UBM gets smart with London HQ

When integrator Vanti started work on providing UBM with AV and control to support a shift to agile working and provide alternative office spaces it didn’t realise that it would end up taking responsibility for a full smart buildings project. Anna Mitchell reports.

Two years ago global media company UBM embarked on a move to shift its London based headquarters a few metres down the city’s Blackfriars Bridge. The move to a purpose-built office facility provided the company with a blank canvas that it intended to make the most of.

“We wanted to rethink how we use real estate and ultimately drive value from what is a very expensive cost to the business,” says Stephen Vause, ‎head of facilities management at UBM. 

The first step for Vause’s team was to embark on research into office culture and how the current space was used. Analysis of the body of data produced sparked ideas about how the new office would work for the company. 

Meeting room usage statistics showed that the majority of meetings were between small groups – generally two to four people - and often carried out in inappropriate spaces such as a ten-seat boardroom. UBM also noticed that lots of people were booking meeting rooms – even boardrooms – to work in on their own because they weren’t permanently based in the building and needed a place to sit. Potentially the most important statistic was that desk utilisation hovered between 40% and 60%. 
It quickly became clear that the office footprint could be drastically reduced resulting in huge yearly cost savings. 

“We were also woefully under-provisioned when it came to spaces for meetings and crucially breakout space,” adds Tom Holden, who was nominated IT lead for the project. “We wanted to build an office that took advantage of that low desk utilisation, encouraged mobility and added modern, alternative working spaces.”

While the first step centred on space utilisation, the second used smart systems to ensure an energy efficient building. UBM wanted the office to act as an example of energy efficiency and aimed for (and ultimately achieved) a LEED Platinum rating for the building. 
Two to four person meeting room
A number of separate external parties – including builders, electrical contractors, AV/IT consultants and HVAC companies - tendered and were awarded contracts. Integrator Vanti won the AV installation portion of the project with a bid based on AMX infrastructure.

For them one of the first tasks was to ensure a great user experience, consistency and simplicity of use in all AV equipment UBM staff had to interface with. This was coupled with demands from the architects that everything had to be clean and not disrupt the modern sleek design of the building.  

“Any client facing room has four walls of glass, there is nowhere even for a light switch,” notes Raj Patel, CTO and founder of Vanti. “All room functions had to be accessed through one single control interface via an AMX control panel. This gives them control over lighting, air conditioning control or accessing the Polycom phone book.” (Polycom was a prerequisite for the installation as UBM has a global partnership deal with the vendor).

One of the benefits for Vanti was the ability to start work at an early phase of construction. AV integrators are often plagued by getting on site when the building is virtually finished and infrastructure in place. However, Vanti was able to design and install its own cabling infrastructure and make sure network requirements met its needs, such as supporting multicast traffic to deliver Exterity IPTV.

However, the biggest challenge came in the level of integration demanded across systems that in many other installations are siloed. 

“UBM wanted everything completely integrated and sitting on their network so it could be managed and controlled,” explains Patel. “Security was a big issue. Ownership of problems was another one and we had to wait at a number of stages in the project while the network was being installed and configured.”

Whilst UBM wanted everything on one network it also had exacting standards for the devices that would sit on that network. Everything had to be on the latest firmware, locked down and secure.

What also became apparent very quickly was that, with the level of integration required, someone had to take responsibility for the entire smart building aspect of the project. That role eventually fell to Vanti.

“We didn’t go out looking to be the smart building contractor and we weren’t appointed that in the beginning,” says Patel. “Of course you have an electrical consultant designing access control systems, a mechanical consultant designing BMS, an IT consultant designing networks, an AV consultant designing AMX or Crestron systems. What you typically won’t have is someone designing all these systems. That was reflected when the contracts came out and I think it’s quite typical of most projects. You end up with lots of companies who are working on the same project and not talking to each other. 

“When issues came up, we were the ones raising them because essentially AMX was at the centre of everything. We were the ones says ‘guys this doesn’t work’. So it got to the point where we thought who is best placed to manage this integration process? Our job is getting different systems to plug together and in the end it was felt we were most qualified to propel the project forward.”

“UBM really picked up on our IT capability as well,” adds Mike Brooman, CEO of Vanti. “On top of that we were able to talk about data and where it would live as well as things like electronics and RS232 control. I think there is an opportunity for AV integrators to get into smart building projects but only if they have the correct IT expertise.”

