Turn the tables

Design Integration is a UK based AV consultant and integration specialist. Bespoke furniture and the inclusion of AV equipment in furniture is central to the company’s work. Owner, Chris Foxwell provides some pointers for successful integration.

When designing an AV/VC system the integrator has to consider where and how key components of the system will be sited and installed. Some equipment such as cameras, microphones and input points clearly need to be accessible for system operation.

Other components such as codecs, control processors, switchers and amplifiers can be installed out of sight as they require little or no user intervention. This “head end” equipment can be rack mounted in a remote location. However, this can potentially increase costs as additional hardware may be required to protect signal integrity over extended cable runs. More typically this equipment will have to reside within the room and in most cases it will not be acceptable to have a traditional equipment rack on display. Therefore we have to find ways of installing equipment within credenzas, lecterns or other joinery items.

Implications of AV as an afterthought
Poor liaison between AV integrators and the joinery contractor can result in disastrous consequences. Typically core equipment housed in joinery will be installed in special open frame sliding racks from companies such as Middle Atlantic. If the planning is poor then the equipment stack may arrive pre built to site and not fit within the designated joinery.

A large flatscreen may be too large for a recess or the telepresence camera may not have enough room to pan and tilt within the pocket created for it. This can result in long and costly delays.

Badly ventilated furniture can cause reliability issues and significantly reduce the life expectancy of components.

Know your friends
Uniquely AV and VC Integrators will be required to interface with almost all other trades on a site. In addition to the bespoke joinery contractor we need to consider the furniture supplier and ensure that consideration is given to table connectivity. Traditionally this has been mainly restricted to power, data and VGA/audio connections, which the furniture contractors are familiar with. However in today’s world we require connections for HDMI, Displayport, USB and XLR for microphones even in more basic systems.

Get AV the consideration it deserves
As an AV system designer I would promote the necessity for my equipment to have foremost consideration in the furniture planning. However we do have to accept that furniture also has other uses and that typically there will be other factors which influence the final design.

The most influential person will usually be the architect or designer. They will be looking for the furniture’s finish and styling to complement their overall design and décor. This will be their overriding concern and sometimes we have to push hard for concessions in order to accommodate the equipment within the AV/VC design. Normally a compromise can be found and all good architects will work hard to incorporate the AV equipment. Obviously further consideration needs to incorporate usability, accessibility and user comfort/positioning for presentation and telepresence requirements.

Know the guidelines
Building regulations, health and safety requirements and disability policies will also have to be adhered to within the design and will typically relate to the height of installed controls and accessibility of furniture such as lecterns, which sometimes will need to be motorised.

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