Category Archives: Commercial – Conference/Huddle rooms

Why Technology Needs to be Included in the Construction Plan

Proper planning and implementation of AV & IT will help your business realize the best possible outcomes.

In today’s hyper-competitive market, AV/IT plays an increasingly important role in our day-to-day operations. Businesses depend on technologies to collaborate and communicate with their customers and internal teams. Technologies integrate our various systems to work as one and connect us to the all-important Internet of Things (IoT). They gather data, and then help us disseminate and act upon it, making our technologies even more effective. They are critical to our daily workflow and operations and key to our business strategy and success. So why are they are often overlooked in the design and planning phase of a project?

The primary goal of your AV systems is to create a collaborative environment enabling effective, productive meetings for faster decision-making. To maximize its potential, it must be easy-to-use and provide the right mix of technologies along with simple connectivity to those technologies. It will likely include an interactive display or projection system, a collaborative platform with wireless connectivity, intuitive touch panel control for room scheduling and meeting control, access to power and to the internet. Depending on the considerations made at the onset of the room’s design, the outcome of this space can be remarkably different.

Ergonomics and Design Aesthetics

Successful design outcomes begin with the user, focusing on their comfort and accessibility to the room’s features. Users should be able to sit at a conference table or in a huddle space, conveniently plug in to a power source, connect to the room’s collaborative devices, comfortably view a screen and easily start a meeting. Without proper planning however, users may have power cords strewn across pathways to access outlets, fumble to connect to the room’s technologies and struggle to view shared content due to improper display size or placement. By determining placement in the design phase, AV & IT infrastructure, power, display or projector and screen and touch panels can be properly located and aesthetically incorporated into the room. This phase also presents an ideal opportunity to review technology strategies and plan connectivity for future growth.

Not only will planning at this phase produce the most comfortable and visually appealingly results which promotes adoption but will provide the best options available while saving potentially costly retrofits and change orders. For example, based on the room’s size and desired projection area, the projector would need to be positioned 12 feet from the screen. If that calculation is not factored in at the onset of the project and a custom, coffered ceiling is designed that dictates the projector be relocated a few feet in either direction, either the size of the viewing area will be compromised, or a specialized lens may be required to accommodate the change, potentially adding cost to the project. Either result is not optimal for the client.

Technology and Interior Design Pros in Partnership for Optimal Outcomes

Working in partnership with design professionals for equipment placement, integrated motorized shades, lighting and room control allows for sleek, custom design possibilities. Rather than a fixed installation, for example, the projector may be elegantly incorporated into the ceiling design, extending from a cleverly hidden lift mechanism. The screen may also descend from a concealed soffit and A/V equipment may be stowed in a custom built-in credenza or, if conduit has been provided, located outside of the room.  Similarly, power and device connectivity can be offered via built-in table pop-ups, if floor boxes have been made available at the table base. Another critical factor in a project’s success is its timeline. A pro will manage the project throughout its lifecycle, coordinating wiring and technology integration with adjacent trades and communicating and resolving any issues that may arise.

Proper planning and coordination with design and technology integration professionals from the project’s inception helps keep it on budget and schedule while delivering the best possible technology and aesthetic outcomes. Ready to start planning your next project and formulate your technology strategies for 2018 and years to come? Call today and let’s get started!

Enhance the Decor and Enjoyment of Any Space with Acoustical Treatments

Custom panels absorb unwanted noise while complementing the room’s decor

Listen! Did you hear that? If you’re home in your media room, are you experiencing the audio as it was intended with clean, crisp speech and striking, directional sound effects? If you’re seated in a cozy restaurant for an intimate, fine-dining experience, are you able to comfortably engage in conversation, or is the space humming with deafening chatter and clanking plates? Sound is a critical factor in how we experience a space, yet it is often completely overlooked in the room’s design.

Laughter and lively conversation create a fun, atmosphere but, if the space is designed with only hard, reflective surfaces, the noise level in the room quickly escalates, reaching an uncomfortable level. In fact, according to a ZAGAT survey, when restaurant-goers were asked what irritated them most about dining out, 25% responded “noise”, a staggering percentage coming in second behind only “service”. A survey by the Action on Hearing Loss found corroborating results; 91% of respondents said that they would not return to a venue where noise levels were too high.

