Every video conference room utilizing AV equipment requires a place for that technology to live. Depending on the complexity of the system, this may be an insignificant amount of space or an entire 7’ tall rack of equipment. The first question in Video Conference Architecture is frequently “Will the equipment be housed locally or remotely.”
For the majority of meeting spaces, situating the equipment within the room will make the most sense. Modern technology for meeting spaces is trending towards equipment which can be installed locally and managed globally over the network. The obvious question becomes where to hide the equipment in the room. Two common options are underneath the conference table and within a credenza.
Housing equipment under the conference room table is really only suitable for the smallest installations, or portions of the equipment for larger installations. Over the long term, it is very important that equipment be serviceable. It is very difficult to organize and maintain cabling in the tight confines under a conference table. Besides, in the middle of a big meeting, when you call your corporate tech support for assistance, it’s not like you can have someone crawl under a table with everyone sitting there.
The next option is to install the equipment in a credenza or similar millwork piece. This is often a great solution. If you put the credenza directly under the main television display, it can simultaneously resolve the problem of ADA compliance with a monitor being a 4” wall protrusion that is <80” AFF.
Credenzas are a perfect solution for small to medium sized conference rooms. If you are still utilizing a credenza in a large conference room, it means that you are inadvertantly still designing for presentation in a world that is rapidly embracing collaboration. This is common and easiy resolved. We’ve written an entire article series on the shift from presentation to collaboration.
When considering millwork, be aware of depth, power, and ventilation. Obviously, you need power roughed at the wall and fed into the credenza. You also need to be aware of the depth of the equipment being installed and make sure that you provide sufficient clearance. The most overlooked item is probably ventilation. This is likely because it is so easy to get away with ignoring the issue without any issue, until a problem finally arises. Technology equipment has widely varying heat dissipation characteristics. The last thing you want is to learn this lesson on a build where you have 20 meeting spaces that all end up with this problem.
Several AV manufacturers build furniture that is already configured with proper ventilation, in addition to power and rack enclosures for clean long term maintenance. The finish options are not as bad as you might think. Alternately, if you pursue custom millwork, be sure to raise the issue of ventilation, because many technology integrators fail to properly address these needs. Over time, this will shorten the equipment lifespan, if not cause outright failures.
Some meeting / presentation spaces are made to be extremely flexible. Rather than the typical conference room table arrangement, these meeting spaces may function for presentation, discussion, training, or other purposes, with a completely flexible furniture layout. Additionally, rooms may combine into larger spaces with air-wall systems. In these cases, having a single rack room central to all or several of the spaces, often makes the most sense.
The rack shown at the beginning of this article is one example of integrated AV furniture, designed by one of the leading manufacturers, Middle Atlantic Products.