If you are reading this, chances are you went to school at a time when you were lucky to have an overhead projector in your classroom and really had it made when your teacher rolled in the TV cart to watch a movie. You’ve most likely been out of school for some time and might not realize just how large of a contributor education technology has become in the classroom today as opposed to ten years ago, let alone twenty or thirty. What was either considered a luxury back then or just extremely expensive is now a thing of the past. Schools are now depending on these technologies more than ever and actually use it as a selling point to make their school a more appealing option. If you’d walk into any given classroom in 2016, you might not see as many textbooks as you’d imagine. Instead, you’d see students with Chromebooks or iPads in their hands working on educational software or other educational apps. A school’s technology is sure a lot to keep track of and stay on top of that personnel at the school most likely aren’t capable of handling. This is where a systems integrator comes in.
Whenever you are looking to purchase something, the best thing to do is talk to somebody. Independently researching only goes so far. If you are seriously looking to acquire or upgrade your technology, your best bet is to talk with someone who knows the industry, knows the products and pretty much has their finger on the pulse. You can’t expect your school’s Director of Technology or other IT personnel to know everything. What types of technology are available? What do I really need? What is best for the students? Working with a systems integrator will answer all of your questions. Teachers and faculty of the school know how day-to-day operations go and what areas need improving. A systems integrator can help identify these areas for improvement and suggest what the best solution would be based on their vast knowledge of systems integration. Having a direct line to that source of knowledge is extremely beneficial.
Healthy Business Relationship
Consulting and doing business with are two different things, yet a trustworthy and reliable systems integrator has you covered in both aspects. Not only can they steer you in the right direction they also bring the vision both of you come up with together to life. Having a strong relationship with an integrator means you don’t need to go elsewhere. This saves you a lot of time and from the hassle of having to find someone else. Working with a systems integrator is more than just purchasing technology; it should be a partnership and a team effort to ensure not only the best working environment for teachers and faculty, but most importantly the best learning environment for students. The benefit of finding a reliable, hard working, honest integrator is a luxury if you often make technology purchases and upgrades for your school. Repeat business not only benefits the integrator, but also the client by getting better deals and better pricing given the repeat business over an extended period of time. As in any sort of relationship, both sides need to benefit for the relationship to continue
Changing The Culture
Having a good systems integrator can single handedly change the culture of how students learn at your school. Sure, the technology itself is the real propeller of instituting change when it comes to learning, but the systems integrator is the means of transportation to get it there. A good systems integrator can be the one to bring in the very best and top-notch systems into the classroom, not only making the teachers jobs way easier, but bringing a new level of collaboration and interactivity among students that they might have no had previously.
Management All In One Place
Having your own integrator is not just beneficial to the school and all of its end-users, but also to the technology itself. All aspects of your technology both in AND out of the classroom can all be managed in one place. Your sound system, presentation system, phone system, data network, surveillance, etc. can all converge on the very same I/P network and going through the same systems integrator can make that all possible. Having all of your low-voltage integrated systems run on the same I/P network simplifies not just how it operates, but also adding new technology in the future.
Having a systems integrator that you can call your own can help your school in several ways. The only real question left is where you find a good systems integrator. For more information on what to look for when picking the right systems integrator, check out one of our recent blogs posts Picking The Right Integrator.
Are you looking for a systems integrator? Perhaps Pentegra can be of service.
Call us today at (630) 941-6000 or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com!
It is almost 2017. The internet has allowed us to achieve levels of communication and collaboration we would have never dreamed about. You can communicate with someone halfway across the globe instantly and effortlessly. This has improved not only our personal lives, but these possibilities have also had a lasting impact on the world of business. Basically, unless you have been living under a rock, video conferencing is here to stay. It goes without saying that nothing beats a real face-to-face conversation, but what do you do when that’s not available? Sure you can have your emails, instant messaging, telephones, etc. but the next best thing to an actual face-to-face conversation is indeed video conferencing. Can you believe there are still people out there NOT utilizing this technology? There is nothing wrong with being a late-adopter, but if you ARE a late-adopter you’ve most likely heard time and time again how beneficial video conferencing from others that have used it. Here are some major advantages and reasons to start using video conferencing:
Whether your employees work out of the office or at home, the luxury of attending a meeting whenever wherever is a blessing for businesses. The world of video conferencing negates any travel whatsoever. You don’t have to drive across town, hop on a plane or even just walk to the meeting room upstairs. Taking traveling out of the equation leaves employees more time to get work done which increases productivity for any business.
In most cases business meetings are local, but in other cases you’d need to catch a flight to wherever. In either case it costs the company money. Traveling not only costs you productivity (AND TIME), but it also hits you financially. Got a meeting and it takes an hour to get there and an hour back? That’s gas money. Need to attend a meeting in Phoenix next week? You’ll need to pay airfare, accommodations, rental car, food, etc. Imagine the money you’d save by just clicking an application on your computer or mobile device and remote in through video conferencing? No muss, no fuss.
Let’s be real, traveling can be a hassle to varying degrees. No matter if it is for a few hours or a few days. Who wouldn’t want to remain at their desk opposed to spending time on the road or in the air just to attend a meeting? You don’t need to pack your suitcase, you don’t need to dread the road trip, don’t need to go through TSA, don’t need to be away from your family, etc. Instead of boarding a flight, your employees will be onboard with this.
You get all the benefits of a face-to-face conversation with video conferencing. Much of communication is determined by body language and facial expressions. It is difficult to read a person over a conference call or e-mail. This helps build your relationships with your customers and also your fellow employees. You get the effect of being there…without literally being there. It is much easier to become engaged in a meeting when you can see the people you’re speaking with.
Most meetings have visual aids, something to compliment the speaker. With video conferencing, not only can you see the people you’re speaking to you can also share files effortlessly online. Need to show an informative video? Need to display a PowerPoint? The members of your meeting can view these files through screen sharing and easily keep up with the topics on the agenda.
Build the Best Staff:
As a business owner or decision maker for you company, you want to do what is best for business. A crucial aspect of any good business is employing the right people. Through the use of video conferencing you don’t necessarily have to limit your personnel search to just locally. Let’s say you find a prime candidate for a position that is more qualified than any of the local applicants however this person is in the next state. No problem. Video conferencing enables you to bring this person onboard because you can work from home and never miss a meeting or suffer from a lack of communication. Also this enables your business to cover more ground if your employees are working out of different locations.
Technology has come a long way and is becoming more easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. There are several different options to choose from when it comes to video conferencing and they are all so incredibly user-friendly. Even the most out of touch late-adopters would find it easy to use should definitely take advantage of this communication tool. Let one of our engineers steer you in the right direction and help determine what video conferencing system is best for you today.
Call us today at (630) 941-6000
Or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com
Video surveillance is designed to protect, but how do YOU protect your video surveillance? Accidents can happen that can affect your surveillance system both indoors and especially outdoors. You are putting your cutting edge technology outside and exposing it to the elements. Sure, outdoor cameras are designed differently than indoor cameras specifically to be able to function outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t take extra precautions. Although designed to “weather the storms,” there are still parts within the cameras themselves that are susceptible to surges and transients (What are transients? Read more here). If your system experiences a power surge your signal will become disturbed and more than likely disable your equipment altogether. Bottom line is: your system needs surge protection.
You plug most of your household electronics into a power strip at home so they don’t get fried during a thunderstorm. You wouldn’t want to lose that expensive HD television you just bought. The same principle applies to your surveillance system which is a much, much larger investment. Installing surge protection on your surveillance system is a little more complex than simply plugging your TV into a power strip. Typically, your surveillance system is connected to your building’s electrical service panel, whether that be directly or indirectly. AC power, data lines and coax cables are ALL equally vulnerable to surges and/or transients. If a bolt of lightning were to hit one of your cameras, that one surge can go from that one camera all the way into your building affecting your indoor equipment. Your entire system can be compromised without surge protection. Surge protection devices need to be installed on every component you have that is connected to any wiring entering or exiting your building.
The following components of your surveillance system require surge protection devices installed:
Head-End Equipment Rack
Any type of surge that hits your surveillance equipment can not only damage said surveillance equipment, but any electrical equipment or device that is connected to your building’s main electrical service panel. It is best practice to also install surge protection devices on the electrical service panel itself in addition to any of your other equipment including indoor cameras, lighting, HVAC, etc. You can’t afford to have Mother Nature knock out your security, protection and peace of mind for an extended period of time. If you surveillance system is down it is not doing its intended job of monitoring for public safety, traffic, property loss and crime prevention.
Need help? Pentegra Systems is has got your back if you need assistance in determining the best surge protection devices for your current surveillance system.
For more information please visit us at
or give us a call at
If you want to protect your building, employees, assets, etc. (and why wouldn’t you?), video surveillance at your facility is a definite must-have. The majority of businesses and organizations out there already utilize CCTV surveillance systems to monitor everyday activity both during work hours and beyond, but the reality is many are still using analog camera systems. IP (internet protocol) is the current trend when it comes to video surveillance. An IP surveillance system in the simplest terms is a digital video camera system that can both send and receive a signal through a computer network. An analog camera only sends its feed directly to a DVR (digital video recorder). There are several benefits to using a high definition IP camera system that analog cameras just do not offer.
Here are a few key advantages to using an IP camera system:
If you are one of those out there still using an analog system, don’t worry. Converting and/or phasing from an analog system to an IP system is easy to accomplish and it doesn’t involve you losing all of that expensive equipment your invested in several years ago. If you are interested in converting to an IP system or are interested in installing a brand new IP video surveillance system, please contact us at Pentegra Systems and one of our security sales engineers would be happy to discuss your current situation and devise a solution to solve your problems.
Visit us online today at
or give us a call at (630) 941-6000
Time flies. We have all heard that expression. You can’t stop the clock. Everyone and everything gets older, including your technology. Well, especially your technology. It seems like every day you look at your once “state-of-the art” presentation system complete with projector, ceiling speaker system and all of the bells and whistles that would and did impress people about 10 years ago. Now? Well you are looking for an upgrade. This goes for all sorts of technology. You want something completely brand new, but most of all you want it designed, engineered and installed by professionals. So, what do you do? You need to pick the right integrator.
Here are 5 things to look for when choosing the right integrator:
Compile a List of Integrators
Picking the right integrator is easy if you have the right options. Finding said options is a little tougher of a task. Give a general contractor or a consultant a call and ask some questions. These are the companies and individuals that work with integrators often and would have a solid knowledge base on the matter and can definitely point you in the right direction. Also, it goes without saying, the internet is your best friend. A simple Google search of local integrators should turn up some results. Pick some accurate keywords when searching online. For example: “CCTV” and “Access Control” when searching for potential security integrators, “sound masking” or “digital signage” if you are trying to find an AV specialist. Some names could be very familiar to you and some you may never have heard of and that’s okay.
By now you have a short list of a few integrators you’d like to explore working with. You now need to find out if these firms can even do the work and do the work properly. The firm you ultimately choose will need to be certified in the specific field. The target firm not only needs qualified individuals, but industry leaders when it comes to all facets of your potential project such as sales, engineering, project management, etc.) The firms’ websites are a primary destination to find out most of your answers and are a decent indicator of the firms’ abilities. The more information on a company’s website the better your perception of them will most likely be. Give each integrator on your list a call and let them help you find out what it is you really want and really need. There is nothing better than interacting with a potential future integrator early in the planning process. You can feel them out, ask questions, and test their knowledge. Have them help you identify your issues and aid you in finding the perfect solution. That is what an integrator does, identifies a problem and devises a solution. Have multiple conversations or have a representative come out to your site so they really get a good grasp of the situation. This will give you a much needed and accurate perception of the integrator and give you a pretty solid base to select the perfect one for you.
Dig deeper into the firm, more than the basic information. Is this firm the size of a firm that can make your project a reality? What is their annual revenue? You have already spoken to these companies and have a pretty good perception of how qualified their staff is (or not), but do they have a reasonably sized staff to execute such a project as yours? Is this firm too small to be taking on your project? Or is this firm actually too big to be taking on your project? For example: You’re a small business looking for a small telephone system for your office. The one firm you have an eye has contracts with companies that makes $50 Million dollars per year or higher. Will they even take time to work with you? Will they exhibit the same care they show for their high-end clients? These are just some things to think about.
Reputation & References
Being capable of doing something and actually having done something are two different things. You have a good idea that a couple firms can get the job done, but now you want to know their track record. To really get a good idea of what working with a certain firm is like you need to talk directly to some of their clients. Many firms have some of their notable clients listed on their websites that you can get in contact with and some firms will actually give you a client list with the proper information of who to contact, which is a very good and telling sign of how they go about their business. When making any decision, the more information you know the better off you’ll be.
Post Installation Support
When you are doing research about an integrator please do not forget to also look further into their post-installation methodologies. This includes their ability and reliability of servicing and maintaining your system to ensure it operates to its full potential. For more information about what to look for in a great service department, check out our previous blog here.
Much like a consumer buying a new car, businesses and organizations do their due diligence when it comes to purchasing new technology for their space. This is not a task that should be rushed. A worthwhile investment such as a new phone system or sound system requires investment from a financial standpoint, but also a time standpoint. Rome was not built in a day. If you follow the steps above and get serious about searching for the perfect integrator, you will find one and hopefully build a lasting business relationship with for several years.
Pentegra Systems is a low-voltage integrator specializing in audio, video, data, security and telecom solutions. Are you in the market to upgrade the technology in your business or organization? Visit our website for more information at www.pentegrasystems.com or give us a call at (630) 941-6000.
It is 2015 and let’s face it technology has become a necessity in almost every aspect of your life. This is a harsh truth to some people, but so is the fact that if you want the best technology it sure doesn’t come cheap. Is your business in need of network equipment? How about a video wall in your lobby? Chances are you can be looking at a substantial investment. What if you just don’t have that sort of money when you need it most? Leasing technology quickly becomes a pretty appealing option.
SAVING You Money
Let’s say you are the facilities manager at your company and you need to look into buying a video surveillance system to monitor the grounds. To acquire a proper system fitting both your needs and your wants, your system has a price tag of $60,000. Your company definitely needs this system, but just doesn’t have that money to spend right now. By leasing this surveillance system your company can get the exact system you want and need today and pay it off over a specific time frame with a pre-determined monthly cost. Plus, more than likely there will be no down payment to begin with. You can spend that total of $60,000 over the entire lifetime of you using it opposed to dropping that serious amount of money all at once. By leasing this technology, you conserve your capital. By not buying the system upfront, you free up that money you would have spent otherwise. This way, you not only get your video surveillance system, but now have additional money to spend in other areas that also need it.
Keeping You Up-to-Date
In today’s world your brand new cutting edge technology could become outdated by tomorrow. You buy a brand new phone and within months, or weeks now it seems, an even newer phone comes out with much better features that is miles ahead of the one you just purchased. We have all been there. Being stuck with outdated technology is just a common burden that cannot be avoided. Leasing technology gives the buyer the option to update their current equipment when their current lease is up giving them the freedom to periodically have the most up to date products on the market. When your lease agreement comes to an end you simply pick from the current options available and begin a new lease agreement. Plus, since the technology you are leasing will never be outdated, you are also saving yourself the expenses of necessary repairs. If you are stuck with technology that you bought up front, the longer times goes on the more and more that equipment will need to be repaired and maintained, thus saving you even more money.
