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The Nuts and Bolts of a Green AV Installation, Part 2

What happens when you have to install a big AV system in a LEED-certified building that doesn’t always meet confessional construction specs?

The Nuts and Bolts of a Green AV Installation, Part 2

May 3, 2010 11:38 AM,
By Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

What happens when you have to install a big AV system in a LEED-certified building that doesn’t always meet confessional construction specs? Mark Morrison, Patrick DeZess, and Allan Childers of Audio Video Systems (AVS) found out on the headquarters of the U.S. Green Building Council.

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SVC: OK, Mark, Patrick, and Allan, we were talking about the AV installation that AVS did in the headquarters of the U.S. Green Building Council and as a leader in the green AV movement, AVS is working under this whole concept of energy efficiency that was kind of in line with the building’s LEED certification. They have a lot of display monitors in that installation. I believe those were Sharp LCDs?
Morrison: Yeah, we actually ended up using the Sharp Aquos consumer-grade LCDs, and the reason we chose those, first of all, was the Energy Star efficiency that was built into them, where it actually turned off certain features sets when they weren’t in use, and the other reason that we chose it was based on the Ethernet port. We were able to do remote monitoring of those panels through their network at the same time. [Timestamp: 1:30]

Yeah, that’s really something. The whole concept that you put into this system is that things turn themselves off when they’re not in use or in an operational mode when they’re not expected to be used, and that’s something that human operators are notoriously bad about doing is just leaving things running or having more things turned on than they really need. So what format are these displays? How many of them are there?
Childers: I believe there was 12 different Sharp Aquos displays.

OK, and they work by what, serial control?
Morrison: Yeah, pretty much [in] all of our systems, we try to use serial control for two-way communication as much as possible. So we used the Sharp Aquos. We used the serial connectivity to them and the actual cabling we used [is] the Crestron QuickMedia system so everything running to and from displays pretty much is Cat-5. [Timestamp: 2:15]

OK, and that includes the power amps and everything for the audio?
Morrison: We used the Crestron amplifiers in various spaces. Now, the outputs to those amplifiers are just standard analog cabling, but everything running between the different QuickMedia make … the switchers and the amplifiers and stuff is all Cat-5 cabling and we also use audio extractors where necessary too. [Timestamp: 2:36]

And, of course, doing it that way holds down cabling costs?
Morrison: Exactly.

They use ceiling speakers on this?
Morrison: Yeah, there’s a combination. In some spaces, we use ceiling recess ceiling speakers, and in other spaces, we use wall-mounted playback speakers—depending on the various rooms and the applications. [Timestamp: 2:49]

OK, now as a LEED-certified building, I think this came up a little bit of a different animal for AVS. Was there anything that had to be done differently than the way that you were used to handling it? I mean, were there anything unexpected things that came up?
DeZess: We actually ran into a couple of interesting things in the course of the project where, as an integrator having not worked on a LEED project before this, we were kind of struck off guard a little bit on some of the stuff that we ran into. For example, the studs that were used in the facility were not a standard steel stud that you would run across in general commercial building. They were actually narrower in their size. So we lost about an inch of space that we were anticipating having within the wall cavity to install some of the integrative back boxes for touchpanels and things of that nature. [Timestamp: 3:39]

And these little surprises often don’t show up on paper ahead of time but just kind of come up while you’re cutting and hacking away and running cable and suddenly, “Hey, this thing’s not supposed to be here.”
DeZess: Yeah, that’s when we found it with the install. We were actually in the field starting to put the back boxes in and realized that they stuck out a little further than they were supposed to. It made for some interesting last-minute phone calls trying to figure out how to deal with it. [Timestamp: 4:04]

Yeah, I’ll bet it did. What kind of answers did you get? Did you get the cooperation that you needed or did you have to … what did you have to do to go around the problem?
DeZess: Well, really, what it come down to is it came down to our engineering staff working with our integration staff to make some modifications to some of the mounting hardware that we have so that we could properly accommodate the conditions of the building. [Timestamp: 4:27]

And you installed Boston Acoustics speakers, I believe?
DeZess: Yes, we put some surface on a Boston Acoustics speakers into some of the spaces within the building, and that was mainly an aesthetic decision to meet the look and feel that the client was looking for.

Morrison: During the actual design process, they were working with an architect. They wanted to keep a certain look and feel to the facility. For the most part, all of the stuff that we wanted to have visible we had to submit to the architect to get approvals for—just for the aesthetic practices. The speakers that were originally selected had been approved, but once we went to install them, they had changed their minds on what they actually looked like in the space. And then we did some research along with them, and the Boston Acoustics were identified based on the actual shape of them, the color, how they matched within the interior of the space, and things of that nature. [Timestamp: 5:16]

Yeah, sometimes it can be a little difficult to describe exactly out how something is going to look in a space that hasn’t been completed. Did you have anything available from, say, previous installations that you were able to use to kind of demo things?
Morrison: Now, unfortunately, even during the original submittal process, a lot of the stuff that we had to submit were cut sheets and going to websites and looking at specifications and referring people to various areas. This, like the other areas, was pretty much looking stuff up on the Web, seeing what the color samples were, things of that nature, but we actually didn’t have anything inhouse that we could compare it to at that time. [Timestamp: 5:51]

