in September 2007
By Dawn Allcot
Photos by William E. Lutz, Jr.
Architecture, microbrews, zoned music and projection are on tap at Philly's Triumph Brewery.
|A view of the main bar, looking down from the brewery. Speakers can be seen in the I-beam pockets.
Dust, leaks and a lack of parking were just a few of the challenges Security On-Line Systems faced during the installation of distributed sound, video projection, and security and fire alarm systems at Philadelphia’s Triumph Brewery.
“The dust was unbelievable,” said Security On-Line Systems owner Bill Lutz. “The drywall and carpentry dust coated everyone and everything. There were days you couldn’t see five feet in front of you.” Additionally, the 200-year-old, four-story building had plumbing on every level, and leaks damaged control panels, speakers and smoke detectors.
In spite of these practical challenges—and smaller inconveniences such as trying to find parking near the jobsite in old city Philadelphia—the result became a showcase piece for the architect, restaurant ownership, and the AV and security integrator. “They were perfectionists about everything, and the place looks fabulous because of it,” Lutz said.
‘Piece Of The Fabric’
Philadelphia PA’s Triumph Brewery on Chestnut Street is the restaurant’s third location. The first, in Princeton NJ, has become a piece of the fabric of that college town. A second brewery and restaurant is located in New Hope PA.
Although the Philadelphia facility is one of three restaurant/breweries, the interior was designed within the constraints of the existing 200-year-old warehouse building, and it has a unique look and feel. Visitors can tell that each location is related, but each facility was custom-designed around the existing space. The $6 million renovation project was anything but “cookie cutter” work.
The Philadelphia location features four separate floors, including a sub-basement that is used for storage, and a basement that houses the kitchen, refrigeration systems and brewery equipment. The first floor, entry level for customers, includes the two bars, a west side lounge and a large dining area. Ascending a stairwell to reach the second floor, visitors find large, curved glass windows overlooking the brewery equipment, plus a smaller bar and more dining tables.
The second floor also houses a private, L-shaped dining room with projection systems. When the Philadelphia Film Festival comes to town each Spring, the restaurant rents out the private dining room for independent film screenings. It can also host business meetings and small parties.
Earth tones of deep yellows and rich browns and lots of curved designs, including oblong tables and funky chairs, give the space a modern look and classy, relaxing vibe. Curved, upholstered chairs in the lounge beckon visitors to stay awhile and unwind, to sample a few brews out of tall pilsner glasses, while background music, programmed at just the right volume for the time of day, subtly sets the scene.
Unique textures, including brick walls, bamboo floors and acoustic ceiling tiles, contribute to the ultra-modern ambience, while giving the restaurant the necessary acoustical properties to best enjoy the distributed sound. This is fortunate because the space was designed primarily for looks, not acoustics. However, Lutz said, the client’s experience in restaurant design and management meant that the AV integrator’s needs were on the radar. “The building was designed, including all the wall and floor finishes, before they ever designed the sound system,” Lutz said. “For- tunately…they were careful. They didn’t want a noisy bar.”
Just as the client didn’t want the background music to dominate the room—or even be a focal point—nor did he want the speaker boxes to distract from the interior design. This influenced the integrator’s decision to go with a combination of small footprint Turbosound, Atlas and Mirage speakers throughout the facility.
Although the high-tech AV systems may not be the first thing guests notice on entering the facility, significant thought and dollars—$45,000 total for AV and security—went into creating systems that would enhance the overall dining and party experience.
The first floor dining room uses Turbosound Impact 50T surface-mount speakers, recessed in exposed steel I-beams. Lutz selected the Impact 50Ts for their reasonable price and small footprint. The two-way, 100 volt, wide dispersion speakers fill the room with background sound with only one row of speakers.
“Downstairs, we faced a balance problem,” Lutz explained. Seating includes a row of stools at the bar, dining tables and more seating at the other end of the dining room, but budgetary constraints and aesthetic requirements wouldn’t allow for multiple rows of speakers. “We wanted to balance the sound without putting in a row of speakers for the bar and an additional row for the tables.”
Lutz knew he wanted the speakers to hang in the center of the room, near the I-beams, but the interior designers didn’t want big boxes hanging from the ceiling and marring the carefully planned design. Lutz recessed the speakers inside the pockets of the I-beams, where the custom-painted boxes virtually disappear. “When you enter the bar, you just don’t see them,” Lutz said.
The contractor initially planned to install Turbosounds in the rear bar, as well, but they wouldn’t fit in the tight space in the soffits, where they would be out of view. Instead, Lutz selected two RBH MC-414 flush-mount speakers, and added 70 volt transformers. Although RBH is primarily a home theater/consumer brand, Lutz said they worked in this situation because he was able to install them flush inside the soffit and paint them to match. “No one else made a 70 volt speaker to fit the space we had available,” he said. “RBH makes the 70 volt transformers.”
|The front private dining room features a venue-supplied plasma screen.