When tax time rolls around, the IRS lets you deduct the full cost of all newly purchased assets in the previous year. This does not only mean equipment you purchased upfront, but it also includes equipment you leased. Select lease structures are 100% tax deductible. The entire cost of you leasing your equipment can often be reported as an expense item when its income tax season and could potentially give you a larger tax deduction. Also, when looking to take out a lease on equipment or technology, most financial services can turn your transaction around in one day’s time. Depending on the size, the much larger transactions are often given high priority. Financial Services not only make the transaction smoother, but also save time and resources making it as hassle-free as possible. In addition, depending on your type of organization, you can qualify for additional benefits. For example, School Districts have an even greater advantage when leasing due to tax-exempt and flexible payment lease programs that lower the costs of ownership even further down. Schools have tight budgets as it is, they can’t afford to buy equipment upfront in most cases, so in addition to the money leasing will save them additional programs will also save them even more. Faculty, staff, students and parents can definitely appreciate a school with the most up to date technology without the large financial burden of paying for it all at once.
In the grand scheme of things, leasing technology makes the most sense, especially for education and government customers. Municipalities and schools definitely need up-to-date technology and just can’t consistently afford or be as efficient by purchasing that equipment outright when compared to leasing it. Leasing gives you more money to work with now which is crucial in today’s economy. The advantages of leasing become extremely beneficial not just when it comes to affording the equipment, but also using it given you will always be using current technology that will rarely need repairs, let alone replacing.
Imagine this scenario. You are the owner of a medium sized business whose sales have been on the upswing for the past several years. Due to this increase in business, your company is in the process of expanding into a brand new facility to support the increased operational demands that accompany your business success. Your new facility has ample office space to house your growing workforce, and includes huddle rooms for ad hoc collaboration and a large conference room for formal presentations. Even your warehouse space is drastically larger than your previous location. You are now faced with a dilemma and you need answers. What technology systems will you need to best support the way you do business? What are your options for audio and video systems, telephones, internet connection, security, etc? Where do you start? These are decisions that need to be made not only in a timely fashion, but they need to be made correctly for the overall well-being of your business. At this fork in the road, there are two directions you can go: seeking out the help from an independent consultant or enlisting the services of a design-build systems integrator.
Whenever someone is faced with an issue in life, they tend to seek out help or advice. They tend to consult someone on what they should do next. That is where independent consultants come into play in the technology field. A consultant is there to steer you in the right direction when you have very little to no knowledge of what steps to take. These consultants are skilled at strategically evaluating current and future needs. They have no particular affiliation to a product line or relationship with a contracting company and as a request will provide an unbiased opinion. Independent consultants can conduct a feasibility study after visiting to your site or start with a “blank slate” when designing for a new facility, and in either case formulate the design direction. Independent consultants are typically part of a larger architectural and engineering team charged with designing a new facility or renovating an existing facility, and will ensure the technology systems are integrated within and coordinated with other elements of the facility design. Independent consultants act as the Owner’s advocate, refining the technology systems’ design to best balance the Owner’s concerns, including technology scope, system complexity and level of user expertise, and costs. The design process typically culminates in a set of documents – drawings and specifications – that are used to solicit bid proposals for each trade division that are required to construct the facility, and consultants often have the opportunity to recommend a list of prequalified systems integrators that can best execute the scope of work. The independent consultant method serves best to establish a defined scope of work on which multiple systems integrators may bid, resulting in bid proposals that may be compared directly to each other in an apples-to-apples way.
Design-Build Systems Integrator:
When Owners are looking for a more cost-effective option, they seek out the alternative. Known as a Design-Build process, it utilizes the design knowledge and expertise of the systems integrator, themselves. For the Owner, the initial process of selecting a systems integrator is the most difficult, and requires a targeted effort on their part to be successful. How do I find the right integrator? What integrator has the appropriate expertise? Can the integrator design multiple types of systems for my facility? All of these are important questions to ask, and the Owner must ask these and other questions in order to receive answers that establish a level of comfort and trust in choosing an integrator that will deliver success on every aspect of the project scope. So, what exactly are the answers an Owner should expect from such an integrator? Owners should ask for – and contact – an integrator’s references for similar projects, which is likely the best indicator of how successful they will be on your project. A systems integrator should have a detailed process for assessing the Owner’s systems needs and should compile those needs in a written narrative describing the design of each system in conceptual form, and then review and refine the design and associated costs with the Owner toward arriving at a final design and cost that best meets all of the Owner’s needs and concerns. Integrators should be capable of working with multiple applications and system types that interoperate with one another, typically through the data network, of which the integrator must also have design expertise. They should also have a good track record of working with other vendors and trades on a project in a harmonious way. Integrators must have the personnel and internal resources to make the project a reality from concept to completion, including industry certified design engineers, standards-based CAD departments, certified project managers and highly trained shop and field technicians. A systems integrator designs and builds systems for Owners by combining both hardware and software from multiple vendors to assemble multiple systems in a custom way, which when performed correctly can lower the overall cost of the design and installation of these systems by achieving an economy-of-scale typical of a single integrator approach.
