New LEED Gold-certified building with future-ready technology.
Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative Inc. was focused on sustainability and minimal environmental impact when it broke ground in August 2013 on its new 83,000-square-foot headquarters in Bloomington IN. Big windows and open green spaces would help invite the outside in, and vice versa, to enhance work productivity in a positive environment. Thanks to forward-thinking, well integrated technologies, the power supplier for 18 electric distribution cooperatives in south/central Indiana and southeastern Illinois now has a communication and collaboration strategy that can carry Hoosier Energy well into the future.
This project was awarded to Sensory Technologies in the fall of 2013 as part of the overall construction bid process. David Wright, with Wright Consulting Associates, worked closely with Hoosier Energy to design and specify a functional system for their new environment. During the proposal phase, Sensory provided value engineering on the design, which reduced the cost of the project and allowed the electrical contractor to feel confident when choosing Sensory as a partner. Facility construction began immediately, with the AV installation beginning in the summer of 2014.
Scope & Challenges
The overall scope of the project included technology integration in 42 separate spaces, as well as a large-scale sound masking system that covered multiple areas of the buildings.
Audio/video integration often depends on the completion of work by various other trades: Wiring must be completed before walls are finished, walls are finished before flooring is installed, etc. With an aggressive project timeline and move-in date of early December, Sensory provided extra crews and worked third shifts to deliver a completed solution. This was teamwork at its finest, requiring daily management, communication and coordination among onsite teams, other contractors and the customer.
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- About 20 office spaces, each with videoconferencing units, were moved into the new space, and many had to be refitted with standardized, intuitive user control.
- Four 4×4 videowalls were integrated into the large Board Room, a space uniquely designed for versatile functionality and enhanced by a sophisticated production booth.
- All spaces were integrated for BYOD environments, so visitors could bring various devices and comfortably engage their content.
Technology in the new space was designed to empower the cooperative’s managerial, planning, financial, marketing, business development, safety, training and administrative support services.
When designing the AVL systems to accommodate each space, our two primary areas of focus were ease of use and the ability to support multiple functions, such as presentation, meeting management and collaboration. This approach of simplicity and flexibility as top priorities was used throughout the project, from the small, collaborative huddle rooms to the interactive training room and the technology-packed Board Room. The result is a comfortable and inviting working environment that promotes synergy, efficiency and productivity.
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• Keep focused on the end users’ ability to use spaces in meaningful ways.
• Start projects with a strong “discovery effort.”
• When appropriate, use owner-furnished equipment to strengthen client relationships.
• Design for multiple-use cases to enhance value without increasing costs and real-estate footprint. [/accordion_item]
The cabling infrastructure integrated to support the technology was supplied by Liberty AV Solutions. Sensory was responsible for running thousands of feet of UTP and STP cable to support the digital communication and media distribution systems. The communications systems primarily use Ethernet for data transport, while the media distribution leaned heavily on Crestron DigitalMedia products. The Crestron system was chosen due to its use of an HDBaseT-type signaling technology, which ensures reliability, as well as maintaining HDCP when distributing audio/video content.
The desire to empower employees to share ideas and information easily across departments and job functions is reflected in the numerous small huddle rooms throughout the campus. The challenge with these spaces was to enable users to share content locally while also supporting remote communication to additional stakeholders, both on- and offsite. The solution was found in combining a Cisco SX20 video codec to support simple connections to others in the company with Sharp’s LC70C7500U for displaying content in an easily viewable format, and a Crestron DigitalMedia transmission system (DM-TX-200-C-2G-W-T and DM-RMC-SCALER-C) to support intuitive connection of laptops and tablets. Control of the systems is performed through the touch interface of the SX20. By using the Cisco control interface, we were able to provide a simple and satisfying user experience while also keeping costs down across these smaller integrated spaces.
