As little as 10 years ago, AV and IT integrators focused primarily on retrofitting existing buildings with updated technological tools. Today, however, tools and services like conference calling, video calls and chats, and webinars are ubiquitous. To ensure truly seamless use, these business technologies must be integrated into the structure of the building itself, recommends HB Communications.
Integrating tech into building design works best when integrators and architects communicate during the planning and design stages — a fact that is changing how integrators think about the contacts they make and the bids they construct. Here, we’ll talk about why and how integrators can pitch to and collaborate with architects when designing AV-rich spaces.
In the past two decades, architects have grown accustomed to planning for AV- or IT-specific space within their building designs, from making room for Ethernet cabling and servers to determining how much natural light should be available in a space designed for video conferencing. Integrators have also dedicated much time to learning the most cost-effective ways to retrofit buildings for today’s technology.
As a 2006 Wall Street Journal interview with architect Frank Gehry notes, both approaches have worked toward a common goal: Seamless technology use inside a well-appointed workspace. Yet both have worked from opposite ends toward the middle.
Today, AV integrators are realizing that working from one end toward the middle often results in imperfect solutions, says Ken Graven, vice president with Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc. By working together at the design stage, architects and integrators start at the “middle” of the goal, maximizing both teams’ chances of achieving it.
Below are some of the biggest reasons integrators and architects make a natural team:
In the past, an architect’s job ended with the engineering and design of thoughtful spaces. Today, however, AV technology manufacturers like Premiere Dedicated Solutions (PDS) have upped the game with options like curved video walls. These products can be retrofitted in certain spaces — but when they are included as part of a building’s design from the very beginning, this opens up a whole universe of new use cases and placements.
Of course, an architect’s imagination for these tech elements within a space must give way to the practicalities of installing, maintaining and upgrading them. Articulating both the options and the limits these AV products offer is one of the key ways integrators can position themselves as subject-matter experts when offering a bid.
When designing a space, architects take into account the need to incorporate utilities like HVAC systems, water and power. In the past several years, integrating IT infrastructure like CAT5 or CAT6 cabling, server space and other tools has become commonplace, as well.
But while architects are familiar with the need to make room for these vital features, they don’t always position them in ideal locations for AV integration or IT maintenance, says Mike Bouissiere, design engineer at PDS. Designing power boxes and control rooms into the right locations can help ensure the harmony and efficiency of the space.
Aesthetics and efficiency aren’t the only concerns, Bouissiere continues. In some cases, a lack of understanding of AV integration needs on the architect’s part can lead to legal headaches, as well.
“A videowall can actually fail inspections such as ADA compliance if it extends more than four inches off the wall,” Bouissiere notes. “This doesn’t leave a lot of room for error in structural design. Architects need to plan for this from the minute they design the wall.”
An integrator’s input at this stage can be invaluable.
Seamless integration with minimal headaches for both architects and integrators was on Dean Clough’s mind when Clough launched Casa Integration. What Casa Integration does for home designers is similar — albeit on a smaller scale — to what AV integrators can do for architects in larger spaces: Identify ways to make integration simpler, cleaner and easier for end use.
As Megan Harvey at AVNetwork notes, retrofitting takes not only technical know-how, but creativity, as well as the willingness of clients to accept these creative solutions. Architects are not always happy with the way retrofits change the spaces they’ve designed. When AV tools are contemplated from the start, however, the results blend creativity and expertise for a truly seamless end user experience.
“Our clients recognize that information and possibilities lie far beyond the four walls of their project,” architect Jennifer K. Cordes says. “Today’s buildings have the potential to link people to the outside world in real time.”
Realizing this same potential in their respective domains is essential for both architects and integrators — but it’s only the first step in the process of creating buildings that realize this vision. Teamwork between architects, AV consultants and integrators is essential to success, says AV Magazine’s George Cole.
Here’s how to think about bidding in order to build relationships and pursue success: