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Retrofitting Audiovisual in a Historic Space

Nov. 20, 2019

Renovations of older spaces require careful planning and execution, but when it comes to updating audiovisual technology, a number of considerations should be made. Read now to learn what to take into account.

We live in an age of sustainability and the old adage “what’s old is new again” and this sentiment carries over into the preservation of historical buildings and sites. Historical buildings lend themselves well to energy efficiency, calling on the use of good ventilation, durable materials and space considerations.

However, there can be a number of challenges associated with preserving older buildings and leveraging their space to give new life. This can include:

  • Outdated materials (like the use of asbestos and lead paint)
  • Regulations that must be followed for preserving a historical space
  • Outdated technology that requires updating for a building to be truly functional

Renovations of older spaces require careful planning and execution, but when it comes to updating audiovisual (AV) technology, a number of considerations should be made.

5 Things to Consider For Renovating Older Spaces

1. Get analysis from a qualified integrator.

Getting the right parties to the table when undergoing any kind of renovation is critical to the process—especially when updating AV technology.

When analyzing the needs of a project, there should be a conversation with the users of the space to determine the right items based on the level of use, whether the focus will be on presentation technology or collaboration tools, and more.

While the owner of a space might have certain ideas about how the space is used, the users truly paint a picture for what day-to-day use entails, which means employees and managers should be involved to analyze workflow and determine the right products.

Take this step early in the process to get the best results.


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2. Gain approval from all stakeholders.

Once a needs assessment has been done and an AV integrator has determined the right technology to use, another important step is to gain approvals from all stakeholders.

In the case of more historic sites, an additional consideration must be made to run all structural changes to a facility by the governing body that oversees preservation—especially when a building is registered as a historic site.

For example, it’s not enough for a facilities manager approval; approvals must also be gathered from a building’s owner when making decisions.

Potential stakeholders include interior designers, architects, construction managers, building owners and/or boards of directors. An additional person that might need to give approval is a donor who is providing funding for a project. If the right people aren’t engaged from the beginning, the project won’t be successful.

3. Ensure proper electrical requirements.

A lot of AV technology requires power sources that are up to date with advanced voltage requirements. If a building is older in general, sometimes new electrical infrastructure has to be implemented in order to update other parts of a facility with advanced technology.

For example, in a lot of older buildings, there’s a temptation to use wireless capabilities. While wireless technology is innovative and can be used to update a space, it’s not completely reliable and may not be conducive to transmitting video efficiently—especially in more historic spaces. 

4. Coordinate with other trades. 

Retrofitting a building can create a number of challenges. Wires may need to be pulled to accommodate additional power sources, or infrastructure changes may need to be made to electrical.

It’s in the facility’s best interest to allow coordination between all trades so that each entity can piggyback off of each other and minimize impact to the space.

For example, when an electrician is pulling wire, AV integrators can work toward pulling required cable for the installation of AV technology or additional network capabilities alongside the IT team.

5. Seek professional help early in the process.

Retrofitting using AV technology is a unique process—one that requires careful consideration to be successful. Unfortunately, the AV component is often missed in the building planning process when retrofitting a facility.

AV professionals should be involved from the beginning in a consultative capacity to provide insight into emerging technology, recommendations for minimizing post-design issues and to streamline installation. 

If AV technology is completely new to a space and there’s an opportunity to make adjustments, such as ceiling height to accommodate displays or removing a wall to increase visibility, an AV integrator can help determine which of these are essential for success. 

About the Author:

Matt Boyer is director of technology at Vistacom.

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