When developing a solution for Hoosier Energy’s training needs, interactivity was kicked into high gear. The room environment required the ability to support both staff and third-party presenters/trainers, as well as remote conferencing capabilities to allow for attendee overflow and participation from offsite locations. In order to accomplish the desired functionality while maintaining simplicity for the user, a Crestron DMPS-300-C-AEC was installed for switching and control, along with a TSW-750-B-S touchpanel with a custom-designed graphic interface. A Cisco C40 supports remote participation and broadcasts of presentations and training sessions.
The room features a Sharp PN-L802B interactive whiteboard. The 80-inch touch-enabled display offers presenters and facilitators the ability to share messaging and information while simultaneously engaging their audience and gathering feedback. For example, during training sessions, facilitators can use the system to annotate on top of their slides to make a point or further explain a concept.
They can also easily flip between the whiteboard function and slideshow in order to capture additional thoughts or questions from the audience. All of these markups and notes that typically would be either lost or extremely cumbersome to capture and distribute can now be saved, shared quickly and efficiently, or in the case of collaborative work, brought back for later revisions.
The interactive panel also features the ability to create “transparencies” that can be placed on top of web content, PDF documents or any other program running on the host computer. These marked-up transparencies can, once again, be saved, shared and printed easily, thus promoting a seamless transfer of information to those who need it.
The technology highlight of the project is the divisible Board Room with four NEC videowalls, each with 16 screens. It also features video and audio conferencing capabilities supported by two Cisco C40 codecs, four Vaddio ClearView HD18 cameras, 55 Bosch DCN-WD-D wireless microphones, two Renkus Heinz IC-16R line arrays, two JBL Control 19CS in-ceiling subwoofers and a Biamp Tesira server for audio processing.
The video from the conferencing system, along with content from any of the 12 input locations, can be displayed on any or all of the four NEC X551UN videowalls to create an immersive environment and allow all participants in the room to view the videowall of their choice easily, regardless of their seat position. The major hurdle to overcome when integrating the space was to resolve the contradiction between allowing the technology to be used in complex ways to support a production-level environment and accommodating the need of the average frequent user to turn on and operate the system easily.
Complex, Yet Easy To Use
The programming and engineering teams worked hard to offer complex functionality, while still maintaining the desired ease of use (i.e., achieve commensurate effort). This model of usability states that simple tasks should be simple to complete, while complex tasks, although they may take more input on the part of the user, should still be possible.
The outcome of this approach when applied to the Board Room system was to provide a complex but fully functional control room for use by Hoosier Energy production staff, as well as two streamlined touchpanel interfaces that would enable average users to perform basic tasks with ease.
At the heart of the resulting control and video-switching system is a Crestron AV3 processor and DM-MD16X16. TSW-1050-B-S touchpanels were selected to provide sufficient screen real estate to input the room layout as a background, for intuitive video routing of sources to the display walls.
The combination of the NEC X551UN videowalls and Crestron DigitalMedia system further supported the intuitive-use concept. The NEC was a new approach to implementing a large-scale videowall because it does not require an external server or additional video processing. The monitors are, instead, daisy chained, using DisplayPort cables for video transport and Ethernet for control. In the signal path, the DM switcher first routes an input through a Crestron scaler, which ensures that the signal is output at a resolution of 1920×1080. The resulting content is then input to the first NEC monitor inline, where it is processed into 16 separate regions. Monitor #1 then takes its piece of the content and scales it to display properly while forwarding the image with the assigned regions onto monitor #2. This process is repeated across the rest of the videowall, and the result is a stunning image without the need for overly complex processing and routing.
When integrating communications and collaboration devices in any space, the technology should be viewed as a tool that is intuitive to operate and increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the users.
Clients appreciate spaces that serve multiple purposes. It is easy, however, to get caught up in the moment, incorporating so much technology that its control becomes unwieldy, intimidating and overly complicated. It often takes willful discipline to keep the focus on the end users’ capability and comfort level.
Hoosier Energy’s new headquarters was designed to do just that: empower its users to communicate effectively and collaborate efficiently.