Flexible AV at Cardiff's UK Government Hub, Ty William Morgan

Creating flexible AV systems for staff of varying technical abilities while keeping everything secure was never going to easy. Paul Milligan reports.

Cardiff's brand new UK Government Hub, Ty William Morgan is located in the Welsh capital's Central Square. The 25,000 sq. m Government hub is home to around 4,500 civil servants from several UK Government departments and agencies and is HMRC’s Cardiff Regional Centre. The idea behind the new building is to bring teams together so they have the opportunity to work differently, more effectively, more efficiently and deliver an even better service. The key elements for this project were to provide an environment that promotes collaboration and efficiency and also provide robust, effective AV systems that help national security.

In charge of installing the AV was system integrator, Smartcomm, who worked alongside AV consultant Blend and developer ISG for the duration of the project. One positive for this project was Smartcomm had worked for the client and with Blend before, so were on the same page from the very beginning. Not only did Smartcomm, Blend and ISG have to design, install and integrate the AV systems for users of all technical abilities, they also had to keep in mind visitors to the site too, as Geoff Pryce, technology architect, Smartcomm explains: “The building also regularly accommodates people from OGDs (other government departments). Therefore, you may have external staff or a visitor turning up to use a meeting room who has never used these rooms before, and they might have a meeting in five minutes, and it might be with [UK prime minister] Boris Johnson. Flexibility is key, as is having instant adaptability to intuitively use the rooms.”

With the building comprising meeting spaces of all sizes including a six-way divisible meeting room, a café, two receptions, collaboration spaces, a user research lab, video hearing rooms and more spread over multiple floors, this was always going to be a major undertaking from an AV perspective. While the café will be predominantly used for dining, it includes flexible systems which allow it to also be used as an event space, and an overflow for the six-way divisible meeting space located on another floor. The main display for town hall style events and conferences is a ceiling recessed motorised 137-in Da-Lite projection screen combined with a ceiling recessed Sony projector on a Future Automation electric projector lift. The projector can display an image presented locally and from the divisible rooms on another level when additional overflow space is required during an event.

On each floor visitors are welcomed by messaging on an NEC 40-in LFD enclosed in a Peerless 40-in portrait kiosk and integrated with a Scala digital signage player. In the reception of the business events centre there are two 40-in NEC display screens side by side, mounted in landscape, driven by a Scala digital signage player. The six-way divisible meeting room is one of the most impressive technological aspects of this project. It consists of six adjacent rooms which when the partitions are closed, have complete independent presentation functionality. However, when opened up they act as a single space. The equipment installed in this area includes two 98-in NEC LFDs for town hall, presentation and large conference scenarios, with one display for each end of the room, and six 86-in NEC LFDs are fitted for each individual room, mounted on an articulated Chief mount. Each room has its own 10-in Crestron TSW-1060 touch panel with custom GUI, and there are five Crestron Partition sensors across the rooms. Audio is handled by six ceiling beamforming Shure microphone arrays, four Shure lapel mics, four Shure handheld wireless mics, four Shure wireless belt pack transmitters and six Ampetronic hearing induction loops.

All AV sources from each room connect to the AV over IP network. The multiple NEC LCD displays connect to the network to allow maximum flexibility when the rooms are configured in the different scenarios. When one or four of the partitions are opened, making two to five rooms become one, programming allows the same functionality as individual rooms. This means the control panels treat the combined area as if it were a larger individual room rather than separate spaces. When all of the partitions are opened, combining the six rooms into one, there is an additional option to extend the presentation to the Café area. The video system is based around a BYOD protocol where the output is distributed by an AVoIP network with a QSC Q-SYS processor.

In all rooms, the individual Crestron touch panels are used for source selection. When the partitions are closed the AVoIP network routes each independent room section table input (such as video from a laptop) to their respective screen(s). When the partitions connecting the rooms are open the IP network routes the laptop video to all displays from the table connections and the lectern (for the end rooms). The video feed (when the partition is open) is distributed to all of the displays in the adjoined room sections depending on the room’s configuration. When the partitions are closed, video is only reproduced on the local 86-in display and audio via the Crestron Saros ceiling speakers within that room. The audio connections, when the partitions are closed, are only reproduced on the dedicated Shure ceiling speakers associated with that room.

Each individual room houses a Q-LAN based PTZ camera and a Startech docking station for a BYOD connection. When the rooms are used individually, these cameras can be used for conferencing. BYOD conferencing for two-way real-time video and audio collaboration via HMRC Soft UC client is fully integrated within the in-room AV systems. The touch panels have two different operation modes: A user self-operation mode for basic presentations and a technician panel mode for system setup.
The User Research Lab is an area where members of the public are invited to go through the website, forms and other interactive communications issued by the HMRC. This allows the team to learn what works and what does not. Eye tracking technology and a one-way mirror allows the HMRC team, in the aptly named Viewing Room, to learn from the participants how easy the information is to disseminate and use. In the research lab, a 55-in NEC LFD is on a Unicol mobile trolley so it can be moved to where it is most needed. Both the User Research Lab and the viewing room have a Crestron 3-Series Media Presentation Controller wall mounted for room control. The rooms also incorporate a Polycom Trio 8800 IP conference phone combined with the ClearOne Unite 200 PTZ camera. Both rooms also have Ampetronic induction loops installed.