Four Turbosound 50Ts also were installed in the lounge, to the west of the dining room. These were set in nooks in the ceiling. “Surface speakers have to be very compact,” Lutz noted. “Their size allows you to tuck them away as much as possible.” An Atlas FAPSUB flush-mount subwoofer in the ceiling provides low-end for the lounge.
Installing pockets in the ceilings required the contractor to work around ducts, including many ducts that were not in the original drawings. “The general contractor never did an exact ductwork layout after gutting the building,” Lutz said. With five HVAC systems to work around, the AV integrator had to be especially careful about speaker placement.
Additionally, with five floors of condos above the restaurant, sound absorption was another major concern. Dual drop-ceiling structures help block sound and also create space to run cabling for all the low-voltage systems.
The lounge has some acoustical treatment built into the design, including acoustical panels that hang from the ceiling, a cloth bench along one wall and circular cloth inserts creating cool textures—and sound absorption—on the opposite wall. Bamboo floors also soften the sound in the room.
Brews And Background
The second floor dining room showcases the brewery where Triumph’s microbrews are produced. A large glass wall lets visitors view the brewing process in action. Glass walls, however, pose a risk of reverberant sound. Acoustical ceiling tiles and careful speaker placement, with input from Atlas Sound’s Chris Spar, allowed the background systems to provide crisp, clear sound without overpowering conversation in the rooms.
Security On-Line Systems opted for Atlas FAP62T flush-mount ceiling speakers, part of Atlas Sound’s Strategy II line, in the upstairs dining area. These six-inch, 30W coaxial tuned and ported speakers provided good sound for the money, according to Lutz. He added a FAPSUB to the room for the same reason. The second floor bar area includes three more Atlas speakers and a second sub.
No Room To Walk
Some of the more challenging aspects of a renovation project may not directly relate to technology. Successful AV integrators often must work around a number of obstacles in order to get their portion of the project done. For instance, at Triumph Brewery, the staircase leading up to the second floor is not the original staircase in the building. Lifts were installed for transporting equipment during certain phases of the construction project but, until they were brought in, the AV integrator used the existing 200-year-old stairs to carry equipment up to the second floor. When the new staircase arrived, it had to be cut in half and re-assembled once inside.
Because of the close quarters and extent of the renovation, the Triumph Brewery installation was, in Lutz’ eyes, more trying than many projects. “Every trade you can think of was there at the same time with their job boxes, ladders and scaffolding. There was not much room to walk, set a ladder up or even sit down to eat your lunch,” he recalled with a laugh. He said that the final two weeks of the project were the most hectic, with three people on site for the last few days to do the final connections.
Centerpiece of Technology
|A ceiling-mounted dome security camera (far left) fits into the décor.
The centerpiece of the technology on the second floor is located in the private dining room, which includes a theater system composed of a Sharp XV-Z3000U projector, 92-inch Da-Lite screen and Mirage Omnistat V2 speakers.
The private dining room once had three large windows; the architect covered them with Plexiglas panels and inserted lighting at the top and bottom, creating a three-panel glowing effect, while blocking ambient light from entering the room.
This allowed Security On-Line Systems to select an inexpensive 3000 lumen projector. The Da-Lite flush-mount screen pulls down in front of the panels, covering the entire center panel and parts of the left and right panels. It disappears into the ceiling when not in use.
Mirage OmniStat V2 speakers and a Marantz SR-5001 AV 7.1 surround receiver provide patrons with a full theater experience, while an RBH in-wall powered subwoofer offers throbbing bass for explosions, gun fights and action movie scenes. Three speakers hang from the ceiling, directly in front of and on either side of the screen, while rear-left and mid-left hang directly in front of an exposed brick wall. Rear-right and mid-right speakers hang high, against the opposite wall. “The speakers are omni-directional, and are white to blend in with the ceiling,” Lutz said.
Cabling is in place so users can connect a laptop to the projection and home theater systems for PowerPoint presentations, slideshows and other presentations. The facility rents out the dining/meeting space to corporate clients such as Campbell’s Soup, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, as well as using it for independent film screenings. “The systems allow us to reach out by making ourselves available to the community,” said Eric Nutt, sales and marketing manager for Triumph Brewery.
Additional Atlas FAP62T speakers and a FAPSUB provide background music in the room when the theater system is not in use. The equipment closet is on the second floor, adjacent to the private dining room. A Middle Atlantic rack holds Australian Monitor AMIS250P amplifiers, an Australian Monitor ZRM4 mixer and components to an RDL control system, plus a Marantz CC4001 five-disc CD changer. Lutz said the brewery opted not to use the CD player for background music; instead, an iPod, connected to the Australian Monitor mixer, is the primary music source. “They recorded everything at the highest quality available in an iPod. It sounds really good, and they get a broad variety of music.”
