A + V

Designing conference rooms holistically

2024 | july

Designing conference rooms holistically

To design a conference room so that it responds to the current needs of employees and meets modern technological standards, several important aspects must be taken into account.  First of all, you should rely on the previously examined needs of the users of a given room or space, and design in accordance with the office standard of a given organization – preferred device brands, communication platform (e.g. Teams, Zoom, Google, etc.), working mode (BYOD or MTR) and room layout with furniture. It should be updated regularly to maintain compliance with applicable technology standards.

Given the significant number of conferences organized online or in hybrid mode, the following aspects should be taken into account in the design of individual rooms:

  • statistical data from the current use of meeting spaces – to know what types or sizes of rooms we need more and less of;
  • end-user needs – activities performed in a given place;
  • location of rooms on the office plan and their relative position to each other – to eliminate the risk of noise and conflicts in the use of space (e.g. proximity to a noisy canteen or telephone booth);
  • assumed flexibility of space – requirements for shared rooms or mobile technologies supporting multifunctional spaces;
  • size of rooms – to ensure appropriate selection of equipment and furniture;
  • use of the room – the activities that are to take place in it, will dictate the technology that is to meet the requirements;
  • office layout – lighting, arrangement of its individual elements and industry installations;
  • communication platform (Teams, Zoom, GoogleMeet, etc.) – to use all its functionalities and suitable certified hardware;
  • office AV standard of a given organization – to maintain consistency and easier management of AV infrastructure;
  • finishing materials affecting the acoustics of the room – to avoid reverberation and ensure soundproofing.

Cooperation between an AV integrator and an architect

Both architects and AV integrators have one main goal in their work – customer satisfaction. To achieve this goal, appropriate cooperation and coordination of project activities is necessary between them. When creating conference room concepts, designers can really benefit from the extensive knowledge of AV integrators.

The role that technology plays in today’s spaces is significantly different from that of a few years ago. Its change requires a new understanding and strengthening of the relationship between architects and AV integrators, because the implementation of an audiovisual system is no longer about installing several individual devices and determining how to aesthetically hide the cabling.

Modern AV technologies are more complicated and strongly integrated with other systems, including IT or BMS. They must meet many technical and functional requirements to help organizations adapt to modern working styles. Currently, organizations are investing more and more financial resources in integrated audiovisual solutions. This is because they support work patterns, communication, sustainable development priorities and help employers stand out on the labor market.

The change in customers’ approach to modern technologies means that design work should involve an AV integrator at a very early stage of the process. This is important in the holistic aspect of office design, so it is worth remembering that:

– the type of artificial lighting and the access of daylight to the room affect not only the quality of the displayed image, but also the appearance of people in the camera frame during a video conference;

– the amount of glazing radically changes the acoustics of the room, which determines the intelligibility of speech and the quality of audio calls;

– the dimensions of the rooms determine the size of the installed projection screens, monitors and projectors, and therefore their weight and the method of strengthening the walls and ceilings to which they will be mounted;

– the amount of heat emitted by AV devices cannot be ignored by the designer of the ventilation and air conditioning installation.

At the stage of creating design documentation, AV integrators should define a number of guidelines and suggestions – for architects as well as designers from other industries cooperating with them.

Then, AV systems and cabling are plotted on the technical plans of the office and integrator engineers analyze the projections of the space, ceilings and plans of individual installations to also display potential obstacles. Examples include lamps suspended on the projector line preventing image projection or air conditioning elements affecting the possibility of installing equipment on the ceiling. Therefore, cross-industry project coordination is very important.

It is really important for the implementation works, due to the possibility of collisions of the designed AV systems with already existing or parallel designed installations, from other industries. Agreements between experts from various fields help avoid unforeseen situations and, therefore, possible installation problems.

