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And The Issue Is…Part 2: Standards?

The wait is over. Thanks to all of you who have been waiting patiently! For those coming to this standards discussion party late, this is the conclusion of a five-part series. (I began this series on the importance of standards with a three-part discussion on the roles of the various industry players; Part 1 in January 2015 focused on AV design consultants, Part 2 in March 2015 dealt with AV integrators and Part 3 in May 2015 centered on the relationship between manufacturer reps, consultants, integrators and end users. This month’s column is the conclusion of my August 2015 column on the importance of third-party compliance inspectors in upholding these standards.)

To briefly recap: What started this whole thing was an article I read from a self-proclaimed industry leader who wrote about how important standards are and how thankful he is for standards every time he gets in an elevator…which quite frankly irritated me to no end!

There is only one reason you feel safe every time you ride in an elevator, and it is not the result of standards. It is because an IAJ (Independent Authority with Jurisdiction) inspects the elevator for compliance to agreed industry standards. We all know that so many other trades involved in the construction of buildings are regulated and/or inspected by an IAJ.

Failure to pass inspection means the contractor must comply and replace and/or change or repair said compliance issue(s) or the building will not get a Certificate of Occupancy (CO), which can cause significant time and monetary impact to a project. Period.

No, inspections are not done by others from the same company. No, inspections are not done by same-industry peers. Beginning to sound familiar? As far as I can tell, no one in our industry is talking about this…us…and how slow we are to get this right, to adhere to industry-wide practices!

The fox guarding the henhouse is just not going to work (or fool anyone that we are doing the right thing). So, I am leading the charge!

When I plan something complicated that is of significant importance, I typically look at it in three phases: short term, mid term and long term. I do this because, time and time again, until I learned this process, I did not end up where I wanted to be on an issue and, had I taken more time in the earlier aspects of my project…and thinking ahead…I would have.

So, I believe that our long-term plan must have an IAJ who inspects our installations and decides if we meet the standard. That is, if we want to prevent what I believe may be a potential catastrophic situation for our industry if we continue to ignore this. Short term is developing standards, mid term will be setting up an IAJ (looking at funding and logistics aspects), with the final phase being the establishment of an AV-IAJ.

Let’s look at some of my points of reasoning here, such as InfoComm and its ANSI certification(s). We have really come a long way…I can still remember almost 20 years ago, sitting in front of my computer taking the online CTS test, my review crib sheet turned upside down within arm’s reach, coming to a question about an acronym. I could not remember the answer. I did not turn over the sheet because the test instructions clearly said you could not. It was tempting, of course. I have written about instances where, not only did folks cheat a little, but how some actually took the test for others so they could get a certification.

Of course, InfoComm has now joined other organizations that offer certification, and testing is done by an independent agency. InfoComm certifications are now ANSI certified and respected worldwide. That’s quite an accomplishment, and kudos to InfoComm for leading the charge to do so. However, we need to do more.

I talked about low bidders last month, and what I believe to be an overlooked aspect of why architects/general contractors/owners use low bidders for AV…because they are used to it! The x-factor here is that they are used to it because it works. Why does it work? Because of an IAJ: All of the other significant trades (plumbing, electrical and, yes, elevators and others) are inspected; if they do not pass, they will face serious consequences!

Think about it: Low bidder works in construction under those set circumstances. Are we not part of the construction process? If we want to be taken seriously, we need to deliver what we promise, our work must be inspected by an IAJ, and failure to meet the standard must have serious ramifications, as with the other trades.

Lastly: As a relatively young industry, we are still under the radar, so to speak, right now. Of all the construction trades, we are not regulated or inspected for compliance to standards (other than some low-voltage standards in some states). I have said this before: How much longer can this last?

I predict that, somewhere, someday, as with other industries, an accident will occur that involves AV, where there may be serious injury or loss of life…and we will be noticed. It will be like that day in Terminator when SkyNet became self-aware and nuked the Earth…What was it called? Judgment Day?

I can just envision the televised broadcast from Congress asking who inspected/certified all this installed equipment so the building could get its CO…and it is revealed that no one did it or was required to do so! I fear that the government will step in, hand us over to an adjacent trade, such as electrical or voice/data “experts,” and we will then be subject to standards that, if we are lucky, we might have some say in.

I, for one, do not want that. Now, if there was an accident and an AV-IAJ was involved, there would be accountability, with the issues traceable. Perhaps we can avoid what some may say is the inevitable?

My best guess is that we need to start discussions on this issue now and develop a long-term plan so we can join our brothers and sisters in the construction industry, playing by the same rules and getting some respect!

So, perhaps for projects of a certain size and scope, integrators/consultants/manufacturers would pay a small percentage to the AV-IAJ to fund the process. Yes, I know it would be a massive undertaking, and I cannot claim to have all the answers. However, if we are so smart, and we deal with such complicated aspects of our industry every day, let’s not forget the big picture.

Last, and certainly not least, I promised you way back in Part 1 some comments from industry leaders. I was fortunate enough to get comments from not one, but two Malteses: Mario and James Maltese have provided their individual takes on this.

But I also want to hear what you think! Please send comments and suggestions to me at dkleeger@testa.com.

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