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Consultants Guide: How to Build an AV Consulting Practice Within a Larger Engineering Organization

As audiovisual systems become more complex and increasingly integrated with other power, data, and building automation systems, the need for earlier incorporation into the design process is imperative. In response, many MEP firms are now offering in-house AV consulting.

In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Mulvey & Banani International, Inc. (MBII) was one of the first firms to do this, formalizing a dedicated AV division in 2007. This strategic move has proven to be very timely and successful. Other firms in the GTA have since followed suit, however, some early-days blunders stalled their foray into the industry.

The key take-away for MEP firms is that AV design, although technically a low-voltage sub-discipline is drastically different than electrical engineering and should be treated as such. We have witnessed some competitors’ attempt to build their AV group with electrical engineers as lead designers who then rely heavily on manufacturers and distributors for design and support services. Manufacturers and distributors can be a great resource and should be used as such, however, as independent consultants, knowledge and experience should be present to assess and propose various vendor neutral solutions without any ties to manufacturers or distributors. Some less-than-perfect projects ensued in the market: unfortunately we saw architects and interior designers temporally shy away from MEP firms offering AV design services.

MBII treated AV design as a discrete discipline from the get-go and brought in AV-specific designers, immersing them into the MEP consulting atmosphere. The cross-pollination between disciplines combined with the sharing of internal resources where possible has proven to be the sweet spot between the AV and engineering worlds.

Greg Rushton is an associate in charge of AV design at Mulvey & Banani International, Inc.

Read more from the SCN Consultants Guide:

How to Go Global, by Steve Emspak

How to Add Communications to the IT Infrastructure, by Ashok Bhatt

How to Design Performing Arts Halls for the Modern Age, by Steve Pollock

How to Help Houses of Worship Reach Beyond the Sanctuary, by Garth Hemphill