29.09.10

1,020 Luxury rooms, 1 antique alarm clock

AUTHOR: Inavate

London’s first brand new hotel since the 1940’s is now open for business, and boasts a host of top new AV facilities. Chris Fitzsimmons reports from the Park Plaza Hotel at Westminster Bridge.

Located at the heart of London, a stone’s throw from Waterloo Station, the Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster Bridge, is the first completely new hotel to be built in the UK’s capital for over 60 years. An Israeli led construction project team included BUJ Architects and Uri Blumenthal Architects & Town Planners as well as GEAR construction project management.
Main mechanical and electrical contractor Electra, engaged Barkai as the lead AV systems integrator, and they in turn hired TGM Solutions to manage the installation project on the ground in London. Director Ian Kerson was the project manager for TGM.
Complete AV system design for the Hotel was managed by Audio Visual Design (AVD), also from Israel, under the management of Daniel Fichman. 
The Hotel’s construction itself is an engineering marvel. Built in three short years from 2007 to 2010, the innovative method involved laying foundations and supporting steelwork, before simultaneously digging down for the subterranean levels and building up to create the building’s above-ground floors.
At the same time, much of the hotel’s interior was constructed in modules at a separate location in Essex, before being shipped to the site and installed complete. Regular readers of InAVate may remember that this isn’t the first modular building we’ve looked at. The Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv, which we reported on in May 2009, used the same methodology for rapid civil construction.
Whilst the hotel itself contains some 960 guest rooms, of particular interest are the business and leisure facilities offered by the Park Plaza to both guests and visitors. These include a 1,000 capacity grand ballroom, a dedicated re-configurable conference suite covering around 2,500 m2 and also numerous meeting rooms as part of the business centre. These also benefit from movable partition walls allowing the hotel to cater for most events and requirements.
The lower levels of the hotel house an extensive wellness centre with a pool, health and exercise facilities. Further leisure features include a restaurant and bar on the first floor, as well as a lobby café.
Underpinning the specific technologies installed in all of these areas is a significant Crestron control network. It controls all of the AV gear in the meeting and conferencing spaces, as well as performing audio distribution duties for the wellness centre in the guise of an Adagio system. To crown is all, the lighting in the Hotel is controlled by the UK’s largest installation of Crestron lighting equipment to-date.
AVD's designers made extensive use of QuickMedia throughout the building, providing individual space users with control over their lighting, audio and AV systems, and allowing the Hotel to be administered via a network cabled infrastructure.
Barkai’s MD Ronen Brookstein said:  “Quick Media was the perfect solution for this project. Any hotel has many disparate electrical audio-visual and IT systems running through it. Being able to operate them on a single platform is hugely beneficial, and with QM we were able to achieve that.
“The QM platform gives the hotel management a fully integrated, but ultimately flexible approach to managing lighting and AV in the hotel lobby, lounges, ballroom and spa.”
Thanks to QuickMedia’s remote management features, during much of the installation and trouble shooting process Barkai’s engineering and design team was able to bug-fix and amend the control programme remotely from its offices in Ramat Gan in Israel. This made commissioning the time-pressured project considerably easier than it might have been, given that the lead contractor was based several thousand kilometres even away.
Much of the installation work overseen by Barkai / TGM Solutions was infrastructural in nature. Displays and projectors themselves were supplied by the Hotel’s in-house AV partner AVC, which holds a long term contract for the maintenance and supply of equipment. And, when it came to programming the control system, Barkai worked with AVC to make sure the Crestron network was configured correctly.
Background music throughout the hotel is handled largely using Tannoy CVS6 ceiling loudspeakers driven by Biamp MCA-8150 amplifiers. Several racks of these are located around the hotel providing power to the various distribution zones. Signal distribution and zone control is provided by Crestron’s Adagio audio distribution network. The content itself comes from an outside source. An outfit called Music Concierge was engaged to provide tailor made background music selections for the hotel. These play lists are streamed into the hotel over the internet, and a simple audio feed from the receiving PC is fed into the Adagio AADSI server. This would normally serve only six zones, but the addition of a pair of AAEI expansion units takes the system’s capacity up to 24 zones.
In each of the key locations, Crestron C2N-DB6 six button keypads provide channel selection and local volume control for that particular zone. Be it the restaurant, bar or coffee shop. In addition several locations are fitted with an iPod dock, and local inputs.
In a couple of locations there is a variation on this musical theme. Firstly in the wellness suite, Barkai opted to go for TOA’s F-2353SC dome-shaped ceiling speaker. This gives a wider dispersion profile, reducing the required ceiling speaker density.
