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AV Creates Paperless Boardroom

Although Boston is known for many great things, prime office space isn't always one of them. The downtown financial district has recently enjoyed some rejuvenation due, in part, to the construction o 12/18/2005 8:09 PM Eastern

AV Creates Paperless Boardroom

Although Boston is known for many great things, prime office space isn't always one of them. The downtown financial district has recently enjoyed some rejuvenation due, in part, to the construction of the 36-story State Street Financial Center at One Lincoln Street, the new corporate headquarters of Boston-based financial services provider State Street Corp.

CHALLENGE: Build a custom meeting table that accommodates 28 board members, and fits all AV functionality into a small space for a high-profile executive boardroom.

SOLUTION: Coordinate the boardroom's planning, engineering, and integration, so the table and AV components come together to meet the client's needs at the installation site.

The State Street executive boardroom's 28 seats feature retractable monitors and microphones in a custom table  with built in loudspeakers.

The State Street executive boardroom's 28 seats feature retractable monitors and microphones in a custom table  with built in loudspeakers.

ALTHOUGH BOSTON is known for many great things, prime office space isn't always one of them. The downtown financial district has recently enjoyed some rejuvenation due, in part, to the construction of the 36-story State Street Financial Center at One Lincoln Street, the new corporate headquarters of Boston-based financial services provider State Street Corp.

With offices in 25 countries, State Street Corp.'s initiative to build a global communication network began with high-quality video communications to all offices. Housed on the 11th floor, the executive boardroom project was part of a build-out of extra floors in the building. “The executive boardroom is a small step in a larger global project for the bank,” says John MacNeil, manager of corporate AV services for State Street, whose five-person group oversees all AV projects and support for the company.

Designed by Boston architect Elkus Manfredi, the boardroom is designed to be a completely paperless environment for board meetings. “Board meetings happen once per month,” MacNeil says. “We used to have 500-page binders with all the meeting information in them for each person. If there was one change to the presentation, then the staff would have to replace those pages in each binder.”

The centerpiece of the 40- by 30-foot meeting room is a 28- by 16-foot oval conference table. Each seat of the 28-person table includes individual motorized touchscreens that lift to provide access to the Internet, presentations, and other AV capabilities. “Each of the board members has access to vast amounts of digital information from that workstation,” MacNeil says. “If they want to print out any portion of the meeting notes or presentation, then they can do so.”

To achieve the conceptual design for the project, MacNeil enlisted the services of Anthony Calverley Thompson (ACT) Associates, an AV design firm based in Storrs, CT. Verrex Corp., an AV integrator headquartered in New Jersey with local offices in Boston and Tampa, was contracted for the engineering and installation services. Additionally, Verrex provides Tier 2 and Tier 3 support for the bank's internal AV help desk, including a full-time onsite supervisor and numerous dedicated AV technicians.

Careful coordination

Incorporating all the AV technology into the conference table was a monumental goal, especially with required functionality of loudspeakers, flat-panel displays, laptop connections, control displays, and microphones with push-to-talk mute switches. “The solution proved to be a close coordination with the table manufacturer in building the table around the products specified,” explains Bill Chamberlin, director of technical sales for Verrex. “The background electronics were incorporated into the base of the table during fabrication.”

Custom furniture manufacturer Wall/Goldfinger Inc. of Northfield, VT, was brought in to create the one-of-a-kind conference table. For this project, the key to success meant understanding the exact uses of the boardroom to distill the table's AV functionality requirements. “The bank uses audio- and videoconferencing on a daily basis,” MacNeil says. “We needed the 28 seats to have access to that as well as to the network. The boardroom needed to accommodate high-profile customers as well as board members.”

A unique table

Impressively, the table was engineered and built — from napkin sketch to installation — in just six months (three months each for design and production). Not bad considering there isn't another one like it in existence. Final statistics on the table include 214 drafting hours, 175 computer numerically controlled (CNC) routing hours, 1,740 square feet of veneer, 240 feet of maple, more than 1,000 woodworking hours, and more than 1 mile of cable. The table also features removable panels to accommodate the installation of the cables and provide easy access for support.



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AV Creates Paperless Boardroom

Although Boston is known for many great things, prime office space isn't always one of them. The downtown financial district has recently enjoyed some rejuvenation due, in part, to the construction of the 36-story State Street Financial Center at One Lincoln Street, the new corporate headquarters of Boston-based financial services provider State Street Corp.

AV capabilities include four laptop connections, 28 retractable 17-inch CyberTouch Neo17 widescreen touchpanels with dedicated, remotely located, rack-mounted PCs, and an individual microphone and loudspeaker for low-level sound reinforcement. “A key feature and design challenge to the table are the video monitors,” says Fay Anderson, design engineer for Wall/Goldfinger. When raised, each video monitor lifts up out of the table, tilts back at an 80-degree viewing angle, and stays in a locked position.

