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Creative Suites

Install AV, voice, and data communications systems that encourage employees to work creatively and collaboratively.

Barkley's 50-seat theater is used for client and internal presentations. The room's teardrop ceiling created acoustical and aesthetic challenges for SKC, the project's systems integrator.

Barkley's 50-seat theater is used for client and internal presentations. The room's teardrop ceiling created acoustical and aesthetic challenges for SKC, the project's systems integrator.

Credit: DENNIS PHOTOGRAPHY

CHALLENGE: Install AV, voice, and data communications systems that encourage employees to work creatively and collaboratively.
SOLUTION: Hire a systems integrator that provides both AV and IT support as well as designs complex systems that are easy to use.

AS THE LARGEST EMPLOYEE-OWNED advertising agency in the United States, Barkley's client list includes nationally known brands such as Sonic, Blue Bunny Ice Cream, and Build-a-Bear Workshop. The agency constantly innovates its creative processes to produce the best advertising for its clients. So when the agency moved into new headquarters, Barkley management decided to work with a single vendor to craft a collaborative environment where AV technology fosters creativity. SKC — a systems integrator in Shawnee Mission, Kan., that specializes in AV, voice, and data systems — started work on the project in March 2006.

Barkley's new home is the historic former headquarters of TWA located in the art district of downtown Kansas City, Mo. The building was gutted, leaving behind an open structure that gave the interior designers and SKC the ability to construct offices that are productive for employees as well as clients. “We had outgrown the previous space. Everything in the new building is designed to help us work more productively,” says Kelly Francis, Barkley's technology liaison director.

Measuring in at 300,000 square feet across four floors, the new headquarters is 200,000 square feet larger than the previous office. In the old building, “we had thrown things together; it was a hodgepodge of AV. Our strategy at the time was mostly reactionary. Plus, [it] was not designed to accommodate the current number of [employees]. In the new space, we wanted technologies to blend together,” says Steve Covell, Barkley's vice president of information technology. “We wanted Voice-over-IP (VoIP), a robust network, and a solid core AV system.”

In the theater at Barkley's new headquarters, a Mitsubishi projector and JBL loudspeakers are installed on the back wall.

In the theater at Barkley's new headquarters, a Mitsubishi projector and JBL loudspeakers are installed on the back wall.

Credit: DENNIS PHOTOGRAPHY

SKC completed its job in time for Barkley's November 2006 move-in date. “There were some cost-savings built into the project, such as buying in quantities and working with them on infrastructure and construction,” adds Monti Carr, director of engineering for SKC. “The building was built in the 1970s, so it needed additional power and conduit. But we were able to design scalable systems that Barkley can add on over time. With SKC being able to offer both AV and IT support, it is a value and benefit to this project,” Carr adds.

STIMULATING ENVIRONMENTS

Barkley headquarters features 23 medium and large meeting rooms with a total of 180 seats. According to Covell, 95 percent of the partners/employees have a laptop, and the building's wireless network means each person can move freely around the building. The main technology objective for each conference room is to show videos and streaming media, all in an effort to stimulate the creative process. “Equipment consistency is great for tech support; although there are small variances in the rooms' configuration due to size and use,” Covell says.

Medium-sized rooms have basic AV systems that include a 50-inch LG MU-50PM10 plasma display on a Chief dual swing arm wall mount. Components such as the Sony SLVD350 VCR/DVD combo unit and the Crown 180MA amplifier are stored in-room in a Middle Atlantic RSH-4A custom rack shelf. Sound coverage for the room is courtesy of four Soundtube RS500i-WH ceiling speakers.

Mitsubishi XL5980U LCD 5500 lumens XGA projectors on Chief RPA-SKC mounts and Da-Lite 40725 100-inch diagonal Da-Mat ceiling-mounted screens instead of a plasma displays are found in the larger meeting rooms. Source inputs and amplifier are the same, with two additional Soundtube ceiling speakers (for a total of six) to cover the room.

AV does not interfere with the aesthetics in each room. “We used white screen casings and custom painted white projector mounts. The speakers are painted white to match the rooms. The AV really blends in,” Carr says. “We did our best to hide components using millwork and custom-built spaces for racks or shelves for AV.”