The viewing room contains most of the tech with ten NEC 27-in displays and an NEC 65in UHD LFD on a mobile Unicol trolley, two Yamaha active studio monitors and an RDL mixer. A Crestron distribution amplifier and HDMI switcher allow the controls to be switched between the viewing team, allowing team members to take control and share content, as necessary. The HMRC teams required a specific room set up to accommodate different types of meetings and scenarios. For some types of meetings such as arbitrations and demonstrations, a more extensive view is required. The Video Hearing Rooms have NEC displays (75-in and 55-in LFDs) on adjacent walls. A ClearOne PTZ camera is positioned at each display. Having two displays plus cameras on adjacent walls has a number of advantages; full visibility of both sides of the meeting table, it allows for shared content streaming during video conferences and gives flexibility for a variety of room set ups.

As in every office building, most levels contain a number of typical meeting rooms. These have table connectivity for BYOD to ensure staff can walk in and present and share information as easily as possible. An NEC 75-in LFD is provided for UC&C and presentations. A ClearOne PTZ camera is positioned under each display. Users are able to use the room for a UC call, via a BYOD laptop, which can access the camera and audio through USB connectivity via the table cubby.

Audio is relayed via USB through the screen’s built-in speakers. A Polycom Trio 8800 IP conference phone is installed on the table-top. Similarly, the typical meeting rooms in the BEC, have a wall mounted NEC 75-in LFD and a QSC Q-SYS PoE camera for AV-to-USB bridging for UC&C and presentations. The room can be used for a unified communications call, via a BYOD laptop with the laptop able to gain access to the camera and audio through USB connectivity via the table cubby. Audio can be relayed either via the screen’s built in speakers or the six Crestron Saros ceiling speakers.

The Business Lounge has a ceiling recessed motorised 137-in Da-Lite projection screen combined with a ceiling recessed Sony 12,000 lumens laser projector on a Future Automation electric projector lift. This is the main display for town hall style events and conferences. Other equipment includes Crestron Saros 4-in in-ceiling speakers for speech re-enforcement. Video is distributed via AVoIP, this includes the ability for BYOD for UC&C and presentations from the lectern. Room control is provided by a table mounted Crestron 10-in touchscreen in the large cabinet meeting room and a smaller wall mounted Crestron 3-Series Media Presentation Controller. When the partitions are closed the AVoIP system routes each independent room section table input to their respective screen.

Although this was a new building, there were a number of unforeseen challenges, the first was the Café hearing loop. The special flooring laid in the café which, while environmentally friendly, was found to be thinner than normal flooring. This meant Smartcomm had to work with ISG to get the right thickness of loop tape in conjunction with the levelling adhesive for the desired floor finish. This was to ensure the Ampetronic hearing loops would not show yet would work perfectly and be compliant. Another challenge was the programming for the six-way divisible room because of all the combinations and the overflow to the café. Getting the partition switching to meet all stakeholders’ requirements was a challenge, this was achieved by exacting programming of the various speaker and lighting zones. Another challenge for Smartcomm was in the operational command and control room. There are five shared touch panels in this area, to allow any of the participants in the operation the ability take over the AV control if something vital needs to be shared at a moment’s notice. The challenge for Smartcomm was to make the programming around the switching easy to use yet specific enough to handle high stress situations.

With such an array of AV kit, some was assembled at Smartcomm’s own test area says Pryce, including the major rack builds. Testing of the AV kit was completed in conjunction with ISG, Blend and HMRC’s quality assurance team. Smartcomm had to be creative here because of Covid adds Pryce, “We did a thorough test, but because of Covid we couldn't get everyone to our witness test area to see it. So we did a video of the witness testing, showing them the racks, walking through the mics, pressing the button on the control pad.” To make sure the IT team was happy with so much AV kit, Pryce set up fortnightly workshops with ISG, Fujitsu (the IT contractor) and HMRC, which ran for six months with “tasks and actions to define the network configuration and ensure that security requirements were met,” adds Pryce.

The modern design and layout of the new building is a key to its success, it enables previously disparate teams to come together, while supporting the government’s target to streamline its estate and work processes. BYOD connectivity and instant, easy presentation and conferencing capabilities are prevalent in every meeting space, which is a huge credit to Blend and Smartcomm given the size and complexity of the installation.


Ampetronic D10-2, D14-2 hearing loop driver
Crestron Saros 4-in 2-way in-ceiling speaker
Polycom Trio 8800 IP conference phones, USB soundbar
QSC Q-SYS Core 510i integrated processor
Shure MXA910W-60CM ceiling beamforming mic array, lapel mics
Yamaha HS7 active studio monitor

Chief Wall mounts
ClearOne UNITE 200 PTZ camera
Crestron 3-Series Media Presentation Controller, 10-in TSW-1060-B-S touchscreens, 7-in TSW-760-B-S touchscreens, Cresnet Partition Sensors
Extron 2-input 4K/60 HDMI switchers
Future Automation electric projector lift
NEC 98-in, 86-in, 75-in, 65-in, 55-in, 40-in 32-in MultiSync LCD LFDs
Peerless portrait kiosk enclosures
ProDVX APPC-10XP 10-in room booking panels
Q-SYS PoE camera for AV-to-USB bridging, Q-SYS PTZ 12x72 cameras
Scala digital signage players
Sony 12,000 lumens LCD laser projector
Unicol K Base trolley

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