Background music and normal speaking levels are desirable sounds, but noises that bounce off the high ceilings and hard surfaces need to be controlled. That’s the job of acoustical treatment, a thoughtfully engineered and aesthetically designed system of ceiling, wall and floor treatments to absorb unwanted noise and improve sound.

Sound & Surfaces

A sound wave will bounce around a room, reflecting off surfaces until it hits an object that either diffuses or absorbs it. Made of sound-absorbing material like foam or fiberglass, sound absorption products are intended to absorb unwanted noise, such as echo, within a space. Acoustic panels, tiles, ceiling clouds, & ceiling baffles are all sound absorption products that are designed to dampen sound in a properly treated space. An acoustical analysis will determine the treatments required to improve the room’s acoustical properties. Once determined, the design choices are endless with custom fabrics, materials, shapes and placement options that will complement the architecture and décor.

Comforts of home

Uncomfortable noise & distractions aren’t limited to public places. With the trend of many people choosing to work from home, a focus has shifted to controlling sound levels not just in our home theaters, but throughout our homes. Not surprisingly, many newly constructed homes and multi-unit buildings now have noise blocking requirements. For homes that do not offer these initial treatments however, noise control can be combatted with carpeting, area rugs or floating hardwoods, luxurious draperies, plush upholstered furnishings, and, of course, elegant acoustic panels. Panels created for the home can mimic art, featuring works from a favorite artist or perhaps your favorite movie, musician or vacation destination. To open a space, panels can even create faux windows with sceneries and exquisite skylines.

What do you hear?

So, listen. Are you able to have a conversation with the clerk behind the service desk or with your waiter, without shouting? Can you conduct a comfortable video conferencing call from your office without raising your voice above the office chatter and HVAC? Sound is an essential element in the overall experience of a space and the treatments to overcome unwanted noise are extensive and elegant. Are you ready to have a “conversation” about how to address the acoustics in your spaces? Call us today – we’re “listening”!

Additional Resources:

Rules for Placement of Acoustic Panels in a Theater Room: Technology in Education, Mark Valenti

10 buildings with extraordinary acoustics: Where to find a sonic surprise, The Spaces

Eating Out Loud: Why Restaurants are Getting Noisier, New Statesmen,Caroline Crampton

Soundproofing, ExplainThatStuff, Chris Woodford

Introduction to Acoustic Treatment, Home toys, Ethan Winer

Smart Ways to Invest Funds Remaining in Your 2017 Budget

As 2017 draws to a close, so does the availability of funds allocated for 2017 spending. The New Year brings opportunities to upgrade existing infrastructure, increase productivity through updated collaborative technologies and promote your brand through dynamic lobby displays and improvements to client-facing spaces.

By purchasing equipment now that will be implemented into your 2018 projects you’ll be able to take advantage of the additional funding while stretching the capabilities of next year’s budget. We can help you and your team strategize, aligning your technology systems with your vision and overall budget. Here are some items for consideration:

Digital Upgrade

Does your system provide connectivity for today’s digital devices? Users have an expectation of utilizing a meeting space with plug-and-play technologies. Transitioning from outdated analog to digital capabilities is paramount to ensure this functionality. Does your system, for example, have connectivity for wireless, HDMI and mini display port?

Meeting Spaces

Meeting spaces that are easier to use and more collaborative increase user adoption which, in turn, results in faster decision-making and greater productivity. In the trending open-office environment, huddle spaces offer a focused, collaborative meeting space for small group presentations and ad hoc meetings. Interactive collaborative displays, robust cameras that are soft codec-enabled (Skype for Business, Bluejeans, etc.), and wireless presentation connectivity promote efficient, productive meetings in these spaces.

Traditional conference rooms with audio and video-conferencing capabilities would benefit from these enhancements as well as an automated control system.  Lighting scenes and motorized shades can also be integrated into the room’s control for an improved user experience. If your room features an older projection system, an upgrade to a laser projector would offer a more engaging presentation along with a significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

Client-facing Areas

Your lobby/reception area is your first opportunity to engage your customers or prospective employees and convey your brand. Dynamic digital signage can enforce your branding, promote your products and services and inform dwellers of important information and events. Innovative meeting spaces in these client areas make a lasting impression.

