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Time To Step It Up

Time To Step It Up

How InfoComm Is Setting The Standard For Sustainable AV

In June I outlined the reasons why chasing LEED as our home for sustainable AV solutions was looking like a lost cause or, at best, a waste of the talent and innovation resident in 95 percent of the AV community. This month I provide an overview of a new, better alternative: the newly unveiled InfoComm Sustainable Technology Environments Program (STEP) rating system, which could, if we’re both right and lucky, fundamentally transform the way we approach the manufacture, design, and deployment of AV goods and services.

First, Be Inclusive
One of the first and most fundamental objectives of the STEP rating system was to involve the entire AV universe. LEED, we came to see, was only relevant for a small minority in our industry who could attempt to navigate the twists and turns of a long and rocky LEED project path with the eventual end-game of maybe, just maybe, earning an innovation credit or two. STEP not only invites participation from across the industry, it mandates that AV technology managers, consultants, integrators, manufacturers, and programmers work in a coordinated manner to earn STEP credits. Where LEED is subjectcentric, STEP is people and process-centric, and it is this focus on people and process that makes STEP unique among the alphabet soup of green-building rating systems.

STEP’s credit subject areas are repeated and developed from phase to phase with the primary responsible party shifting across the AV-action chain. STEP begins with the owner’s technology manager establishing the sustainability goals for the project and ends with the owner exploiting all the project’s sustainable-technology solutions to maximize their return on investment. In between, the green baton gets passed among manufacturer, design, integrator, and programmer to complete STEP’s sustainability arc. Everyone must work together, which is fitting because we rely on each other to deliver superior AV solutions anyway, green ambitions aside. Why not reinforce and invigorate this interdependence into the very fabric of STEP?

Then, Green The Process As Well As The Results
Another innovation of STEP is to track credits in a detailed manner through the various design and construction phases of a project. The task force recognized that one of the challenges of LEED is that, despite its core raison d’être of providing owners with green facilities, it does little to green the project-delivery process. In fact, when I suggested to USGBC that they replace the “gimme point” of having a LEED AP on a project—no one in his right mind would embark on a LEED project without at least one LEED AP on the job—with a credit for executing a carbon-neutral design process through conferencing technologies and paperless delivery, the idea didn’t get so much as a nibble. STEP, on the other hand, imbues these carbonreducing principles into our core process with the implied mantra of “Don’t deliver a green project with a brown process.” Plus, we’re in the AV biz; why not unleash our industry’s green capabilities within our own rating system?

Lastly, Build A Big Tent
Although the InfoComm STEP task force used the recently published InfoComm ANSI design standard documentation as a backdrop for our framework, our goal was not to capture an “AV” design process, but truly any technology system process from initial needs assessment through day-to-day operations. The task force, InfoComm board, and staff understood from the start that creating a sustainable AV-only rating system was not going to be enough of a game changer to get the attention of the broader green building community. Thus, the task force was charged with creating a rating system framework that could be applied to IT, security, building automation, and any another other building technology not currently accommodated within LEED.

To date we have shared our framework with BICSI, CABA, TIA, COMP-TIA, and the Automation Federation, each of which believes the framework can work for their members as well. The current thinking is that roughly two thirds of the credits are general in nature and can apply to any technology system planning, design, and deployment effort. The remaining one third of the current credits are AV centric in nature. It is anticipated that as other trade associations come on board, their subject matter experts will add their own industry-specific credits to the rating system. Our hope is that with a broad enough coalition representing more and more of a building’s environmental footprint, STEP could be adopted by ASHRAE, USGBC, Energy STAR, or others into their rating systems. Maybe we’ll earn those long-sought-after LEED credits after all through adoption of STEP into LEED.

Many Bridges To Cross
We are at the infant stages of STEP, and multitasking is the order of the day. We are developing the content while forming a STEP coalition and simultaneously creating the program elements—education, awareness, STEP-tracking software, etc.—necessary to make STEP a reality. Contemplating all the decisions yet to be made and how many we might make incorrectly is intimidating. However, not doing STEP and continuing to sit on the sidelines of the sustainability movement while all of our sustainable solutions lay fallow is inconceivable. If we are right and lucky, STEP has the potential to fundamentally change our value proposition to our customers and change the conversation from “look how bright this projector is” to “look how quickly you got a return on your AV spend while enhancing day-to-day efficiency and communication flow of your organization.” Now that’s a conversation I want to have with my customers.

Scott Walker, CTS-D, LEED AP, is president of Waveguide Consulting and past president of InfoComm.

Mitsubishi Adds Trade Portal

IRVINE, CA—In an effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America’s Presentation Products Division announced its Mitsubishi Owners’ Circle, a portal site where qualified buyers and sellers can connect to trade and /or upgrade their Mitsubishi video wall products. In just a few minutes, users can search for specific product parts or create listings to sell pre-owned cubes efficiently and cost-effectively. With this service, Mitsubishi offers its existing customer base, as well as new users, a connection to people who already know Mitsubishi’s quality and reliability and want to continue with the Mitsubishi brand experience.

Sellers are limited to current owners of any version of Mitsubishi display wall cubes. Potential buyers can view available selections and upload their own data when they are ready to discuss a purchase. To verify product authenticity, Mitsubishi verifies the information from each party and then connects the two.

Smart Battery Power From AKG

VIENNA, AUSTRIA—There is one feature that is often overlooked when shopping for the ideal microphone that can have a significant impact on the overall performance of any microphone or wireless microphone system: the battery life, which is why AKG’s products employ state-of-the-art battery power technology.

“AKG’s battery power technology provides two main benefits to our customers,” said Joseph Wagoner, product manager for wireless, tour, and installed sound, AKG. “One is the benefit to the environment that comes with using fewer batteries and producing less waste. The other is the cost savings. When you look at the amount of money one spends on batteries per week with other systems, compared to the money saved with smart battery technology, the savings will result in the wireless system paying for itself over time.”