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Building a New Market

It's long been discussed: How can AV integrators extend their control systems expertise to entire buildings? These days, some firms are doing just that.


And that's where the push for integrated building management gets especially dicey–even as it's acknowledged that the AV integrator's role should expand, other trades are eyeing the same opportunity. In some respects, building integration today is like the intersection of AV and IT a few years ago: There's lots of optimism about new revenue opportunities, but also lots of fretting that outsiders could just as easily claim more work for themselves.

"The HVAC guys could easily pick this up if they cared to," says PepperDash's Nunes. "The lighting people do care to and they're actually moving in this direction."

To capitalize on the AV-IT convergence, AV integrators had to get serious about offering the right mix of services, including adding staff that understood what firewalls were, for instance, and how to get videoconferencing and signage to play nicely with them. Similarly, success in building integration requires significant investments in order to build credibility in the eyes of potential clients.

"You can't be reluctantly involved in building-management systems," says AMX's Andrulis. "You're either in or you're not. You've got to be willing and able to go toe-to-toe with the traditional players."

Some AV pros with experience in building integration say that the sales process has to change, with a focus on return-on-investment and how the project will meet the client's financial goals. "The sales proposition is very different from AV, which in many instances was more an ego spend in the higher-end rooms or just focused on a whole different set of priorities," says AVW-TELAV's Tarry.

For example, at the Masdar Headquarters building in the United Arab Emirates, Crestron's Wilts got an AV budget not in dollars, but in watts: 8W per square meter, maximum. The building, which was designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture of Chicago, is meant to be "energy positive" in that it will generate more energy than it consumes. It's part of what Masdar City promoters say will be "the world's first carbon-neutral city."

Tarry's building-integration projects at AVW-TELAV haven't included a watts budget, but the change doesn't surprise him. Forces bigger than individual building operators are often the largest drivers of integrated buildings. "I could see that concept starting to push into city code requirements," Tarry says of energy budgets. Recently, AVW-TELAV integrated the convention center in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver is one of the first cities to mandate that commercial buildings be built to LEED Gold or higher standards (see "Convening Efficiency").

It's no secret that the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards play a big role in today's commercial construction, and ultimately toward integrated building-management systems. If most AV firms are able to take just one step toward offering broader building-integration services, it would be to identify one or more staffers to earn LEED Accredited Professional credentials.

Walker argues that the potential payoff is compelling enough: "The opportunity is 10 times what the AV opportunity is."

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