If you’re engaging in complex construction, there is likely some technology involved. Whether a space for presentation or collaboration, today’s technology typically involved audio and video. A/V stands for audio and video or audio-visual. These consultants specialize in the design of systems for communication and presentation.
Do I need an A/V Consultant?
Here are some of the typical services that an audio and video consultant will supply
Sound System design and modeling
Video and broadcast (camera design)
Videoconferencing and teleconference design
MATV and IPTV design
Sound masking and Hard of Hearing ADA design
Intelligent building design
Network backbone design
How early in the process should I engage an AV design consultant?
The earlier the better (typically during programming). A good design consultant can help steer the owner to define their technical needs. Many organizations just copycat what their competition uses, instead of evaluating their goals and business objectives. A good design consultant can also help with programming by analyzing sight lines and other elements that will result in the most ideal room shape and flow for communication purposes.
A true independent A/V consultant will typically have significant experience working on these aspects of facility design with architects. By contrast, many installers or integrators offer turnkey solutions, which include “consulting”. These firms typically have far less experience in the early design stages and have a personal stake, since their business model is based around gaining higher profit margins for the install. With that said, integrators typically have extensive feet on the ground experience and can be a great option for fast track projects and projects with a budget less than $100,000.
How do I find an AV Consultant?
The same way you find any other design professional. Ask around for someone that has experience in that particular market vertical, then interview them to determine whether they have a background and experience relevant to the particular project.
While it might not be important to have an EE, for instance, who has worked on a particular type of facility before, it tends to be a bit more important with technology. The requirements for a performance auditorium are completely different than those for a classroom. Similarly, designing a stadium and a conference room are two different skill sets, not just in skill, but also in the technologies and the ways that they are implemented.
Do I have any other options for A/V Consulting?
It depends on the complexity of the space and how repetitive the design process is for that facility type. For example, a growing number of MEP firms like to say “we can do that too” when it comes to technology. This could actually be a good option for you if the work is non-technical and repetitive.
For example, if you’re designing an airport terminal expansion and all of the paging is accomplished via overhead speakers, your MEP design firm could be a great option for these design services? Why, because they’re already coordinating all of the devices in the RCP and now the coordination of the 70V ceiling speakers can be done in house, instead of requiring additional design team coordination.
You have to be careful here, though. When you get back to the headend electronics, this is a completely different ballgame that should be handled by a dedicated AV or Communications technology firm. Similarly, if you have a big wide open space with a high ceiling, 70V ceiling speakers won’t be a good option. You would be able to achieve the speech intelligibility required to meet the requirement for intelligible paging, much less life safety.
In this case, you need a dedicated A/V design consultant who can create a model of the room using acoustical predication software to design a sound system to the required performance specifications. Again, the key is the complexity of the task. If it’s repetitive go ahead and try to limit coordination by adding this to the services of your MEP firm. If it’s not repetitive and requires design consulting or engineering, you’re better off hiring a dedicated technology design firm to deliver a good result, impress your client, and limit your liability.