Inter-disciplinary coordination is carried out in the following areas:

  • guidelines for projects in other industries (power supply installations, IT installations, thermal power balance, electric power balance);
  • cabling guidelines (type, category, topology, main cable routes);
  • analysis of projects/installations of other industries (avoiding collisions in the installation of devices, e.g. on ceilings, the location of: lighting fixtures, sprinklers and sensors of fire protection systems, other loudspeakers of DSO systems is analyzed in order to avoid problems with the installation of devices);
  • acoustic guidelines for rooms (in terms of insulation of wall partitions, reverberation time, acoustic adaptation);
  • office layout (analysis in terms of the logistics of delivering devices to specific spaces – some large-sized devices, such as screens and large-format monitors, must be carried/delivered, e.g., to the 20th floor by elevator; this is quite an important aspect that translates into efficient installation );
  • architecture (strengthening walls for mounting monitors, agreeing on aesthetics, colors of designed devices, and location of devices).

A properly conducted design process helps to avoid problems at the installation and implementation stage and ensures efficient operation of the AV systems, which ultimately translates into end customer satisfaction and the total cost of the project (each change at a later stage means costs). By working together, architects and AV integrators (whose goal is not self-promotion or sales, but assistance and advice in order to design the most effective space possible) can create functional and modern office spaces.

Everyday work

Inadequate planning of AV solutions in conference rooms may result in difficulties such as:

  • employee discomfort related to technical problems in the room;
  • long time to start the AV system in the room and reduced time for the meeting itself;
  • low-quality sound making it difficult for the recipient to understand the statement (poor acoustics, interlocutors cannot be heard);
  • difficulty hearing and understanding remote meeting participants;
  • inability to collaborate on documents and read content due to an incorrectly selected monitor;
  • inability to show all meeting participants when people do not fit in the frame (poorly selected camera, inappropriate camera mounting height);
  • difficulties resulting from inter-industry conflicts – e.g. a lamp covering the image from a projector
  • inability to connect various presentation sources.

The above difficulties translate into the daily functioning of users in these spaces, affecting: reduced work efficiency, lack of willingness to work from the office, increased stress, reduced comfort and commitment, reduced access to voice and sense of belonging to a team, as well as a possible negative reputation of the organization.

Aesthetics and acoustics

Certain details influence whether AV systems can be considered aesthetically pleasing. These are: the color and shape of the device, handles, quality of workmanship and material from which they are made, method of assembly, routing and masking of cables, graphics and interfaces.

Details of AV equipment can influence the visual aspects of a space, discreetly complementing its character, but when they are poorly selected, it negatively affects the planned visual effect. Failure to include an AV system in the design process, results in poor usability of the room in the future, because an ill-considered layout of the room will make it difficult to meet its purpose and users’ needs.

When creating optimal, modern conference spaces, various types of acoustic solutions are used, such as: soundproofing and dissipative panels; islands (elements of acoustic adaptation), as well as appropriate finishing materials – curtains, curtains, acoustic plasters.

Of course, there are also technological solutions supporting acoustics – these include: microphone arrays, appropriately designed sound systems and loudspeakers, and processors using algorithms supporting acoustics, e.g. noise reduction, echo cancellation.

AV solutions used in conference rooms should differ from those in other spaces in the office in terms of application and functionality that must be met to fulfill the needs of employees.

Each room can have a different aesthetic and technological character. A brainstorming room is equipped differently to a focus room, which is equipped differently to a training room etc. However, we recommend maintaining a consistent standard of AV solutions in all office spaces – i.e. using devices of the same brand and the same interface. This has a positive impact on the adoption of new technologies and improves user experience.

Audio-visual trends

There are certain trends emerging on the AV market that influence the design of conference rooms and ensure the comfort of meeting participants. The biggest of them in 2024 is the use of artificial intelligence:

  • in audio algorithms (elimination of sounds other than speech),
  • in video algorithms (face and speaker recognition),
  • on communication platforms during meetings (transcripts, notes, simultaneous translation).

It seems that technology is moving towards simplifying systems, automating processes and personalization, as well as increasing the share of AI in all elements of audiovisual systems.

This affects the appearance of modern conference rooms, as technology is becoming more and more present and visible, while taking on new, more and more visually attractive forms. AV device manufacturers are moving towards greater personalization to be more consistent with the office architecture.

We are witnessing a technological evolution that will change our work forever – artificial intelligence will take over many simple activities currently performed by humans (e.g. meeting notes or tuning audio), freeing up our time which we can devote to developing relationships with colleagues and creative elements