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:
- 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.
- Ensure the designed system and budget are accurate. An early call provides an opportunity to catch oversights or misaligned expectations.
- 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.