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Procuring Pro AV

While the traditional owner-general contractor-electrical subcontractor-low-voltage sub-subcontractor model worked until the 1990s, it doesn't make sense to contract pro AV systems that way today.

As for pro AV, I've argued that the AV integrator should be contracted by the owner directly, bypassing the general contractor altogether on a project. And this argument has often been successful. Though it's fair for the general contractor to charge for the site coordination with the AV integrator that occurs during cable pulling and near the end of the job without holding the subcontract, it shouldn't be as much as they would mark up the electrical or mechanical contractors given their relative time working together on the jobsite. And for the owner, a direct contract to an AV integrator on a $2 million AV system could knock somewhere between $100,000 to $300,000 off of what they would pay in a subcontracted or sub-subcontracted arrangement.

Though it was often difficult, many AV integrators graduated up the contract chain years ago, particularly if they were involved in large AV projects. At the same time, many smaller integrators have and continue to get stuck under electrical subcontracts, which needs to change. In any case, owners, construction managers, and architects should carefully consider how the AV contract best fits into each new building or renovation project by understanding the nature and requirements of integrating AV systems. Because of the special nature of pro AV and its impact on the building, the AV team needs to come in early and stay late in the building design and construction process to do our jobs correctly and well. And that may mean contracting differently compared to the norms of the 90s.

Tim Cape is a contributing editor for Pro AV and the principal consultant for Atlanta-based technology consulting firm Technitect LLC. He's an instructor for the ICIA Audiovisual Design School and an active member of the consultant's councils for both ICIA and NSCA. Contact him at

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