From the client perspective Vause notes: “There were lots of areas outside of Vanti’s contractual scope that they got involved with. For example while they were contracted to put in AV and VC, they weren’t initially tasked with managing the interface with the ShoreTel telephone system and they took that on, bringing a high level of expertise in voice and interfaces to the table.” 

Room booking

A Manhattan room booking system from Trimble was deployed. The resource-based booking system allocates spaces according to the facilities users require such as videoconference, smartboard or even whether they require refreshments or not. 
“It’s a web-based booking system,” notes Patel. “Staff can book from Outlook or via the AMX touchpanel interface. The booking system also ensures that when users come into a booked room the lights are turned on, the system is warmed up, the temperature is set and they’re ready to go. In terms of doing business, it’s very efficient. 

“If a meeting finishes and another one is not booked, the power is turned off to all the equipment. Every bit of AV equipment in the building has an IP power bar and the AMX control system can shut it down over the network. It’s not on standby, it’s completely off.

“It also works really well for diagnostic purposes. If anything needs to be restarted that can be done remotely or from a local touch panel.”

Vause says from the client perspective automation was absolutely key for energy efficiency. “No matter how hard you push and educate people to turn things off, they might for a short period of time but they fall back to old ways of doing things. People are busy, they forget, they disappear. The key for me was to automate that process.”
Access control was also linked with the room booking system. Staff enter with their card, which allocates them a desk and automatically calls a lift to take them to their floor. Lifts at UBM don’t have buttons as each one is programmed to take the user to their destination floor.

“We wanted a visitor management system that allowed people that had meetings in the building to come to reception and, using a key pad, auto check in as you would an airport,” continues Vause. “The system provides instructions of where to go, calls a lift and messages the host.”

Starting in the reception area and throughout the building an AMX Xpert digital signage system offers wayfinding alongside other content displayed on a range of Samsung and NEC screens and mounted with B-Tech and Peerless brackets.

Hot desking

NEC monitors were deployed throughout the building to meet LEED Platinum requirements for energy efficiency. 

“Everyone in the building hot desks so there are no permanent PCs,” explains Patel. “Everyone, including the CEO has to book their desk and each desk has an IP switch underneath it. The idea is that you can’t just go and sit at a desk because there won’t be any power so the monitor and the USB dock will not work.”

The booking system merely requires staff to swipe their card at the station. When an employee leaves the building the booking system reads the fact that their card has left the building and the desk is powered down. 

“This process also captures a bag full of data in terms of how we use the building,” says Vause. “We have approximately 140 people appointed to a floor where there is a maximum of 100 desks so we operate on a mobility ratio of 1 to 1.4. No one uses a desk without booking it because they wouldn’t get power so the data is real and it is accurate.”

Meetings and presentation

Meeting rooms at UBM come in a variety of flavours that range from a single person ‘shush room’ to the company boardroom. Staff have been provided with meeting rooms for 4-5, 6-8 and 10-12 people. There are also informal breakout spaces, telepresence rooms and project rooms as well as the CEO Agora, boardroom and a divisible presentation space.

AMX handles control and signal processing and distribution supported by some Kramer switching and Extron and Lightware extension products. In some places iKon AVS wall plates and floor boxes were also used.

Most spaces use AMX HydraPort desk boxes, Kramer retractable cables and Crestron AirMedia to facilitate wired and wireless screen sharing on a range of displays. Logitech web cams are provided for web conferencing.

Larger meeting rooms use AKG, Shure or beyerdynamic microphones; Australian Monitor amplifiers and JBL loudspeakers. In these spaces Vanti has also installed Polycom videoconferencing systems while Biamp Tesira handles DSP. Project rooms add Smartboards, ClearOne ceiling microphone arrays and Tannoy loudspeakers.
Some of the informal breakout spaces use Smart 84-in interactive whiteboards. The divisible room houses an 80-in NEC LCD that Vanti built a custom floor to ceiling mount for, which allows easy one touch adjustment of the huge unit. 

Additional spaces 

UBM also noticed high costs for external event space hire and spotted an opportunity in its new building.

“We’ve started an initiative called ‘Bring It Home’,” explains Vause. “Level 19 of the building was designed as an events space to bring those small events back into the business.”

The glass walled Level 19 boasts breath-taking views over the city and, whilst it’s an events space UBM can be proud of, it’s also been designed to accommodate small group work. Employees can connect to wall mounted displays via AMX HydraPort table boxes. 

For presentations Vanti installed a Samsung 95-in unit on a raised stage area.

A hefty Harman sound system was deployed in a basement gymnasium where control is accessed via AMX Modero Panels and an iPad housed in a Mode-Al wall mount. NEC 55-in and 80-in displays are mounted on Peerless brackets.

