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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.


"Our clients recognize that information and possibilities lie far beyond the four walls of their project," says Jennifer Cordes, AIA, LEED AP, and principal at Slaterpaull Architects in Denver. "Today's buildings have the potential to link people to the outside world in real time. Technology has helped us achieve this goal and thus the technology designers have become an integral part of our design teams."


At RTKL Associates, Tony Warner (left) is the AV guy. Bill McCarthy is the architect. Their close coordination pays dividends for the architecture firm's clients.

Credit: Michael Starghill, Jr.

Indeed, with the increased use of audiovisual systems in commercial and institutional buildings, it's become critically important for architects to plan early for the integration of technology into their designs. Videoconferencing and elaborate telepresence suites are becoming more popular for global collaboration. Digital signage systems for scheduling, wayfinding, and news updates are visible in lobbies and meeting spaces. Overarching metacontrol systems can help create a truly intelligent building by tying automation, electrical management, and audiovisual systems management into a common control platform that supports a client's sustainability goals (see "The Building Management Mix," page 40).

None of these functions in a vacuum. Planning the infrastructure to support such applications guarantees optimal performance and transparency. Doing the opposite, i.e. considering technology late in the process, creates a visible layer to an otherwise thoughtful design.

Moreover, doing things the right way and considering technology's impact at the outset of master planning, programming, and conceptual design helps lower overall costs. In fact, the savings from early planning can be significant. Early planning helps itemize up-front costs for estimating a responsible minimum investment, and provides benchmarks for determining the long-term cost of ownership. But most importantly, integrating technology from the outset should obviate most of the cost for post-construction changes, such as physical infrastructure, cabling, conduit, power, and technical interfaces. Often, these changes can exceed the cost of the technology itself. RTKL's McCarthy says that because the company's architects work with AV designers from the outset, "it's actually a cost benefit to clients."

"Early and continued identification and coordination of the audiovisual requirements as an integral part of the design process is critical to the ultimate success of the facility and reduces the need for redesigning later in the process," says Rod Kruse, FAIA, LEED AP, and principal at BNIM in Des Moines, Iowa.

It also helps ensure that the building includes behind-the-scenes provisions to support AV systems. "Specialized spaces are needed to accommodate state-of-the-art technology," says Cordes. "These include server rooms, [intermediate distribution frame] rooms, recharging stations, etc. Securing and controlling the temperature in these spaces optimizes equipment performance. This puts pressure on the floor plans, HVAC systems, and overall building energy use. If coordinated early, we can accomplish energy savings by locating technology rooms so they can be easily exhausted and include heat recovery options, which reduces energy use in colder months."

But beyond the less glamorous, albeit critical support infrastructure for AV systems, from conduit to equipment rooms, there are a slew of design considerations that need input from an AV expert.

"Rapidly changing media and technology raise issues ranging from sight lines to natural and artificial lighting, from acoustics to material selections, from planning for flexible, adaptable uses and reconfigurations to providing for a supporting, flexible, and user-friendly infrastructure," explains architect John Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP, of St. Louis. "With an appreciation for and knowledge of these issues, the architecture can accommodate the technological requirements gracefully and successfully, with balance and thoughtfulness, all in service of those seeking and sharing knowledge in a supportive, flexible, and beautiful environment."

In practice, how is that accomplished?

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