Rooms are also equipped with slim-profile Avaya 9620 and 9630 IP audio conferencing phones and VBrick's EtherneTV video-on-demand system. Barkley uses VBrick to push content throughout the building. The VBrick system consists of a main Web server, a number of storage servers, encoders, and a rack mounted tuner. The Web server is the system's central element and is used to manage content as well as show available content based on log-in rights. The storage servers store content in a number of formats, and the encoders encode the incoming cable feed to different channels. All streaming is done over Ethernet, allowing content to be streamed to desktops and TVs throughout the building.

The IP-based Avaya phones run on Barkley's robust 10-Gig fiber-optic backbone, which was co-developed by Extreme Networks and Avaya. This combined effort gives Barkley the latest, fastest technology for high-speed communications and, with the IP phones integrated with Extreme's data infrastructure, provides a redundant core network for fail-proof disaster recovery. Other advantages include the ability to retrieve voice or fax messages from anywhere via a Web interface. Partners can stay in touch with the office regardless of where they are working. To take full advantage of the network's speed and bandwidth, Cat6 cable is used from the network closets to the desktop.

Employees brainstorm in one of 11 client rooms —which is a bit of a misnomer because these rooms are actually off-limits to clients. These rooms have basic AV systems that feature a wall-mounted LG MU-50PM1M 50-inch plasma display with a pair of LG AP-50SM10B loudspeakers for audio output. Laptops plug into the Extron RGB 464xi universal, analog computer-video interface.

<p xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">The data center's infrastructure, wired for redundancy, keeps all these systems running.</p>

The data center's infrastructure, wired for redundancy, keeps all these systems running.

Credit: DENNIS PHOTOGRAPHY

Rather than interactive white boards, the client rooms have manual white boards with a Polyvision CopyCam copying system. “Based on Barkley's previous experience, the interactive white boards were too cumbersome. They wanted to keep it very, very simple,” Carr explains. “The CopyCams marry flexibility and ease of use with the need to retain the information from a previous meeting. Partners can print from the CopyCam to a Bluetooth printer, save their capture to the server, or have it e-mailed to everyone.”

IN THE THEATER

Barkley's theater room also plays upon the same theme of fostering creativity using AV technology. The multi-use room seats up to 50 people for client and internal presentations. A Crestron control system makes the theater's AV system easy to use. SKC used basic Crestron programming and some small customizations, such as inserting the Barkley logo on the welcome screen. The room uses two touch panels—a Crestron Isys 17-inch widescreen touch panel and a Crestron Isys 10.4-inch wireless touch panel—for maximum flexibility as a theater and occasional boardroom.

The video system includes options for using either the Mitsubishi XL5980U LCD projector projected onto the Da-Lite IMAGER 150-inch screen or the LG MU-50PM10 50-inch plasma display. Switching video sources is handled by an Extron Crosspoint 16 x 16 matrix video switcher. Audio in the theater includes a 7.1 surround sound systems using JBL loudspeakers, two Biamp Audiaflex mixers, and a Denon AVR-985SP 7.1 surround sound receiver, all powered by two Crown CTS4200 amplifiers.

While, the AV set up in the 11 client rooms, which include 50-inch LG plasma displays and Polyvision CopyCams, helps stimulate creativity.

While, the AV set up in the 11 client rooms, which include 50-inch LG plasma displays and Polyvision CopyCams, helps stimulate creativity.

Credit: DENNIS PHOTOGRAPHY

SKC made some concessions with the loudspeaker placement because of the room's teardrop ceiling, which made concealing the loudspeaker wires a challenge, too. “The ceiling also made for a difficult acoustical environment,” says Carr, who noted that the interior designer placed acoustical treatment on three of the four walls to make it a softer room. The theater features audio conferencing capability with assistance from the Biamp TI-2 two channel telephone interface card and five Biamp AEC2 two channel echo canceling and noise suppression cards.

Overall, the Ethernet infrastructure “makes the AV and IT systems easier to manage since it is on one infrastructure.” says Covell. “It helps us to be a more mobile workforce.” Maintenance is also easier because raised floors are used throughout the building. He also credits SKC's multiple abilities to handle both AV and IT support calls. Barkley designed its data center using an APC power management system, an independent generator for power loss, and a separate cooling system.

After nearly a year in the new headquarters, Barkley is still optimizing the AV systems for additional capabilities. Covell hopes to implement the video recording of meetings as well as expanded use of the VBrick system.

Linda Seid Frembes is a journalist and public relations consultant for the professional AV industry. Visit her at www.frembes.com.



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