Why Sustainability Matters
Have you been waiting to take the next STEP in your green AV initiative? Pretty soon, you'll have the tools necessary to ensure your users have energy-efficient systems.
As i write this, two big things haven't happened yet: InfoComm 2011 in Orlando, Fla., (though you may be standing in the Orange County Convention Center right now reading these words) and the introduction of InfoComm's new Sustainable Technology Environments Program (STEP, which I'm told should be out in July). So I've got a little time and several hundred words to foreshadow both.
InfoComm 2011 is shaping up to be a big show, but with a decidedly understated green AV presence. Last year at this time, InfoComm had determined that the U.S. Green Building Council—at least in the short term—wasn't going to consider AV systems in its ubiquitous LEED ratings. So InfoComm decided to go it alone, and a group of integrators, consultants, and manufacturers began the arduous task of creating an AV sustainability rating system from scratch. The group previewed STEP at InfoComm 2010 in Las Vegas, then went largely silent while it wrote and rewrote what insiders say will be an exhaustive, living document.
In the intervening year, one got the impression that "green AV," as many of us in the media (and many in pro AV) came to call it, had lost steam. It always seemed like an uphill battle to preach energy efficiency to an industry whose creations consume energy by design. But as the economy got healthier and people started to worry less (and cynics grew tired of green as a bunch of marketing hype), there seemed to be far fewer pro-green headlines and more along the lines of "Is Green a Fad?"
Against this backdrop, InfoComm's task force toiled away on STEP. Early predictions had it coming out in January 2011. And I know they hoped it would be done in time for InfoComm 2011. But despite vacillations about green in the general populace, sustainability has grown more important to the AV industry—not less—as time has passed. So the first version of STEP needed to be as strong a document as possible.
Why? InfoComm's collected experts can tell you best, which is why Super Tuesday of InfoComm 2011 is such an important day. The Sustainability Standards Liaisons Forum runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14. If you can make it, go. If you've already missed it, check the roster of speakers and reach out for an update. I'm told there may be a progress report on STEP and perhaps something tangible describing STEP ratings. And later in the week, InfoComm is announcing a foundation of like-minded groups and associations to help manage STEP going forward.
But that's it. Aside from a small Sustainable Products Showcase, don't expect this year's InfoComm to hit you over the head with green. But again, that doesn't mean it's any less important. Anyone involved with STEP, including InfoComm's new sustainability officer Allen Weidman (see "5-Minute Interview," page 12), will explain, for example, that although Joe Public may be tired of green, chances are your local government has just gotten around to taking it seriously. Sustainability is the future of building, and if the AV industry doesn't engage with various parties—from other associations, to local governments, to code councils—green is something that's going to happen to pro AV on someone else's terms. To hear Weidman tell it, a strong, credible STEP program is almost more important for showing outsiders what AV technology can do than it is for rating AV projects in the short-term.
And don't snooze on integrated building technology as a wave of the future. Weidman likes to say that AV can humanize intelligent buildings. But if we don't step up, someone else will. Last month, I was at the American Institute of Architects Convention in New Orleans, talking to AV manufacturers, and one said he was fielding queries from companies such as Johnson Controls for custom drivers so that their systems could control AV systems. It needs to be the other way around. Reportedly, integrated building technology will account for a big chunk of STEP credits. That's good. It's time to reinvigorate discussion of green, sustainable AV solutions. Don't get left behind.