STEP – Should we step lightly at first? by Christopher Maione

The Sustainable Technology Environments Program was launched by InfoComm earlier this year with efforts to develop a “comprehensive program” with an AV sustainability rating system.

I want to start by saying I fully support InfoComm’s efforts and the work of the committee under the leadership of my esteemed colleague and chair, Scott Walker.

Our industry as a whole needs to develop "green" and environmentally proper methods of doing business, from a project’s concept through completion, and all front/back office operations which accompany it.

The committee is a cast of very smart and AV-savvy people representing consultants, system integrators, manufacturers, and control system programmers. As the STEP program and rating system was being developed (and it’s still being developed) it became clear the methods and rating systems could apply to just about any low voltage technology, not just AV. The similarities and overlap in the AV industry and other IT / low voltage technologies would (in theory) make the STEP program applicable to more than just the AV world. At present there are nearly 70 “credits” and only one specific to AV. Each credit defines a specific project requirement in order to earn the credit. The more credits achieved, the higher the rating score.

I have reviewed each of the public drafts and I see a very complicated program developing. Perhaps too complicated and too cumbersome (and costly) to easily implement (especially in this economy).

I’m also not sure this AV group represents enough of “any low voltage technologies” to develop a non-specific to AV rating system. I think more non-AV industry participation would be required and if so, will opening the program to industries beyond AV make it even more complicated?

The proposed STEP program presently defines five phases, including:
· Planning
· Architecture & Infrastructure Design
· System Design
· System Testing
· Operations

Implementing all aspects will be time consuming and potentially costly with the bill ultimately paid by the client. Will the ROI make these efforts worthwhile – I hope so – but I think the verdict is still out until we get some good data on the time (and fees) required to fully implement the STEP program and the short / long term financial savings. Will the AV projects be able to “afford” a new breed of “STEP consultants” who oversee, manage and document the STEP processes? I’m not sure. (Again, not in this economy.)

As LEED developed, architects and project management firms started charging premiums on their fees for all the additional work and coordination. A new business of “LEED Consultants” emerged who specialized in keeping track and tally of the various LEED credits during the course of a (construction) project. Can the AV industry support similar efforts?

Since this is the first pass (I will call it Version 1) of STEP, shouldn’t we start with something effective yet simple —so we can gain acceptance and momentum?

My suggestion to the STEP group – keep it simple. Baby STEPs (pun intended) before we climb the mountain. This type of program needs to be eased into and continually updated (version 2 etc.) as it develops, gains acceptance and succeeds in not only the AV industry, but also amongst our clients.

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