“The client wanted retractable monitors, so part of my role was to find the right mechanism for that to happen,” says Anderson, who found a motorized actuator from SKF Magnetic of Switzerland to handle the job. The actuators move the monitors, which are housed in stainless steel, custom-fabricated encasements mounted on a pivot point. Adjacent EAW USC31a custom loudspeakers are built into the table and are covered with a custom “manhole cover” stainless steel grille to match the video monitors.

Because meeting participants also needed to be close enough to touch the screen, the monitor placement was closer to the edge of the table than usual. This presented an ergonomic challenge in terms of adequate knee space and a comfortable sitting distance from the table, which was addressed by designing the table on an angle with a stepped back base. This presented a greater mechanical engineering challenge because the monitors couldn't retract straight down into the table.

Safety was also an important factor, especially with moving parts so close to fingers. Anderson estimated that there was approximately 30 pounds of pressure from the monitors and housing on the way down, which could easily smash digits. The design was changed to include a compression spring that counteracted the weight.

Once the design was in place and all of the openings were measured to fit the AV specifications, AutoCAD drawings were sent to the metal fabricator and to Wall/Goldfinger's in-house woodworking shop. From there, all parts were cut using precision CNC machining.

Easy-to-use AV

As the primary designer of the AV system, ACT Associates' goal was to assemble a high-quality system that was also easy to use. “The design reflects our culture today,” MacNeil says. “People use all types of devices to stay connected. In our executive boardroom, there's connectivity at each position at the table.”

Of the 28 seats, four are equipped with Crestron UPX2 Universal Presentation Processors to create control panel stations that can cue up and send any source to any monitor location, including the NEC GT6000 projector located at the front of the room. Sources include 29 PCs (28 for each seat and one as a logo PC), three Sony BRC-300 videoconferencing cameras, a Denon DVD-5900 DVD player, and a Cabletime MediaStar cable TV tuner. “This control feature proved to be paramount in order to provide the greatest flexibility with an intuitive user experience,” Verrex's Chamberlin says.

A Tandberg 6000MXP codec handles videoconferencing, while a ClearOne XAP system is used for audioconferencing. Centered on each monitor is a small, custom-made pop-up door containing a beyerdynamic MCE10 microphone and mute switch that can be recessed when not in use. The audio system for presentations includes two JBL AC2212/195 program loudspeakers and six JBL Control 26CT ceiling speakers powered by Crown amplifiers. For security purposes, the AV isn't networked to other rooms on the same floor, although video signals can be sent to the NEC WT-610 ceiling-mounted projector located in the hallway, which is typically used for corporate branding.

Discreet technical and meeting support is run from a workstation located outside the room. The workstation is configured like a seat in the boardroom, which enables an AV tech to see, hear, and control the room. This eliminates the need to have a tech physically in the room to address a problem, or to cue sources during presentations.

Prior to the installation, Wall/Goldfinger assembled the base section of the table in its offices, and worked with Verrex in advance to sort out any install issues. For the actual installation at State Street, Verrex pre-installed AV components and cabling as much as possible. The table was shipped to State Street's offices at One Lincoln Street in Boston and assembled in sections onsite. The displays were shipped separately and also assembled onsite. “Our current challenge is getting all the executives trained to operate the room on their own,” MacNeil says. “Looking ahead, we just have to maintain the equipment and keep an eye out on future components that will need to fit into the table.”

SELECTING THE RIGHT ACTUATOR

When design engineer Fay Anderson of Northfield, VT-based custom furniture manufacturer Wall/Goldfinger was brought in to create the custom conference table in State Street Corp.'s executive boardroom, she needed the perfect motorized lift actuator to move the table's 28 monitors. She found it at SKF Magnetic of Switzerland. SKF is the world's largest manufacturer of magnetic bearings and actuators. The EcoMag 40 actuator with SEM controller used in the table can be used is a wide range of applications, most notably in hospital furniture such as beds. It features a worm drive design, and uses 24 V direct current for power. Each actuator has its own control individually wired into the touchpanel.

The actuator is fastened to the inside floor of the table with a custom fabricated bracket by Tri Tech USA of South Burlington, VT. The dual-arm metal assembly is attached to the monitor's custom stainless steel housing (also by Tri Tech) and, with the upward motion, extends and pivots the monitor to the appropriate viewing angle. Cable ties on the dual arms keep the monitor cables from interfering with the motion. The monitor assembly moves on a track system with limiter bars to control precisely where the monitor stops in the up and down positions.

Each SKF actuator is held in place with two cotter pins. Rated for 450 pounds, the actuators are more than adequate to handle the 30-pound load. In the event of a failure, tech staff can access the interior of the table, undo the two pins, and easily pop in a new actuator.

Linda Seid Frembes is a freelance writer and PR specialist for the professional AV industry. She can be reached at linda@frembes.com.



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