3 Tips for Overcoming Open-Space AV Challenges

Open-plan office layouts look nice, but where is the AV gear supposed to go?

Chris Neto

One of the many challenges facing commercial audiovisual professionals today is the lack of space for installed equipment. The move to open space in the corporate world has burdened many design engineers with the challenge of where to put the gear.

In many cases, the traditional equipment rack is being removed from the room or eliminated altogether. Today’s office spaces are taking on the characteristics of living rooms, home-style kitchens and dens. Gone are the cookie-cutter, four-walled conference rooms and cubicle spaces.

This switch in office design is pushing us in the AV industry to change our traditional approach to system integration.

The residential side of the AV business has been dealing with open-plan concept for years. Unlike the residential side, commercial industry has been slow to develop commercial-grade products that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Commercial product manufacturers have favored durability, functionality and practicality over the aesthetics.

Don’t get me wrong—this is not a bad thing to strive for, but can we at least try to make it look appealing if left out in the open? 

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Take a step back next time you install a new commercial display with a 2-inch thick bezel or one that sticks out 4 inches from the wall and ask yourself if that looks good. Good luck explaining how this is the latest in technology when the customer’s expectation is to see a sleek TV that they just installed in their own living room.

So what can we do?

AV designers and engineers have to do their homework. Look to the residential space and see what is being used in the homes of your customers. I’m not asking you to specify consumer products into commercial jobs solely on the aesthetics, but look for design cues that can be translated into the commercial space and incorporate equipment with the aesthetic in mind when designing.

Here are some ideas:

Think Small—Where space is limited you have to design accordingly. The days of rack rooms and closets are dwindling quickly. Smaller, multifunctional gear will obviously be key to designing in tight spaces. If the product does not meet your requirements, make a call. There are plenty of manufactures in our industry looking for input on improving designs. Products like in-wall boxes that can house equipment are ways to make small spaces work.

Survey your space—Use your surroundings to your advantage and maximize every nook to stash equipment without compromising the look and serviceability. Integrating furniture into your design is a great win when space is tight. Even the traditional mindset of ceiling mounted speakers is being challenged as architects and designers move toward higher ceilings to let the light shine through. Look to soundbars to achieve quality audio where the ceiling speaker may not be feasible.

Get Creative—Think outside the box when it comes to delivering on customer expectations. Listen to what they want and find technology that can help make that possible. That may include breaking away from traditional go-to products. In other words, get your test labs ready. In order to be creative and maintain your reputation you will have to get “hands on.” Get your bench area and imagination ready. Roll up your sleeves and test new ideas, concepts and products before unleashing the idea on your customer in order to ensure success.

Compare what consumers are buying for their homes and find the commercial equivalent. You may have to design a hybrid combination of consumer and commercial gear to achieve that goal but that’s what we as “integrators” specialize in where others fail.

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