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Ask an Expert: How does Wold enhance architectural spaces with AV integration?

Wold Team

It’s no secret technology has drastically changed the built environment. Technology and audiovisual (AV) components have become integral elements in shaping both the design and functionality of many building types. At Wold, we understand the importance of the user experience and help ensure each person who interacts with our spaces leaves with a positive impression. Technology and AV components help foster that connectivity and enrich the overall user experience within facilities.

As a full-service design and engineering firm, our in-house AV team incorporates innovative technology principles and strategies into a variety of projects across our healthcare, education and government verticals, delivering cutting-edge solutions to our clients. Whether solutions include high-quality video conferencing within a courtroom for virtual appearances or induction loops on the floor of a city hall to provide access to those with hearing impairments, our team ensures technology exceeds client objectives and is delivered with excellence.

We recently spoke to Douglas Hoag, senior audiovisual consultant at Wold, to talk about the importance of engaging audiovisual experts in the design process, best practices for creating technology-enabled spaces and how technology is evolving today’s design landscape.

1. Why is it important to engage AV and technology consultants early on in the project planning process?

The way a user perceives a room is influenced by a variety of factors. The relationship between a space's architectural, mechanical, electrical and technological elements can shape a user's perception of the room's quality. For example, if a room is too cold or hot or doesn't have conveniently-located power outlets, it can negatively impact the overall user experience. Similarly, the dimensions of a room can also affect how users feel about the space. Rooms that are too wide or deep might have poor sightlines or make it difficult to read displayed content, resulting in a less-than-optimal experience.

AV consultants help owners understand how room layout impacts user experience. By engaging AV consultants early in the planning process, they can provide insights on optimal display placement to help accommodate the room's dimensions effectively. Additionally, they offer advice on layout optimization to enhance user experience. Determining the budget for AV technologies early on is crucial, as it can significantly impact project costs. For example, equipping a conference room for local content display is typically more cost-effective than outfitting it for video conferencing capabilities. By identifying room requirements early on, owners can better understand the costs associated with the room’s requirements and plan accordingly.

2. What are some best practices for creating technology-enabled spaces?

Engaging a technology consultant early in the project design process helps owners understand optimal strategies and associated costs to achieve their objectives. Prioritizing the owner’s needs throughout the design process involves thorough discussions on space utilization and desired functionality. Having these conversations early enables owners to make informed decisions while tailoring solutions to their specific requirements and budgets.

By adopting a user-centric approach, it’s possible to optimize space aesthetics and elevate the overall user experience. This approach helps ensure the quality of construction documentation by establishing key objectives and requirements upfront, minimizing the likelihood of design revisions at the end of the process, which could potentially lead to unforeseen conflicts and adjustments.

3. What emerging trends are shaping the future of technology and AV integration within architecture design, and how has Wold used technology and AV capabilities to transform the user experience?

In today’s landscape, remote meeting participation has become very common, requiring the built environment to allow for collaboration between both local and remote participants. This inclusivity allows all parties to contribute as they would if physically present in the same space. The shift to remote participation has had a profound impact on judiciary, law enforcement and legislative proceedings, as they increasingly rely on disseminating information and fostering collaboration between people in remote locations.

For example, judicial facilities commonly use video conferencing for remote arrangements and eyewitness and expert testimonies. Participants need to partake in proceedings in an equitable manner due to the legal ramifications of the outcomes. In several of our courtroom projects, we’ve seen the important role technology plays in promoting equal access to justice by offering remote participation. This shift has also underscored the need for digital evidence presentation, enabling remote participants to access information seamlessly as if they were physically present. Waukesha County Courts have integrated these types of technologies within their courtrooms and have continued to add them as they renovate their courthouse. They have collaborated with Wold to enhance the integration of news agencies’ trial reporting by providing dedicated video content and camera feeds to the media while minimizing disruption and adhering to the judges’ broadcasting trial requirements.

When it comes to emergency response, law enforcement needs unfettered access to other agencies and first responders. Remote participation has become an indispensable tool for keeping the public safe and informed. The City of Hutchinson Police Department is a great example. Our team helped integrate video conferencing capabilities throughout their Emergency Operation Center (EOC), allowing quick remote access to other first responders in the area. Providing capabilities for these groups to collaborate remotely enables the pooling of resources, leading to more efficient assessment and action during critical situations.

Remote environments have significantly enhanced the ability of the legislative and executive branches to engage with constituents and uphold transparency standards. By enabling remote attendance for the public, these platforms have expanded accessibility to sessions and fostered greater participation. For example, in the City of Minneapolis’ City Office Improvements project, they are integrating video conferencing capabilities into the broadcast system, allowing both remote collaboration with consultants and other resources, which has streamlined the processes of addressing public needs by tapping into a larger pool of expertise nationwide. Additionally, they’re integrating language interpretation services within the City Council Chambers, facilitating direct communication with world language speakers and offering real-time translation as required.

4. What excites you most about the future of technology as it relates to architecture?

Technology allows for increased accessibility and equity within the built environment. For example, digital building navigation, or wayfinding, helps people seamlessly and independently navigate spaces. For hybrid ‘hot desking’ work environments, where employees have the ability to use available desks at different times, wayfinding is especially helpful. New software enables people to not only reserve desk and conference room spaces but also easily determine where employees or departments are located throughout the building. As building owners and facility managers evaluate their gross square footage and better understand the day-to-day needs for space allocation, they will be able to leverage these technologies to optimize office layout and space requirements.

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