You said you had a number of LCD video displays. Are you having to deal with a lot of different video formats, or is it pretty much universal all the way through?
Morrison: We have mostly analog formats in the various spaces. We’ve got VGA for your computer, there’s some video. [In] some of the other cafeteria spaces, they wanted the ability to hook up some gaming systems to those displays, so we had to integrate HDMI direct connects that are kind of outside the autosensing area that we had it for the various spaces install, but it’s pretty much standardized on component, composite, VGA, and then in a couple of spaces, there’s a little bit of HDMI connectivity. [Timestamp: 6:29]

So for their computer secondary monitor display, they can just reach into a pocket on the conference table and pull out a VGA cable?
Morrison: It either goes into a wall plate or a floor box, and then in some areas, I think there were cable cubbies that were installed in tables to pass the cables through. [Timestamp: 6:44]

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The Nuts and Bolts of a Green AV Installation, Part 2

May 3, 2010 11:38 AM,
By Bennett Liles

Well, at least in those particular situations you don’t have that many different people trying to use the system. The only thing that bothers me about those, and I deal with a lot of VGA cables working AV on a university campus, these things really take a beating sometimes. I wish somebody would come up with something like titanium pins on these things. I would corner the market on those, but your installation was obviously a much less brutal environment for those. So have they come up with some sort of central control point for all the AV systems? I think I read they were using Crestron’s RoomView application to coordinate monitoring and control.
DeZess: Yeah, we had worked with them to ensure that they had the proper capacity in their servers to load on the Crestron RoomView software and that ties into centralized scheduling that can be operated to automatically schedule rooms and make sure the rooms are turned off, things of that nature. [Timestamp: 7:35]

Who does that for them? I mean, is it inhouse or do you guys get a call or something?
DeZess: They do it inhouse. They do all the management and scheduling of that within their organization. I believe they have a couple of points in their facility where they can do that. [Timestamp: 7:50]

Well that’s a real nice application. I use that every day myself, and really once you get up into a certain scale of things, it’s almost impossible to keep up with it if you don’t have an application like that. It sure saves on shoe leather.
DeZess: Yeah. Their facility stretches over two floors. So having rooms where they’re not directly within close walking distance, it really cuts down on the clients time needed to make sure their systems are maintained and operated properly. [Timestamp: 8:19]

Did you guys put some stuff in some of those rooms in credenzas and things like that?
DeZess: They had some built in cabinetry in the rooms, and we were into some more of those hidden unexpected areas while trying to integrate our racks into those … through the process of design and everything as most integrators do when you’re working with built in cabinetry—you check the specs and you expect certain things out of cabinets. But with this being a LEED-certified building and all, the concept of material reduction found its way even into the installed cabinetry, so where you would normally expect a certain depth to be able to put a rack into, we found that we were 2in. or 3in. short and had to do some custom modification to get our Middle Atlantic racks to properly fit within the provided space. It’s definitely a surprise to the installer when they expect the equipment to fit all the way in and it actually sticks out an extra inch or two. [Timestamp:9.18]

Amazing what transpires between the brilliant concept and when the nuts and bolts and wood starts being cut and things like that—all the little gremlins that pop out. In all this kind of work, have you had the occasion or the opportunity to incorporate any sort of energy monitoring equipment for installations like this?
DeZess: It’s something that we’re definitely looking into on how we would approach energy monitoring and put it together in such a way that we’re providing our clients with an accurate picture of energy usage or energy savings, but we have not done that as of yet because we want to make sure that when were doing it, we’re doing it in a way that’s both consistent and accurate with current standards for monitoring energy usage and savings. As system integrators, even though there’s not currently industry standards on how to monitor power and how to present that information to our customers, we really have the ability to be creative and to come up with ways to do that so that our customers are getting the most of value from us as service providers. So I think it’s definitely something that our shows of system integrators are looking at and other system integrators definitely have a huge amount of space to work within to provide those services. [Ttimestamp:10:40]

Well I would think that equipment like this would very soon get to be a growth industry because obviously energy isn’t going to be getting any cheaper any time soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see outfits like Crestron maybe incorporate more features dealing with energy use into RoomView and maybe other applications. So did you get a chance to talk with the users on this system? I mean, what’s been their reaction so far since they’ve had a chance to use it?
Childers: The clients seemed very pleased with the system. We haven’t had any complaints or anything go wrong with it after the install, so they seem very happy with it. [Timestamp: 11:16]

All right, well, it was obviously sort of a new challenge working with more strict guidelines for energy savings, but I’d say you’re kind of breaking new ground with it because it’s a growing movement. It was the U.S. Green Building Council headquarters and the installer is Audio Video Systems and Mark Morrison, Patrick DeZess, and Allan Childers. It’s been great having you with me here on the Corporate AV podcast.
Morrison: Thank you very much.
DeZess: Thank you.
Childers: Thank you.

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