Meeting The Majority

Meeting The Majority

Making Green AV Possible For Small And Medium Projects

The primary challenge to the upcoming InfoComm Sustainable Technology Environments Program (STEP ) Green AV Rating System will be the achievement of broad and sustained industrywide adoption. Envisioned as an allencompassing design, engineering, and installation process, STEP has the potential to completely transform the approach of professional AV industry. In its current draft, the STEP program is divided into five sections:

  • ■ Planning/Program Phase
  • ■ Architecture and Infrastructure Design
  • ■ System Design
  • ■ Systems Integration
  • ■ Operations

These designations accurately address the major phases of professional AV integration, not to mention many other building technologies, but they may seem a little biased toward high-end projects with large budgets and extended schedules. That’s great if your company specializes in big construction projects. But STEP must become applicable to every installation type, down to, and including, simple single-screen display systems.

The overwhelming majority of permanently installed pro AV systems are small- to mediumsized affairs and therefore impact the lion’s share of energy use and raw materials in our industry. They also provide the easiest, most immediate opportunity for energy efficiency, waste reduction, and operational cost reductions.

I like to use the analogy of McDonald’s versus the Darden Restaurant Chain (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Capitol Grille, and Bahama Breeze). In February of 2010, Darden rolled out a LEED design initiative for all new and remodel projects, starting with eight of their 1,800 restaurants. These restaurants will feature low-flow and automatic water fixtures, EnergyStar kitchen equipment, and LED light bulbs. No doubt a laudable effort and they should be commended and held up as an example of corporate responsibility in the restaurant industry.

But did you know that a minimum of 82 percent of McDonald’s consumer packaging is made out of renewable materials, including unbleached paper napkins? Extrapolated over 32,000 locations, that amounts to tons of raw materials not becoming part of the waste stream every single day. While McDonald’s only has its corporate HQ and two restaurants currently LEED certified, they are already making an enormous positive impact on the environment with a relatively straightforward, but far-reaching change.

In this way, our industry also needs to make simple, but sweeping adjustments in its approach to basic systems. To address and encourage this, the STEP committee is hammering out entry-level criteria that will allow virtually every professionally installed AV system to reduce its carbon footprint and achieve a basic STEP rating.

Because the large majority of small, permanently installed AV systems are not burdened with long design cycles, the requirements for the Planning/Program Phase should be reduced. The Architectural and Infrastructure Design phase requirements could be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether because most design/build projects don’t involve architects or extensive infrastructure.

Lastly, the Operations Phase requirements should be minimized or cut. This is necessary because AV pros must be able to develop, build, and install systems that can achieve an improved level of efficiency without involving the owner or end user. Why? Because integrators may not have the opportunity to educate buyers about STEP advantages, the purchasing agent may not care about efficiency, or there may not even be a clear-cut “owner” of the system.

This is not to say that adopters of STEP should get a free pass with the basic criteria—far from it. There will still need to be a designated STEP project guru and a formalized design and integration plan including energy cost and savings projections, not to mention endof- life procedures, installation guidelines, furniture, lighting, travel, packaging, consumables, power management, and recycling requirements. There will still be a learning curve, but the goalposts won’t be as high, and the procedures will be easily replicable so that designers and integrators can refine and apply their process to virtually every system that leaves their shop with increasing speed and efficiency.

This approach has the benefit not only of reducing the AV industry’s carbon footprint on a grand scale and with a high adoption rate, but it encourages sales, design, and installation professionals to become “STEP experts.” As projects become more complex and client demands for energy efficiency and environmentally friendly project requirements become more pervasive, designers and integrators will have the firsthand knowledge, experience, and STEP familiarity to respond with proven, defensible metrics.

Brian Huff, CTS-D, LEED AP is a supervisory consultant at Acentech, an audiovisual systems and acoustical consulting firm. He is a member of the InfoComm Sustainable Technology Design development committee for STEP, and served as the moderator of the ANSI/InfoComm Standard Guide for Audiovisual Systems Design and Coordination Processes committee.