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Simple Green

The Orlando Utilities Commission needed simple, smart AV that could adapt to LEED-driven construction.

Simple Green

Nov 9, 2009 10:42 AM,
By Trevor Boyer

The Orlando Utilities Commission needed simple, smart AV that could adapt to LEED-driven construction.

Because Reliable Plaza’s architects wanted to use natural daylight to help offset the burden on the building’s heating system, Teer Engineering specifed Sanyo PLC-XT35 5000-lumen projectors in OUC’s three training rooms and commission chambers, which have southern exposures and significant ambient light.

When the Orlando Utilities Commission set out to build a new headquarters, the goal was gold—the second highest certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)—a rating that few buildings have merited. This objective would have implications for the building’s AV integrator, alongside the more usual government requirement for ultrasimple operation and maintenance.

As anyone who’s scanned through the LEED for New Construction Rating System guidebook knows, there are several ways to go green as a means to strike gold. To inch toward that level of certification, a team designing a building can specify bike racks, have the roof painted white, or design a cistern for the roof to collect rainwater. The LEED-certified building can have a hyperefficient air-conditioning system, some bamboo flooring, and a system of intelligent window blinds that open and close to maximize (or deflect) the sun’s energy. Or all of the above. Or none of these.

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The U.S. Green Building Council’s intent is that all these LEED-oriented efforts result in three general outcomes: water/energy efficiency, pollution/waste reduction, and the use of sustainable, recycled, or recyclable building materials. There is no single objective metric that can account for all of these laudable goals, so a building’s LEED rating is based not on any yardstick but on a checklist. There are a few fundamental requirements, and optional achievements each result in the award of one point toward certification. A certain number of points captures a specific LEED rating.

A building’s audiovisual system, of course, sucks a certain amount of electricity. A well-designed energy-efficient AV system can help a building design fulfill a LEED pre­requisite and add points to a design. In the case of the OUC’s new home, the 10-story Reliable Plaza, its Gold LEED rating was well in the bag before the audiovisual integrators, Teer Engineering, could submit a design for the building’s commission chambers, three training rooms, and 20 small conference rooms. Though LEED-certification efforts didn’t directly affect the Orlando, Fla.,-based firm’s audiovisual system design for Reliable Plaza, they did have an impact on its installation of the AV gear.

Public Welcome

It’s fitting that the Orlando Utilities Commission—the local power company—would move into the first building in Orlando to attain a Gold LEED rating. Like most utilities around the country, the OUC preaches energy conservation to its customers—protecting a Florida power grid from being overtaxed is a top job for the not-for-profit energy company. With Reliable Plaza’s Gold LEED rating, the OUC sets an example. The municipally owned commission is run by a five-member board that includes the Orlando mayor. It answers to the public, so its meetings are open to the public.

Reliable Plaza, which will celebrate its first anniversary next month, houses the OUC’s customer-service and administrative arms on several floors. (It’s also home to commercial and municipal offices.) On the seventh floor is the OUC’s commission chambers. The room hosts public meetings for up to 75 people, and with its amplified sound system, digital recording infrastructure, and multimedia presentation gear, it’s the most technologically packed room in the building, according to John Teer, president of Teer Engineering.

Intelligible audio is key to the utility of this public room. In the ceiling, the firm installed 20 JBL Control 26CT 6.5in. two-way loudspeakers. In addition to the Shure MX412/C gooseneck podium microphone, the commission chambers is outfitted with six Shure MX410/C gooseneck mics for commission members. These members have a one-year term, so there’s minimal level-setting. “After the mics have been set for the first meeting or so, they tend to stay pretty much the same way,” Teer says.

A BSS Soundweb London (BLU-120 and BLU-160) DSP system allowed Teer Engineering to set EQ and compression levels for the room. “We pretty much tuned those and set it,” Teer says. The client does not need to adjust these settings, but mic-level settings are available via the room’s AMX control system.

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Simple Green

Nov 9, 2009 10:42 AM,
By Trevor Boyer

The Orlando Utilities Commission needed simple, smart AV that could adapt to LEED-driven construction.

In the commission chambers, a standalone AMX tabletop touchpanel was installed so that someone not at the podium could adjust mic levels and perform other control tasks.

A network-connected Tascam HD-R1 device records the public meetings and makes the audio files available to transcribers immediately following. The transcribers, who post the record of the meetings on the OUC’s public website, can access the MP3 files over the building’s IP network.

The commission chambers, like the building’s training rooms, has a smart podium that’s controlled by a Hitachi StarBoard T-17SXL touchscreen , which in turn is tied to the building’s AMX control system. From this podium, a user can control the room’s video system, which links a serial-controlled Integra DPC 7.7 DVD player and computer video sources to the room’s two 47in. LG 47LG50DC flatpanel displays and a Sanyo projector.

The majority of the rooms for which Teer Engineering specified gear are used as breakout rooms for small teams of employees within the building. They’re not used by the public or as training rooms; instead, they host simple computer presentations. As such, they required a very simple audiovisual setup. An LG plasma or LCD TV is mounted to the wall in each room. VGA wiring connects this screen to the room’s table, which has inputs for a laptop display. (Of the 20 smaller rooms, five have 50in. 50PC5DC screens; another five have 32in. 32LG30DC LCD screens. Four smaller rooms received 42in. 42LG30DC screens, and eight got 47in. 47LG50DC sets.) For the training rooms and for the commission chambers, Teer Engineering specified Sanyo PLC-XT35 projectors.