The RDL control system consists of four RLC-3 remote level controllers and three FP-ALC2 auto-level controllers. Sound in the facility is divided into five zones: three on the first floor and two on the second. Preset volume levels were programmed for lunch, afternoon, dinner and night. When the time of day changes, upper management presses a button on the controller and changes the volume throughout the restaurant. The zoned system gives management the ability to turn off or adjust the sound in any given area at any time of day, as well.
Lunchtime background music selections lean toward singer/songwriter styles. In the evening, the music genre changes to a more upbeat blend. After 10:00pm, according to Nutt, the style goes “a bit more urban, Top 40: something with a little beat to it.” He said that, once the presets were programmed, the system became remarkably easy to use. “We can control the volume levels and music selections in each zone with just the push of a button.”
Too Low To Fit
In the equipment closet, Lutz specified a pull-and-turn rack from Middle Atlantic, but the door on the closet was too low to fit the rack inside. “We had to remove the pull and turn mechanism to fit the rack in the closet,” Lutz said.
Instead, a door was cut in the back of the closet, opening up to the electrical service room, which permits restaurant management and technicians to access the rack from the back. An additional air conditioning vent was placed in the room to keep the equipment cool. “Fortunately, the air conditioning duct runs right over the top of the closet,” Lutz said. “We were not, initially, planning to install a vent, but it was an easy way to keep the closet cool.”
Transforming a 200-year-old building into an entertainment venue and eatery is no easy task, but Security On-Line Systems specializes in older structures that often pose challenges in wiring, ductwork and systems placement. Lutz noted that his company faced many of the same challenges installing the Silent Knight fire alarm system, NAPCO 3000 burglar alarm system and security cameras as they did with the AV systems, including close quarters and tight workspace, challenges transporting equipment and a dusty work environment.
However, Lutz noted, “It’s more challenging to place a speaker than it is a smoke detector. You don’t have as many options as to where you can place it for the desired sound quality.”
Both Nutt and Triumph Brewery owner Brian Fitting were pleased with the results across the board. “The audio quality is fantastic,” Nutt said.
In April 2007, Philly residents and tourists, along with restaurant management, celebrated the triumphant grand opening of a microbrewery and nightlife hotspot that is sure to become a new landmark in an old city.
Security On-Line Systems
“The nice thing about AV is that it’s something people want to buy,” said Bill Lutz, owner of Security On-Line Systems. The Ambler PA-based company has been installing high-end security and fire alarm systems for nearly 34 years and, in the past five years, has made the foray into audiovisual systems.
Lutz enjoys the new work, explaining, “Nobody really wants to buy security equipment! They don’t want to spend $50,000 on a fire alarm system. But they’re happy to spend $100,000 or $200,000 on an AV system.”
Whether it’s dealing in high-end security systems for clients such as the Union League of Philadelphia or putting fun-to-use AV systems in restaurants, Lutz likes keeping his clients happy. And that attitude shows in Security On-Line Systems’ success. The integrator doesn’t have a website because 99% of its business comes from customer referrals and the company is so booked that, Lutz says, “Right now, we can’t take any new jobs until December.”
If Security On-Line Systems isn’t hurting for work, why take on jobs in an additional industry? Lutz has a logical answer. “We felt we could do a better job than the competition we were running into in this area. We’d be working on a $100,000 project, while the AV contractor would have a $250,000 contract from the same client. We’d ask our customers how they liked their AV people, and they never seemed thrilled.”
As word spread that the security installer also designs and installs AV systems, Security On-Line Systems’ percentage of AV work climbed from just over 15% to 25% in the past year.
Lutz said the company’s new area of expertise has not put any undue strain on his staff. In fact, it has made work more interesting and fun for his 17 employees. “We’re a very engineering-oriented company, with savvy employees. The acoustical layout is the biggest trick of the business. The wiring and the electronics, the programming and the integrating, that’s relatively simple.”
1 Apple iPod
7 Atlas FAPSUB flush-mount subwoofers
20 Atlas FAP62T flush-mount speakers
7 Australian Monitor AMIS250P amps
1 Australian Monitor ZRM4 mixer
1 Marantz CC4001 5-disc CD changer
2 RBH MC-414 flush in-wall speakers
4 RDL RLC-3 remote level controller w/4 presets
3 RDL FP-ALC2 auto level control
12 Turbosound Impact 50T surface-mount speakers
1 Da-Lite 92" in-ceiling Advantage Manual flush-mount screen w/37" of extra drop
1 Marantz DV-4001 DVD player
1 Marantz SR-5001 AV 7.1 surround receiver
7 Mirage Omnistat V2 speakers
1 RBH in-wall powered subwoofer
1 RTI T2+ universal remote control
1 RTI RP-1 processor
1 Sharp XV-Z3000U 1200 lumen single-chip DLP projector
List is edited from information supplied by Security On-Line Systems.
Dawn Allcot is a freelance writer specializing in the audiovisual and health and fitness industries.