The second variation comes in the Bar / Lounge. Here, whilst the Tannoy CVS6 is more than up to the task of producing good quality background music, something a little different was needed in the VIP area.
The bar itself features its own small performance stage, equipped with Tannoy V12 stage monitors and Beyerdynamic wired and wireless microphones. Live sound for the bar audiences is provided by a duo of Meyer Sound UPJ-1Ps backed up by two UMS-1P subwoofers.
Performances on this stage can be relayed live to a small, VIP seating area, around the corner from the rest of the bar. In this exclusive nook, a live HD camera feed from the stage can be shown on an 85”, full 1080p Panasonic plasma display. This is coupled with a pair of Tannoy i7 speakers built into the wall above it.
Elsewhere, the first floor business centre contains 13 individual meeting rooms, which can be combined via partition walls. Each of these has its own credenza located control system, comprising a C2N-DB push button controller with local inputs provided by QM-WMC / QM-WMIC panels.
All of these meeting rooms are controlled via a single MC2E processor, remotely located and controlling the projector lifts, lighting and audio in every room.
The projection system comprises a variety of Sanyo models, supplied by AVC, and mounted on Galil ceiling lifts. They fire onto motorised projector screens, also from Galil, which remain concealed in the ceiling when not in use.
The first sub-level, known as –1, contains a business conference suite of seven combinable rooms. In addition there are a couple of reception areas, which can be combined as required with the conference rooms.
Audio reproduction again is provided by Tannoy ceiling speakers, driven by further Biamp MA-8150 amplifiers. In these spaces, due to the possibility of feedback from more open microphones, Biamp NEXIA CS units are also employed. Larger panasonic PT-series projectors are also in use here, coping with bigger screens and more demanding content.
The conference suite’s spaces are all fully flexible, with partition walls able to create a variety of configurations. To facilitate effective combination of the audio zones within these configurations, Barkai specified Biamp’s NEXIA SP speaker processor.
The hotel’s largest single event space is the 1000 capacity grand ballroom. Located on level –3, it provides a focal point for visiting events. Here again, much of the AV equipment installed by Barkai and SGM is the infrastructure. For large live events or conferences, rental firms will supply much of the necessary equipment, programme sound and amplification.
On the permanent side, the key component is the lighting. Each of the sectors in the ceiling can be lit individually, with LED lighting scenes pre-programmed and then controlled via a DMX processor from Lite-puter and the Crestron system.
A Crestron 12” TPMC wireless panel has been supplied giving users full control over the lighting pre-sets from the floor of the ball room.
Lighting in general throughout the hotel played an important role, so much so that Red Sea Group founder Eli Papouchado took a personal hand and interest in the design of the lighting scenes.
The ballroom also includes more Tannoy CVS6 speakers, and again Galil projector screens and lifts are in play, currently holding Panasonic PT-D series projectors.
Another major building-wide system is the digital signage network. This is again out-sourced to a third party, who makes use of the Cat-5 infrastructure specified and installed by Barkai.
It’s a combination of Exterity IPTV, news tickers and additional content. This includes floor plans of the hotel, advertisements for hotel facilities, and welcome messages for hosted events. The displays used are a collection of LG and Samsung LCDs on Galil bracketry. Signage is on view in the lobbies, bar, coffee shop, outside the restaurant and located in the reception areas of the conference facilities.
The modular process by which the installation process was carried out mirrors the construction methods of the building. Barkai fabricated all AV and lighting dimmer racks at its Israeli site, tested them, and then shipped them to London for final installation in the Hotel.
Barkai managing director Ronen Brookstein commented: “This is without doubt a really prestigious project for us. We’re very pleased with the result, and the client is as well. I can say that we are already working on another hotel project with the Red Sea Group following this one.”
As the first new Hotel built in the capital for almost 70 years, the Westminster Bridge hotel certainly represents a striking addition to the capital’s landscape. It’s unique exterior, creatively lit and finished interior and incredible flexible internal spaces mark it out as a truly modern building.
Its environmental credentials are also considerable. The hotel will have an on-site filtered water bottling 'factory' using a carbon filter process and there-by eliminating the need to transport and dispose of an estimated one million bottles of water per year.
The hotel utilises the latest building insulation technology with triple glazed, energy retaining-cladding for heat and cold retention to maximise energy efficiency. Furthermore, the hotel produces around 15% of its own energy using a biomass electric generator. The construction involved the recycling of 4,500m³ of concrete from the demolished GLC building that was retained on site for use in the new build process. We always knew the GLC was good for something!