Installing around LEED

When Teer Engineering hangs projectors and heavy screens from ceilings, it’s usually a simple matter. “Most commercial construction, you’d have a ceiling grid,” Teer says, “and then above it, you’d have some type of joist or roof structure that’s holding the roof. And normally we’d use some type of channel steel and some rigging and hang it that way, with all thread [rod] and so forth.” Reliable Plaza’s design does not facilitate the typical hanging of heavy equipment. That stems from the air-conditioning vents being installed in the raised floor—a major component of the building’s LEED-friendly energy-saving design.

“We had no option but literally to drill up into the concrete from the floor above and use what we call mini drop-in fasteners,” Teer says. That concrete is pretensioned by a grid of steel cables. The integration firm was prohibited from drilling deeper than 3/4in. into the concrete to ensure that it would avoid snapping a structural steel cable. “It was challenging finding fasteners that would only go 3/4in. deep yet would hold the weight that we needed and wouldn’t pull out,” he says.

The Powers Fasteners mini drop-in fasteners fit the bill; the next trick was getting the fasteners into the pretensioned concrete. Teer Engineering modified the tip of a Sears Craftsman air hammer so that it would fit the fastener and pound it into the concrete.

The raised flooring has made one aspect of the job easier for Teer Engineering. “As we’ve come back to add additional features, all we’ve had to do is pop up some carpet tiles,” says Al Sheppard, project manager/programmer. “I can literally take one of my small installers and send him under the floor.” The flooring is raised 18in. above the concrete slab, and that’s made it easier to run wires for the additional AMX control panel that the firm has installed since completing the initial installation.

Another aspect of LEED certification that complicated matters for Teer is the daylighting of the building. One goal of the Reliable Plaza design was to admit as much sunlight as possible during colder months, in order to lessen the burden on the building’s heating system. To that end, the three OUC training rooms and the commission chambers have southern exposures. (One training room has a western exposure as well.) The OUC’s IT department had requested a specific projector model, but it became apparent during the installation that these projectors wouldn’t overcome the ambient daylighting of the rooms. For these four rooms, Teer Engineering instead specified the Sanyo PLC-XT35 projectors, which are rated at 5000 ANSI lumens, compared to the initial suggested models’ 3300 lumens.

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Simple Green

Nov 9, 2009 10:42 AM,
By Trevor Boyer

The Orlando Utilities Commission needed simple, smart AV that could adapt to LEED-driven construction.

Control Systems

The LEED guidebook specifies that a point is awarded if 90 percent of a building’s occupants can control lighting for individual tasks and there’s sufficient lighting control in all shared multi-occupant spaces. Reliable Plaza fulfills both of those requirements, and it has person sensors in parts of the building to facilitate autoshutoff of the lights.

For training rooms, the architects had specified a Crestron lighting-control system before the AV integrators started their portion of the job. That presented the Teer team with the task of integrating the dimming controls into the AV touchpanels. “The architect, previous to us getting involved, specified Crestron as the main dimming system throughout the building,” Teer says. “We needed to control the lights in the training rooms and the commission chambers, so we used the Crestron PAC2M [controller] to let AMX talk to Crestron,” Teer says. The AMX talks to the Crestron system over IP. “We literally set up a simple language so the AMX system could tell the Crestron to set this light dimmer to this value,” Sheppard says.

For the training rooms, Teer wrote AMX controls to a series of HTML pages that are accessible on the Dell PCs installed in the rooms’ podiums. For user control, the Dell computers are wedded to 17in. Hitachi StarBoard ST-17SXL touchpanels. As mentioned, Teer Engineering later added a standalone tabletop touchpanel from AMX to the commission chambers so that someone not at the podium could adjust mic levels and perform other control tasks.

Sheppard was responsible for setting up an AV control system that would be intuitive to the nontechnical OUC employees who drive the DVD players and switch computer sources for PowerPoint presentations. He says that many employees never understood how to operate the control system in place at the OUC’s previous location. For Reliable Plaza, the four AutoPatch Precis LT series switchers direct traffic for a fairly complicated matrix of video sources and displays, but the user sees easily identifiable source and display selections, such as “Desktop Computer” and “Laptop Computer.” Teer Engineering devised a system that color-maps sources and displays based on what’s connected. For instance, if a DVD player running an OUC logo is selected to send the signal to two LCD monitors in the commission chambers, this source and these displays could be all coded blue on the control panel.

Perhaps the most complicated function of the AV control system for employees is the act of sending video signals from one room to another. For example, a well-attended public meeting in the commission chambers might necessitate the use of a training room as an overflow room. In this case, the user needs to turn off the “Privacy” option in the commission chambers, and the Training Room 1 control panel would then have access to the video sources of the commission chambers via a “View Other Rooms” command.

Ongoing Attention

Below all these simple controls are layers of system reporting (such as projector lamp-life information) and menu editing that only Teer Engineering knows how to access. The integration firm has a maintenance contract with the OUC to clean projector filters and replace their lamps when necessary. Projector and DVD player data is shared over serial connections to the AMX system, and the AMX systems talk with each other and to the London BLU DSP infrastructure over IP.

Another part of Teer’s contract is to run the audiovisual portion of the public meetings that take place in the commission chambers. “We’re just using the exact same AMX panel that they have at their disposal,” Teer says. A maintenance contract guarantees a regular billable service without a new sales effort, so Teer Engineering is understandably eager to help the OUC continue to improve its AV operations. For instance, there’s the Keywest Tecnology MXS-MZRV digital signage system that the firm installed in the building lobby. So far, the content is less than compelling and not updated regularly, according to Teer. “They’ve never had a system like this before,” he says, “so they don’t really have anybody who normally runs it or creates media for it.” Teer Engineering has designed an elegant, simple AV system for nontechnical users to operate, but there’s apparently still a need for its expertise.

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