Hands-on Experience Centers are a great way to engage clients through various interactive displays and immersive technologies.  Architectural features in these environments are accentuated by inspired mosaic displays and exceptionally designed lighting for the ultimate customer experience.

Sound Management & Speech Privacy

Proven to increase worker productivity in today’s open office environments, sound masking eliminates noise distractions. It also adds privacy of enclosed meeting and office spaces from common areas, rendering speech unintelligible.

Acoustics are another noise control solution providing barriers and sound absorption that lessen overall noise levels and reduce reverberation from hard surfaces. This increases intelligibility in desired areas and provides a more comfortable working environment. There are numerous ways to address acoustic control. LaScala can provide consultation and recommend the appropriate solution for your space.

If you’ve done a great job at controlling your budget throughout the year and find yourself with a surplus, consider an investment in technology that will help grow your business, increase efficiency and foster an innovative and collaborative environment for your employees. Give us a call to strategize ways to put your remaining budget to work for you in 2018 and for years to come.

What’s Important to Know About Furniture for AV Storage and Wire Management

Technologies for today’s homes and offices are sleek, contemporary and elegant. Some elements, such as touch panels, custom-framed displays and speakers that look as incredible as they sound, are meant to be seen. But then there’s the behind-the-scenes components; the receivers, amplifiers, switchers…all the things with the blinking lights and knobs that you choose to either showcase or hide away. Either way, they all “live” somewhere and that somewhere has specific requirements.

Technology systems are comprised of various electronic components that require power and, inherently, produce heat. Like your laptop or other electronic devices, they need proper ventilation for reliable, peak performance. Not all furniture is suitable to store electronics.

Choices for housing audio video gear are numerous and offer clever solutions for providing air-flow, managing cables and allowing IR signal visibility when required. Regardless of whether your components are stored in an equipment rack in an out-of-the-way storage closet or front-and-center in a media cabinet or credenza, purpose-built AV furniture will provide these critical features.

The AV Rack

AV equipment racks are available in various heights, measured in rack spaces or units, depending on the requirement of the components.  They can be installed inside of a media cabinet, on a wall using a swing-out mount or placed on casters for ease of accessibility when servicing. For extensive whole-house or integrated commercial systems, multiple racks may be required. Racks can be placed in the room or located in an off-area such as a centrally located, climate-controlled closet. Some installations will require forced ventilation through the use of thermostatic rack fans that will draw heat from the gear.  When gear is stored in an enclosed unit, it is imperative that air be allowed to flow so that the heat can adequately dissipate.

Wireless But Not Cordless

The beauty of an integrated system is, well, that it’s integrated; all the systems “talk” to each other.  Talking equals connectivity and connectivity equals cabling and cords, including wireless solutions. While wireless gear and speakers offer elegant, wire-free signal, electronics still require power. AV furniture provides access to the components as well as rack “rails” or channels to attractively conceal or “manage” the wiring.

Once the cabling leaves the rack or unit, the best path for wire runs needs to be determined, along with factoring in the length of the run and calculating conduit specifications.  This is where LaScala shines. We’ve got the tools and know-how to get cables from Point A to Point B with minimal impact and while factoring in future demands and incorporating those unattractive wires into an aesthetically pleasing (or even invisible) design.

Depth is also a consideration when placing components. In addition to allowing some space for airflow, connecters and cables add to the depth required for the back of the gear.  At a minimum, plan for a depth of 20”. Knobs and control access are also a factor for various reasons. First, units with doors need suitable clearance to close properly. Second, if the system is IR-controlled, a clear line-of-sight must be established otherwise an IR distribution system will be required.

Gaming consoles and media storage present additional considerations. With all that processing going on, game consoles give off considerably more heat than AV equipment and, while they are RF (radio frequency which does not require sightline) allowing for entertainment unit doors to remain closed, gamers still need convenient access to the unit to charge their controllers.  And, even though it seems the thing to do, Media should be stored separately from electronic equipment so the heat does not affect the digital content.

