The commercial audiovisual contractor is the most recent entry into one of the world’s oldest industries.
In 1879, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. And the next thing you know, someone wanted a light installed, and with that, the electrical industry was born. The guy who did the first installation – he was the “geek” of the day. We now call that guy an electrician.
The construction business has been around since the first time man decided he needed shelter from the elements and protection from the things that go bump in the night. Since its beginning, this creative industry and its associated innovations have added a host of accompanying professions to its ranks:
- Interior Design
- Engineering of all kinds
- HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning)
- Structured Cabling (IT and Phones)
The list goes on but as we all know, these changes reach far beyond the construction site. The electrician I mentioned above…he is now supported by an Electrical Engineer and both of them are now held to standards by Electrical Inspectors and the National Electrical Code. In fact, all of the examples above are supported by both university level professional coursework and trade schools with specialized programs. And whether working as a Professional Engineer or Journeyman, certification testing and continuing education are required.
Today, the audiovisual technician or engineer has the newest seat at the table. There are several reasons for this:
- Building Design – With the growth of multimedia in the workplace, clients and designers are putting an increased focus on how their designs support the changing work environments and workflow.
- Facilities Impact – Audiovisual systems impact electric loads, cable pathways, and HVAC. In addition, structural issues related to mounting location and weight loads need to be considered.
- Performance Quality – Audiovisual systems often play an important, if not critical, role in an organization’s core mission. Their performance is often impacted by building design considerations and environments factors such as noise, lighting considerations, image size and viewing angles.
- Interior Design – Furniture and fixtures often have a major impact on a system usability. A thoughtful approach to equipment location, connectivity access and pathways can save time and money as well as improve the system’s usability and client satisfaction.
A lot has changed in the twenty years since I started in this industry. In the early days of the industry, the goal was simply to sell the idea and potential of a new technology; we were still in the days of the overhead projector and transparencies. At that time, due to the cost ($10,000+ each), it was a luxury for a company to have one projector that was shared amongst the entire company. Furthermore, it was unthinkable to even discuss mounting it to the ceiling and suggest integrating connectivity at the conference room table.
My, how times of changed!
No longer are the audiovisual requirements an afterthought! Clients are giving serious consideration to their operational needs as facilities are being designed. As a result, their representatives (Architects, Interior Designers and General Contractors) are reaching out early and including commercial audiovisual firms as part of the project design team. It is no longer uncommon for audiovisual system design drawings to be included in the final construction documents; moreover, the AV contributions are often highlighted as a show piece of the project.
As I stated earlier, twenty years have passed since I began my career in this industry and today I think of The Chariot Group as much as an audiovisual system design and contract firm as I do a technology solutions provider. As a licensed and bonded contractor, we not only have the design and technical expertise that the technology based collaboration solutions require, but we also have the insurance, safety procedures and processes that the construction industry demands.
So, how did I end up in the construction business?
The same way the first electrician did. I showed up to to do an installation.