Managing the space for Thirteen Group

Space utilisation and desk management is at the heart of a new office for property management company Thirteen Group. Paul Milligan talks to the integrator involved.

An Englishman’s home is his castle is the old saying, and the management of property requires care and attention to detail. One company in charge of that job in the North East of England is Thirteen Group, a landlord and housing developer providing homes for rent and sale. Thirteen has more than 1,500 staff dealing with 70,000 customers across 34,000 properties from North Tyneside to York. Previously spread across three offices, Thirteen Group wanted to implement modern workplace technology, maximise desk management and meeting spaces at its new flagship three-story office in Middlesbrough.

Tasked with the job of supplying a full AV consultation with proof-of-concept approach was system integrator Visavvi, who won the job due to success on a previous installation for the client. The initial brief was for a comprehensive visitor management system with desk and room booking alongside equipping multiple meeting, collaboration, and open plan desk spaces.

The resulting facility provides a modern workplace environment with seven standard meeting rooms, two larger boardroom/presentation spaces, collaborative areas with UC&C technology, 357 hot desks, 11 room booking panels, and the first-ever UK installation for a GoBright interactive workplace monitoring and management system. The technology employed by Visavvi has enabled Thirteen to reduce its desk count by nearly 150, saving considerable space and money.

Unable to physically view the spaces because of the refurbishment, Visavvi’s initial consultation was completed solely from site plans and floor drawings. The housing sector is not one you would naturally associate with new and innovative technology but Thirteen wanted to push the envelope says Visavvi account manager John Andrews. “It was really interested in cutting edge equipment which was quite a surprise to us. They had such a strong idea in their heads of how they wanted the equipment to work, and also how they wanted the rooms to work.” The technology had to be simple to use and had to feature lots of collaboration and video conferencing (supplied via Microsoft Teams). “This has obviously worked well for them since the pandemic began, but the main driver was room utilisation,” adds Andrews. “The client wanted to see real-time information of the room usage, with sensors in the rooms to see who was in there, how they were being used, and they wanted bookable hot desks.”

When visitors enter they are immediately met by the first clever use of AV at the building. Visitors register their arrival on a 10-in interactive screen, managed by GoBright, it automatically takes their photo, which is then printed as their photo ID visitor badge. The system then emails their host of their arrival. There is a reception desk further back, which visitors can also use if there is a problem, but having this screen frees up the receptionist to do other tasks during the day.

Visitors and staff are then directed around the building using a series of strategically placed Signagelive way-finding systems using LG 55-in system-on-chip displays. These show real-time room and desk utilisation information allowing staff and visitors to easily and quickly find their intended destination or free workspace.

Downstairs is where visitors will find one of the two larger spaces in the Dockside room. The room can be split into two via a partition, with a central 86-in Visavvi Commercial Screens display, flanked by two 55-in Visavvi repeater screens. The AV in the room is controlled by an AMX Modero touchscreen. A Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500 provides an 11-in touchscreen meeting interface for Microsoft Teams, with just one touch needed to start a video conference. Wireless collaboration is provided by Barco Clickshare. Audio in the Dockside room is handled via Extron amplifiers and pendant loudspeakers, Ampetronic conference mics, Beyerdynamic lavalier mics and Biamp Devio ceiling mics.

Two standard meeting rooms on the ground floor feature the same mix of AMX, Barco, Extron and Lenovo tech, with the addition of Polycom Studio, a soundbar with built-in HD camera, and Polycom Trio conference phones. Two more collaborative areas can be found on the ground floor, one featuring a Visavvi 43-in screen and Barco Clickshare, with another featuring a 65-in Avocor W6555 Windows interactive display.

On the first floor there are two more collaborative areas and two standard meeting rooms. The second floor features three standard meeting rooms, three collaborative areas and a boardroom. The tech in the boardroom mirrors that of the Dockside room. The standard meeting rooms are designed for between 6-8 people, with the boardroom and Dockside room can accommodate up to 20, the Dockside room can be opened up to accommodate 40-50 standing.

The heart of this installation is the GoBright workplace monitoring and management system. It can be found at interactive map kiosks dotted around the three floors, staff can use the kiosks to select either a desk to sit at, or to find a free meeting room, which they can then book. Initially suggested by UK distributor Ascentae as a solution to Thirteen’s specific requirement, Visavvi tested it with the help of the distributor before presenting it to the client. To get the technology rubber stamped, several members of Thirteen Group were taken out to GoBright’s Netherlands HQ to see a full demonstration of what the technology could offer. “We never pressed the button until the client came back from that visit”, says Andrews.

Once the decision was made Visavvi then had to get the GoBright system installed and up and running, with one particular aspect providing one of the toughest challenges of the project; “We had 357 desk systems to set up, and we had to drop a desk sensor in each desk down a hole underneath the table, wire it all together, and then drop it down to a USB power input. We found out we could do 50 a day with two engineers,” adds Andrews.

Each meeting room has a battery powered room sensor which measures if the room is empty or not, and each desk has a sensor underneath to measure when someone is sat there or not. The sensor is set for 15 minutes without movement to allow for toilet breaks, if a desk is free for more than 15 minutes it is released back into the pool to be used by someone else. The meeting rooms work the same way, if no one is present in the room within the first 10 minutes of it being booked it is released. Alerts are sent to the facilities manager to monitor when rooms are not being used, and who has booked them.

Although the installation was completed just before full Covid-19 restrictions were put in place in the UK, the system is futureproofed for the staff’s return says Andrews. “When you leave the desk you’ve booked, the sensor will go purple showing it needs to be cleaned. When it is cleaned, the cleaner (using an RFID card) will swipe it, and it will turn green again, ready to
be booked again.” Other Covid-related amendments that have been implemented included Barco Clickshare, instead of a dongle that everyone passes around, staff have downloaded the app, staff can also activate Teams meetings using mobile phones so they don’t have to use a touchscreen to start a meeting. Outside every meeting room is a small touchpanel to show when the rooms are available. Staff can swipe an RFID card as they walk past to book the room.

As is often the case, building delays saw the time Visavvi had on site cut from the original plan, but the whole project was successfully delivered within tight timescales. Going forward the AV will be handled by the internal IT team, with the FM team able to modify and adapt to changing requirements from the data being fed to it by GoBright.



Ampetronic Z-LA-277 conference mic
Beyerdynamic TG L58c lavalier mic
Biamp DCM-1 ceiling mic
Extron SoundField pendant speaker, XPA 2001 amplifier, DMP 44 LC audio matrix mixer, MIX 301 audio mixer
Poly Trio 8800 conference phone

Video and control

AMX 7-in Modero wall panel, NX-1200 NetLinx NX integrated controller
Avocor AVW-6555 Windows collaboration display
Barco Clickshare
Extron DA4 HD 4K PLUS distribution amplifier, SW2 HD HDMI switcher
GoBright meeting room booking panels, room sensors, wayfinding screens, map screens, desk sensors, visitor management system
Lenovo ThinkSmart Hub 500 collaboration system
Logitech Rally camera
Multibrackets 1008 fixed wall mount
Peerless-AV ST670P mount
Poly Studio soundbar
Signagelive digital signage software
SMS Icon Wayfinder 200 mount
SY Electronics SY-HDBT-70-SLIM-SET 4K extender
Unicol KP120CB mount
Visavvi Commercial Screens 43-in, 55-in, 65-in, 86-in displays

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