Sustainable Technology: Building Controls

Oct. 1, 2008

Designing AV-integrated Conference Rooms for Businesses Going Green

By Nina Parker

In the 1980s, greed was good. Today, green is good. Companies that implement green policies not only help the environment but they also reduce expenses by limiting energy consumption. Now there are added incentives for businesses to go green: As awareness about environmental issues is raised among consumers, a growing number prefer to purchase products and services from companies that are green, and employees would rather work for organizations that they perceive to be environmentally ethical.

As a result, the market for green technologies is growing. Videoconferencing is one such technology. The latest high definition (HD) videoconferencing equipment delivers images that are so clear and crisp that they can substitute for face-to-face communication, reducing the need for business-related travel. Less travel means fewer car and plane trips and a reduction in a business' carbon footprint. As demand for videoconferencing has increased, so has network reliability, greatly improving the user's experience. Costs for the technology, on the other hand, have gone down.

Designing Rooms for Videoconferencing
Videoconferencing works best when it is part of a specially designed AV-integrated room. When new conference rooms are built or existing rooms are renovated, it is now the norm for customers to request these rooms be fully equipped with HD technology. HD systems, including HD videoconferencing, are more complex than standard definition solutions. For example, HD video requires more complex signals and a larger amount of network bandwidth than standard definition, and this requires new practices and devices for working with digital cables to make them flexible enough for an integrated room. As a result, HD is not just one component of the room; it changes the way everything must be designed.

A high-end version of HD videoconferencing called telepresence is designed to create a life-like virtual meeting experience—in part by using replica conference rooms across various locations with large monitors and matching tables so that it appears the remote participants are in the same room. Some telepresence manufacturers offer room-within-a-room solutions while other manufacturers require rooms to be set up with preconfigured equipment and furniture.

Conference Room Controls
Perhaps the most important feature of a well-integrated conference room is the room control system, or GUI (graphical user interface). The GUI can be programmed to control most of the equipment in an integrated room, including the lighting, videoconferencing solution, audio systems, DVD players, document cameras, projectors, and microphones.

There are many ways to integrate control of these systems into a common interface, and finding the best solution can be challenging. When developing a plan for the room system control, it is important to first identify the business needs of the customer. What kind of meetings will take place in the room? Which functions will be used most often?

The room control system must be designed so that it is easy to use; a simple user interface will ensure that anyone can pick it up and use it with minimal training. Commonly deployed control systems include tabletop or wireless touch panels with custom user interfaces, wall-mounted touchscreens, wall-mounted button plates, wireless remote controls, and IP- or Web-based controls.

AV-integrated rooms with control systems are a central component of buildings that are built to be energy efficient. When designing buildings that are green and comply with LEED standards, it is important to consider the design needs of an AV-integrated room early in the process because most systems cannot be made to retrofit your build. Include green solutions in each of your building designs and you will stay ahead of the curve.

Nina Parker ([email protected]) is the marketing director at IVCi. Based in Hauppauge, NY, IVCi is a leader in managed conferencing services and AV integration.

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