Customization and Communication

While audio video racks and entertainment units are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, custom units are often desired. Some people embrace the high-tech electronics and incorporate the sophisticated gear into the room’s design through custom-framed racks that face the interior. We love this approach but advise that they be installed at the back of room so as not to be a distraction while viewing an LED display or projection screen.  Another popular solution is that of the “floating” shelves or enclosed media unit. These units are bracketed to the wall without a base as if they are hovering above the floor. For any of your custom work, we can provide you or your interior design professional with detailed drawings and/or dimensions for millwork. We will also communicate with your electrician or other trade where power drops need to be located.

Form and Function are One!

Today’s purpose-built AV furniture – credenzas, entertainment centers and glass étagères -will offer proper ventilation, accessibility to components and elegant wire management.  We’ll determine the space requirements and share with you and your designer a variety of elegant choices or, when a custom solution is desired, provide the details needed to create the perfect solution for your home or office technology.

Simple Collaborative Presentation Systems

It’s a basic expectation really. You want to walk into a meeting room, easily connect your laptop, and make a presentation.  And you can.  Your conference room or huddle room system can be a simple plug-and-present; a wireless solution or one that is controlled by your smartphone. But, like all good designs, great outcomes depend on great input.  While any of those solutions may be an effective presentation system, if it doesn’t suit the needs of the user, it will fall short of expectation.  An effective presentation system is not as much about the technology as it is the user experience.  A few simple questions will uncover the right solution for you and your team.

Define and Design

The first step in designing a system is to define the desired user experience for all users.  The right solution will depend on:

  • Who will be using the system? Will it be a defined group or will the room be open to visitors or personnel from other offices?
  • What is their experience level?
  • What are your company’s workflows?
  • Are you wanting teleconferencing, video conferencing, content sharing, whiteboarding?
  • Is there a company standard such as Skype for Business?
  • What is the desired interface?  Minimal interaction, single-button press or plug-n-play? Do you want to avoid the use of small, uninstalled units such as a hand-held remote control that may disappear in a huddle room?
  • Will users be mobile – on smart phones or tablets?
  • How many connections are anticipated?
  • Do you want the system to detect user mobile phones, syncing the system based on the room’s scheduled calendar event?
  • Are you wanting to create a standardized solution that will be replicated across the enterprise?

 

Let’s Be Clear

In this era of rapidly evolving technologies, new acronyms and terminologies abound. VC, VTC, VMR and UC, for example, can mean a variety of things depending on who you’re talking to.  One person’s definition of video conferencing may mean a traditional conference room setting with dual-screen monitors and sophisticated cameras that track movement, displaying far side participants as well as shared content.  Another may be imagining a video call in the cloud with a completely remote or mobile staff.  Collaboration is another term that requires a clear definition.  To some it means simple screen sharing via Webex or Go-to-Meeting while others imagine a fully interactive experience that allows wireless sharing of multiple PCs or collaborative whiteboarding.

Wired, Wireless and your IT Department

Wireless presentations from a laptop, tablet or mobile phone (Bring Your Own Device) can offer seamless, convenient connectivity to the shared display, but not all IT departments allow this accessibility due to network security. Several solutions on the market today offer point-to-point connectivity, enabling connectivity via a self-contained Wi-Fi without being on your network.  Some companies require heightened security measures, restricting wireless and providing only a secure wired solution.

 

Designed to Scale

Your communications, conferencing and presentation systems are a strategy, not a trend.  Be sure your system is based on your needs and desired outcomes and not the latest solution offering by a particular manufacturer.  It should take into account your potential for future needs and growth and provide the required scalability.  As you add spaces and staff, standardizing on a solution that can be replicated throughout the building or across the campus is a clear cost advantage.  Not only will it save in design and installation costs, but users will be more likely to adopt and use the technology in the room if they are already familiar with it.  Savings are also realized on employee training.

Scalability needs to support technology needs as well. A well thought out strategy and design will provide IT infrastructure to support growth over the next 5 years or more. Network and data requirements, multiple VLANs and robust Wi-Fi can be implemented now, along with conduit and pre-wire for future expansion.

The solution drives the best possible outcome. Partner with an AV/IT professional to create huddle spaces, meeting rooms and board rooms that are efficient, effective and impactful, for your users and for your bottom line.

Additional Resources:

PC Magazine’s “The Best Video Conferencing Software of 2017

Crestron fully Integrated, Effortless Meetings

Extron features simple, intuitive collaboration

LaSala’s Engineering, Design Services and Deliverables