CTS-D, LEED AP It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and instead of sitting down to dinner with my family, I’m standing over the copier at my office printing 10 copies of a
20- page AV program report. As the copier inevitably jams on the remnants of what used to be a tree, I’m thinking, Why am I making 10 copies of a report I just PDF’d and emailed to my client last week?
Oh, that’s right, I answer myself, because my architect-client wants me to fly halfway across the country to present this report to the owner tomorrow, and there’s no projection equipment in the meeting room so I need to bring copies of the report for everyone. For the record, I did ask the architect if everyone had a copy of the PDF I sent. “Well, maybe they do, maybe they don’t— better bring 10 copies just in case.”
Of course the obvious, elephant-in-the-room question is, why on God’s green earth am I flying 800 miles, renting a car, and driving 60 more miles just to get to a twohour meeting? And the teeth-gritting, soul-destroying answer is, because the client doesn’t have videoconferencing, isn’t really up on web conferencing, and well, it’s a project meeting so everybody has to travel there to sit in a room face to face, right? That’s the way we’ve always done it.
I’m not the only one heading into a long haul for this meeting; the architect also has a 400-mile round-trip drive, so I try my best to convince him if he could just get a projector, screen and laptop in the room, I will host a web conference, no charge, which I figure is a no brainer for the architect, at least.
Instead, at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, I drag myself out of bed to begin my 28-hour trip for a two-hour meeting. I take mass transit to the airport, buy a copy of Thomas Friedman’s excellent new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and stew in the full irony of my CO2-spewing adventure.
All of this for a meeting that could have been conducted via videoconference where my whole project team— project manager, lead designer, acoustician, and me—and the architect’s whole team could have participated, making for a richer, more effective meeting. Everyone involved could have made it home for supper, and we could have saved about a half-ton of greenhouse gas emissions.
This mini-drama is a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with our current “just keep doing what we’ve been doing” mentality and is an indictment against our industry for our failure to deliver reliable, user-friendly videoconferencing solutions to the planet. Instead of chanting, “Drill, baby, drill!” at the top of our lungs, we in the AV business should be shouting, “Deploy, baby, deploy!”—as in videoconferencing, audio conferencing and rich-media solutions to our clients
The obvious carbon-saving benefits of videoconferencing were the reason InfoComm’s new Green AV special interest group (SIG) banded together to propose a new videoconference credit to the US Green Building Council for their 2009 version of LEED. However, we were unable to make much headway when we met with USGBC representatives at their headquarters during the review process. Essentially, we’re not on the world’s radar yet as a green industry full of green solutions. That has to change!
Several of us will be meeting with USGBC officials at GreenBuild in November to try again, and I invite you to go to www.infocomm.org/community and join the conversation on the Green AV SIG’s blog.
We have no idea how many thousands of tons of carbon are offset each year from videoconferencing or what the total carbon-offsetting potential of videoconferencing could be if it were to become universally deployed, but we know we’re on the good side of the ledger and we need your voice, your data, your case studies, your bright ideas to grow the relevance of our industry’s offerings in a planet that is definitely growing hot, flat, and crowded. What the AV industry needs is a plan, a vision, a clarion call to get our clients out of airplanes, make their buildings more energy efficient, and get everyone home for dinner. We have the ultimate responsibility of telling our clients, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this!”
Scott Walker, CTS-D, LEED AP, is president of Waveguide Consulting and past president of InfoComm International. In June 2007, he made history when he became the world’s first LEED-accredited certified technology specialist in design.