Technology transformation at the Institution of Engineering & Technology
Supplying AV systems for a range of collaboration and presentation environments for the best engineers in the UK proved a huge challenge. Paul Milligan reports on a two-year project in London.
As you can imagine, designing and installing AV systems to a venue dedicated to housing the UK’s brightest technology and engineering professionals comes with its own pressures. In a project that lasted two years, integrator Snelling Business Systems was tasked with supplying the AV infrastructure as part of a £30m refurbishment of the headquarters of the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) in central London on the banks of River Thames. Savoy Place, the home of the IET, is a space for engineering/technology professionals to meet, exchange ideas and transact business.
The brief to Snelling was to always keep the target audience in mind, AV/IT systems had to be developed for use by members of IET as well as provide a high-end offering to the event-hire market. The brief included building-wide IPTV, video and audio conferencing, video streaming, and outdoor broadcast points. The client wanted a better working environment for both internal and external clients, and to deliver large-scale engineering industry events, produce broadcast-quality digital content (IET.tv) onsite to broadcast/live stream for members, interconnected for live relay from any point to anywhere in the building, and outdoor broadcast (the venue is popular for live broadcasts and the Prime Minister’s press events). The IET wanted to increase its revenue streams, and Snelling was tasked with providing building-wide AV in more than 75 spaces overall.
Snelling won the contract after a competitive tender process in April 2014 involving interviews and site visits. It was engaged in the middle of that year to begin work, which would go on for two years. The spaces Snelling delivered include the Kelvin Lecture Theatre, a flagship conference space for both IET members and external clients with cinema-quality surround sound capability and a built-in stage. It is equipped with two 16,000 lumens Panasonic WUXGA projectors, which are edge-blended onto Europe’s largest dnp Supernova Infinity screen measuring 7.5 metres. It was here that proved to be one of Snelling biggest challenges on the project, as Steve Royans, business development manager, Snelling, explains: “The specified projector for Kelvin Lecture Theatre was a tight fit for the housing space as it was encapsulated by marble walls. We found a solution by installing the projector vertically with a bespoke mirror, working on the same principle as a periscope. Not only did this arrangement solve the problem, it now also provides ample space for maintenance technicians to reach the projector. The optical system was designed and built in-house for three axes of mechanical adjustment and the projection mount was developed on the basis of a Lang frame.”
Another big issue for Snelling to deal with was in the client’s insistence on a cable retraction system to be installed on the wall. The housing space, however, was inadequate given the depth of the wall (160mm v 234 mm) so “we redesigned and rebuilt the Extron retractor, in-house, with redesigned mechanisms to fit the standard cable length of the Extron retractor into a much smaller space,” says Royans.
Other spaces include the Turing Theatre, a tiered auditorium seats up to 175 people. It has a dedicated control room, with a large screen and virtual event connectivity. Snelling also supplied nine meeting and conference rooms with AV/VC facilities for meetings, presentations, speeches, conferences, exhibitions, dining and registration areas. Another nine video conferencing rooms were completed, with Polycom VC and HD screens for up to six people. The Faraday Library and Riverside Suites feature Brightsign digital signage, and display and projection facilities for exhibitions, large conferences, awards ceremonies, speeches and private hires.
Four members-only areas include seating booths designed for informal use by members on the second floor. Each booth has wall mounted Samsung 42-in LCD Display with connections for VGA/audio/HDMI presented to wall mounted connectivity plate mounted directly below the screen. Digital signage around Savoy Place includes 2×2 videowall, 1×2 videowall, edge-blend projection (Faraday Wall), fifteen 70-in signage displays and 29 AMX touchpanels in a series of sizes, depending on the room they are serving. AMX also features on the control aspect of the project, with integrated NetLinx NX controllers able to centrally managing the technology. A mix of NX-1200 and NX-2200 NetLinx NX controllers the smaller, more informal areas, with NX-3200 units handling the larger meeting rooms.
While being broadcast-ready with installed outdoor broadcast points, each space is interlinked, both virtually and physically. The Master Control Room allows for Light-Sound-Video operation of the Kelvin Lecture Theatre, besides live content production and ready for broadcast. In addition, other spaces (including their control rooms) within the building are connected to the Master Control Room. For example, not only can delegates seated at Turing Lecture Theatre attend a live Conference at the Kelvin Lecture Theatre, live content from both theatres can be received, processed for broadcast and thereby relayed for broadcast from one space if necessary. In addition, floorboxes at the front and back of each room are interlinked, and are also connected to the Master Control Room for monitoring and access.
Installing audio on the project provided another significant challenge on the project, because it was a refurbishment rather than a new build, Snelling had to mix the old and the new. “Given the client’s focus on revenues from live events, we blended the latest (routing audio through Dante networks) with the proven (analog cables and physical mixers with motorised faders). In effect, technicians before the event can setup the audio digitally (or an iPad remotely) but for the unpredictable during an event (for example, a speaker picks up the wrong mic), they also have access to the physical cables and mixers (a technician can simply switch the cables on the router, doing which on a digital interface would require a few moments to reset),” said Royans. Audio products chosen on this installation include BSS Networked Audio configurable signal processing and JBL loudspeakers.
Has it been a success? Well the figures speak for themselves, following the closure of IET savoy place it was expected that it would take six months following the soft launch in December 2015 for business to return to 50% of pre-closure volumes, and a further six month’s to return to 100%. The IET has beaten its own forecasts with an increase of 163% in enquiries, a 104% increase in bookings over the pre-closure figures by April 2016, and a total building footfall increase of 106%. Usage of facilities including meeting rooms, boardrooms, lecture theatres has registered a 107% increase in the same period.
Apart Audio CM6T loudspeakers
Audac DPA 152 amps
BSS BLU101 processor
JBL C226C/T loudspeakers
L’Acoustics 112P loudspeakers
Lab Gruppen C20:8X amps
Meyer Sound UP-4XP loudspeakers
Sennheiser HDI 830 audio guides
Shure CVG18 gooseneck mics
Yamaha MG166C mixing console
AMX Modero touchscreen
Crestron iPanel Table Dock
Smart Podium SP524
B-Tech B-Tech BT7510 flat screen wall mount
Blackmagic Design mini converter
Brightsign HD220 media player
dnp Supernova BLADE 120-in screen
Cabletime MediaStar Digital Media Decoders
Chief Fusion wall mounts
Draper Diplomat projection screen
Extron DTP HDMI 330 Rx twisted pair receivers
Panasonic PT-EZ580EJ WUXGA projector
Peerless Tru Vue TRVT560 trolley
Polycom SoundStructure C-Series C12 video conferencing
Samsung LH55DMD 55-in LCD displays
Top-Tec Endo82 mounts