Pro AV Logo Originally published as a Consultant's Connection
column in Pro AV Magazine
  June 2005

Taking Stock Of Our Progress

It’s time to acknowledge some of the milestones that show how far thepro AV industry has come.

By Tim Cape, CTS-D

A lot of what I write about has to do with how the pro AV industry is becoming part of the building industry. It seems we’re often asking questions like: Are we there yet? Or are we even getting there? For many years the answer seemed to be no. There may be some who feel that’s still the answer, but the truth of the matter is that the answer is yes. Pro AV is a part of the building industry. Perhaps the question we should be asking now is a different one: Do construction and AV professionals realize that pro AV is a part of the building industry? Sadly, the answer is still no. But things are looking up, especially when we take stock of where we are.

Establishing our role

A long time ago, the building industry embraced data/telecom as a normal, accepted, expected, and standard part of the building design and construction team. And so it is today. Yet even now, there are architects and general contractors who still view the role of AV in the design and construction process more on the level of door hardware. And AV might not even get that much consideration until it’s too late. But the good news is that many more design and construction professionals as well as many owners seem to recognize the proper place of AV in the development of new and renovated facilities.

The dark side of that good news is that much of that recognition was gained the hard way through bad experiences in the past. The bright side is that more recognition is now coming from active education and industry trends that are leading construction professionals to AV awareness before bad things happen.

The AV industry is working hard

We’ve watched the growth of this industry and read articles about how to do what we do, how to succeed or fail, and why we need more recognition in the construction industry. But this year, I think we’ve seen the culmination of a host of milestones that have brought us one quantum leap closer to the awareness we’re looking for.

This month, the International Communications Industries Association (ICIA) is publishing the book AV Best Practices, subtitled “The Design and Integration Process for the AV and Construction Industries.” I can say for certain (and not just because I am a co-author) that this is a big step in helping those within the pro AV industry as well as those we work with — design teams, construction teams, system owners and end-users — to understand that we’re part of their industry, too. And there are other efforts within the AV industry designed to help establish our place in the construction industry.

The National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) has led initiatives on MasterFormat 04, the Essentials documents, the A/E Toolkit, and efforts concerning AV labor issues. ICIA has also contributed to the MasterFormat effort and has launched other initiatives such as the development of standard AV contract templates to help integrators get appropriate terms into their agreements. ICIA has launched its AVolution campaign, which is dedicated to raising awareness outside the AV industry. The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) is publishing its design guide, “Lighting for Videoconference and Presentation Spaces.” Many of these efforts have come to full fruition this year.

In addition, there are numerous efforts to work with other industry associations such as BICSI, CEDIA and AIA, as well as various certification opportunities and offerings at trade shows about acoustics, lighting, and project management — all oriented toward working within the building industry.

How it used to be

Around 1990, my firm at the time was asked to design a $2 million AV system that included an auditorium designed for medical education, meeting spaces, and a large video production area. It was a great opportunity and we took the project, but there was one problem: the third floor of this new building was already being poured. In addition to the AV system cost for that building, there was an additional $1 million in change orders required to get the infrastructure in place so the AV could be properly installed and used. If incorporated during the design phase, the added cost would have been about a fourth of that. Not an uncommon situation in those days. This still happens today, but less often.

Back then, independent AV consultants were writing system specifications in CSI sections 11-130 and 11-132 (under Division 11 – Equipment) or in the renegade Division 17 to avoid specifying AV in the Electrical sections under 16-800. This still occurs today, but the new MasterFormat 04, although not perfect, puts AV in a more appropriate context in the architectural specifications. The launch of the new MasterFormat represents another milestone for pro AV.

Is the construction industry listening?

Looking at these events, it seems that there are milestones all around us (at least from the AV side) that help create a place for pro AV in the construction industry. Are we making progress? Absolutely. Do we have our rightful place at the table in the architectural design and construction process? Sometimes (certainly more often than we used to), and that’s a good thing.

AV consultants are often invited to architectural design team interviews for new technology-rich design-bid-build projects. Integrators are often brought in at the appropriate point in a project for design-build projects. More owners are requiring AV expertise on the design and construction teams because they understand the need to address the myriad of AV-related issues early. Things are getting better.

Getting noticed

As pro AV providers, we prefer that our clients come to us when they should, and many of them do. And the ones that don’t? We chase after them until they trip up on their own change orders and realize that sooner is better when it comes to AV-related design. If only the mainstream construction industry organizations were as interested in our process as we are in theirs. But that’s what industry awareness efforts are all about.

For years we’ve been trying to get our potential clients to notice (and call) us where and when we really need to be noticed — early in the process on AV-centered projects. And although we’re talking about business here, it’s not just about making a living. The real reason AV companies need potential clients to understand that they need us at the appropriate time is because it creates a win-win situation, rather than a combination that includes losing. Getting involved at the appropriate time (early) and at the appropriate level (owner, end-user, architect, and general contractor) makes the design and construction work easier, the project quality better, the end-users happier, and the bottom line bigger for everyone involved.

This year seems to be the year where a lot of the pro AV industry efforts we’ve established are taking full form. We still have a tough road ahead, but we hear that all the time. IT convergence, client education, and software licensing are challenges we still have ahead. But let’s not forget how far we’ve come. We should appreciate the progress we’ve made, and continue to help the construction industry see it, too.



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