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Meet Your Future Partner

What do architects think about collaborating more deeply with AV consultants and integrators? We went straight to the source and heard positive feedback.

Jennifer Cordes for ProAV Magazine - 04/2011

Jennifer Cordes at Slaterpaull Architects says that technology designers are now a big part of her firm's overall design teams.

Credit: Don Cudney

RTKL Associates in Baltimore seemingly has an answer to the age-old dilemma of how to better coordinate the design efforts of architects and AV professionals: The international architecture firm maintains its own in-house audiovisual and building systems division. The AV group is so good at what it does that it sometimes finds itself in the awkward position of doing AV consulting on other architecture firms' projects.

Over lunch in Baltimore's Fells Point neighborhood, one of RTKL's vice presidents, Bill McCarthy, AIA, and the head of its AV and acoustics practice, Tony Warner, CTS-D, say the things AV integrators and consultants have wished for years they could say to architects so that, for instance, the sight lines in a new conference room are taken into account, or the wall for an impressive array of flat screens can bear the load. "Architects don't lock themselves in a room and come out with a solution," says McCarthy. "AV should be inherent to the solution from day one."

"A lot of new workspaces are driven more by function than by form," Warner says. "That requires a deep collaborative effort."

Not every project RTKL works on has an AV component, but about 80 percent do. Which means that neither camp (architecture nor AV) can avoid the other. RTKL isn't the only firm that has brought AV and architecture together under one umbrella, and there are AV consultants such as The Sextant Group that have made the decision to bring architectural expertise in-house (though in our case, not practicing architects). But these forward-thinking shops are in the minority. In a recent Pro AV survey of architects, only 7 percent said that their company had its own staff of AV consultants and integrators. That leaves a lot of critical work for AV consultants and design/build integrators to coordinate with architecture firms.

How will the rest of the project teams that work on new buildings, brought together from separate disciplines, ensure their finished products are tightly integrated, easy to operate, energy-efficient, future-proofed, and exactly what the client envisioned when they asked that their new space include all the latest AV and communications technology? Admit you don't know everything. Learn some of what the other side knows. And for goodness' sake, start sharing ideas when the projects starts, not when it's further down the road. Fortunately, there are architects who understand the role of AV pros and are ready to welcome them into charrettes.

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