Technology can even be found in ‘Tea Points’ that boast Kef speakers, powered with Kramer amplifiers and Samsung 55-in displays. A similar setup is used in other common areas with screens mounted on a mixture of Peerless and B-Tech mounts.

Management & support

As everything is on the network the installation required a great deal of input from UBM’s US-based IT department, while the UK facilities management (FM) team led the project and now manage the installed systems. 

UBM’s IT department appointed a project manager to work alongside FM and effectively join the FM team. IT directors in America have insight and access to the system remotely and conduct videoconferences once a day with all their teams.

“We’ve built something that allows UBM’s FM team to work more strategically and not battle issues such as double booked rooms,” notes Patel. “Now the questions they can deal with are things like ‘we’re at 60% capacity, we need to allocate more desks’ and the business runs more smoothly. 

“I don’t think we’ve made their job easier necessarily but before they had a technology estate of about £50,000. They now have one of £2.5 million and the key thing is that the management overhead hasn’t gone up significantly between the two.”

“The biggest time-saver for IT is desk moves,” says Holden. “In the previous building each employee averaged about two desk moves a year. Each one required a hardware shift and manual re-patching of networks. The new set up has saved all that time.”
Vanti outsourced user training to N-Vest for this project. 

“During the opening week when everyone moved into the office we had key members of our team on hand to help and support people,” says Patel. “We did technical training, provided systems support and were on hand to support IT and technical service teams tackle service desk issues. 

“We then took N-Vest through the systems and devised a training course with them that covered how it worked and set out the key things that needed to be covered. N-Vest filmed that and made video clips that could be used to support their user training.”
Vanti has now signed a full managed service agreement with UBM which covers not just AV but the entire smart buildings element. 

“It makes sense because it’s all through our interface,” explains Patel. “When you want to control HVAC, turn lights off, book a meeting room; you go to an AMX panel. When you leave your meeting it’s a lighting system PIR that detects that you’ve left the meeting and our AMX software that we’ve written understands that someone’s left without checking out and cancels the booking.

“We’re in the middle of everything and we’re the first port of call if something goes wrong.”


AKG omnidirectional boundary, gooseneck and wireless mics
Ampetronic induction loop systems
Audio-Technica MicroLine gooseneck mics
Australian Monitor amplifiers
Beyerdynamic desktop microphones
Biamp Tesira Forte audio DSPs
BSS Soundweb audio processing and BLU-100 DSPs
ClearOne ceiling microphone arrays
Crown amplifiers
Extron HDMI audio de-embedders
JBL loudspeakers and subwoofers
K-Array KA amplifiers; and Kobra, Python and Skin loudspeakers
Kef loudspeakers and subwoofers
Kramer 907 amplifiers
MCM Cat-5 Audio Balans
Monitor Audio WT380IDC loudspeakers
NEC loudspeakers
Onkyo amplifier
Polycom  Soundstructure audio DSPs
Revolabs FLX VoIP conference phones
Shure gooseneck microphones, MicroFlex wireless systems
Sonance loudspeakers
Tannoy loudspeakers

AMX Xpert IS-XPT-2100 digital signage players
Apple iPads
B-Tech BT8220-Pro mounts
Chief Large Fusion floor stands and equipment racks
Crestron AirMedia wireless presentation systems
Exterity AvediaStream e3635 IPTV encoders
iiyama T3234MSC-B2X touchscreens
Logitech C930e webcams
Mode-Al iPad mounts
NEC 40-in, 55-in, 65-in and 80-in displays
Peerless-AV mounts
Polycom RealPresence Group 500 with EagleEye II HD VC Codecs and HD cameras
Samsung 55-in, 75-in and 95-in displays
Smart 8084i-G4 whiteboards
Unicol Axia Trolleys

Control and system
AMX DXLink extenders, Enova presentation switchers, Modero touchpanels, HydraPort table boxes, Novara keypads, control boxes and PDUs, NetLinks control processing 
Aviosys IP power switches
Extron Fox fibre optic extenders, equipment racks, HDMI matrix switches and RGB to HDMI scalers
Gyration Air Mouse Go Plus Suites
Ikon AVS wall plates, input plates and floor boxes
Kramer retractable USB, VGA and HDMI cables and switchers
Lightware 4K HDMI extenders
Lindy IP MDUs and Cat5 USB 2.0 extenders
Middle Atlantic IUQFP-4 fan panel system and racks