Leading A/V experts have run into a host of difficulties in their experience on the job. Some where a consultant can help, others where they wouldn’t. Here, they discuss some of the most important pain points they’ve run into that you should avoid.
John Pfleiderer, A/V designer and project coordinator for Cornell University
“Sometimes the consultant comes up with the project specifications, sometimes the electrical contractor will hire the A/V contractor as a subcontractor. That is a difficult situation for the end user because we don’t have direct contact with the A/V contractor at that point. We have to go through the electrical contractor to manage the job. That is just more communications. A lot of times the electrical contractors don’t understand completely what the A/V people are doing.
“Let’s just say that at the end of the job, the electrical contractor is on its way out and the A/V guys are just starting. There is a mismatch in timing with that. One of them wants to finish up and the other needs to finish up quickly, but they are just beginning their process and are just installing their equipment. There is all the testing and the punch lists and all the stuff that kind of lags behind happening right when the electrical contractor is sometimes off the job completely. The timing isn’t very good.
“If we can manage it in another way, where in our case the university would own the A/V contract, we have people on site that are going to supervise that process all the way through. A consultant can help at that point because the consultant will be there for the commissioning and for the final checkout in most cases. They’ll be present right through the end of the job. So that is a real benefit when they can do that, when they can stay on the job until it is completely finished and commissioned.”
Rod Andrewson, manager of Engineering, CCS Presentation Systems, a design/build integrator
“If you were to talk with some integrators, they’d say we’d rather the consultant wasn’t involved at all, and I think in the real world it would be a disaster in many cases if the consultant hadn’t been in there early enough. The clients themselves usually aren’t savvy enough or don’t have even the time to be thinking A/V. Really A/V is really a very tiny component of what it takes to build a facility. There are facilities where that’s not the case. However, A/V is critical once the project is in use, once the facility is in use.
“People will interact with it more than they will other systems. Take a wall, for example. A wall is a wall. But to a contractor and to an architect and to even a consultant that’s way more important than the LCD panel that might be on the wall in the office.
“If the LCD on the wall doesn’t work, they don’t have the jack for the laptop in the right place or the control system doesn’t work right—if people look at the control panel and it makes no sense to them, then that’s where a good design/build firm really can take the consultant’s initial concept and turn it into a shining component of the facility.”
Jay McArdle, lead engineer, Zeller Digital Innovations, a design/build integrator
“Document everything. The biggest thing I see running away on design/build and design projects is expectation management. Somebody sets an unrealistic expectation and they chase it the whole project and never get to it. This happens as opposed to setting realistic expectations and documenting those expectations: What I said, what you heard and what was provided are basically three different things unless you go through that documentation process. ‘Here’s where we’re getting. Doesn’t everybody agree that this is what we’re designing to? Great. Here’s what we’ve designed to. Does that match back? Great. Did we do what we said in the beginning? Yes. Here’s what we’ve delivered. Does that match back to what we said in the beginning? Yes.’
“Inevitably, someone who isn’t in the industry has a different vision for what the end result is and they to try to get that [newly] defined throughout the process.
“Make sure that the people who are going to use the product are involved in the decision making process or the needs analysis. Having the assistant to the CEO telling you what the system needs to do and they are not the one who is using it [could lead to problems].”