy ear­ly ‘red-flags’, like lack of net­work band­width, which can cause delays or bud­get increas­es as the project progresses.

Clear the hur­dles at the begin­ning, rather than dur­ing the build phase or at the end of a project. This will help keep things on time and in bud­get. Most impor­tant­ly, it helps the AV inte­gra­tor hit the mark with work­place tech­nol­o­gy, leav­ing you with a hap­py client.

3. Continue to consult the AV team throughout construction.

After con­struc­tion begins, the con­ver­sa­tion with the AV inte­gra­tor shouldn’t end. Archi­tects, con­struc­tion man­agers and the AV part­ner need to stay in close con­tact and address any infra­struc­ture changes or issues that arise. The AV expe­ri­ence is strong­ly affect­ed by mul­ti­ple ele­ments, from fur­ni­ture to out­let place­ment. The archi­tect should give fre­quent updates to the AV team on any changes to the orig­i­nal plan, even if it appears unre­lat­ed to the audio visu­al components.

Clos­ing the Loop

Live per­for­mance audi­to­ri­ums are designed with aes­thet­ic and acoustic con­sid­er­a­tions, where­as AV can be an after­thought in many work­place envi­ron­ments. It’s sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing the crit­i­cal role AV plays in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the high usage of tech­nol­o­gy seen in today’s busi­ness. Get­ting AV into the con­ver­sa­tion ear­ly is an impor­tant step in ensur­ing the fin­ished prod­uct meets the clien­t’s expectations.

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