As you can see, both independent consultants and systems integrators more than serve their own respective purposes in the world of technology. Which method would you choose when making decisions about the technology in your new space?
In the past, it was commonplace for employees of a business to only use resources provided and owned by their respective employer. Usual examples include computers and company phones. Businesses had total control of how these devices were being used since they were in-house and more than likely that’s where they stayed. Fast forward to present day, things have changed quite a bit. Through the help of wireless networks, a movement called BYOD has become quite popular. BYOD is an acronym standing for “Bring Your Own Device.” This allows for employees of the company to bring their own personal mobile devices to the workplace to use. These devices are most commonly used to carry out usual business practices which often involve the accessing of privileged company information and applications. BYOD has proven to drive employee satisfaction as well as overall productivity. This initiative also saves companies money since they do not have to supply the employee with a company device. The issues are that since these devices are also used for personal use of the employee, companies don’t have that complete control over these devices and how they are used. Since BYOD is a trend that most likely will grow, the question arises: how does one manage BYOD on a wireless network?
When first implementing a BYOD policy in the workplace, the decision needs input from everyone across the board. If valuable company information is going to be accessible on personal devices of employees, collaboration is needed from top ranked management officers, the IT department, human resources, etc as to what extent of information can and can’t be accessed. Every single person involved needs to be on the same page when thinking about what is best for the company. Once these decisions are made rules and guidelines absolutely need to be put in place as to what employees are and aren’t allowed to do on their devices while using them for work purposes. These rules need to be as specific and as clear as possible to avoid any unexpected or unwanted usage issues.
There are several ways to go about managing BYOD. Companies want the capability to monitor what employees are doing with their devices. Many mobile devices already offer a slew of technologies that can monitor usage of multiple features. Such technologies include GPS receivers, camera recorders and audio recorders. However, most companies commonly implement the use services and suites to closely manage how their users are using their devices. These technologies have the ability to act as a safeguard for both outgoing and incoming files and information. If these devices have access to valuable company information, companies wouldn’t want any of their private information to accidentally leak out. BYOD management software has a tight hold on the data traffic ensuring nothing will fall into unwanted hands. The same principal goes for monitoring what comes into these devices such as downloading files or applications that can be harmful to the business. Alert systems are also incorporated to immediately notify necessary parties of any sort of issue that arises. Tighter security measures must also be in place for CEO’s and various higher ups within the organization due to their access to perhaps more confidential information than that of the average employee.
Any website, hyperlink or e-mail attachment has the potential to be extremely hazardous. As employees browse the web and open e-mails, the possibilities of viruses arise. Viruses are a significant issue when individual users’ devices get infected given the amount of data stored within those devices (account numbers, financial information, personal information, etc.). However, the issues only intensify when an entire company is at risk. Viruses can’t only steal information; they have the capability of bringing down an entire network. Policies need to be in place where all devices need to be running antivirus and anti-malware programs especially if the device runs a vulnerable OS such as Windows, Android or Linux. These programs will be the first line of defense against incoming threats. In addition to companies already securing their data, companies need to deploy a dedicated device such as SonicWALL to manage the security of the network. Relying on simple firewalls is not enough. Your network should be a managed impenetrable fortress to the outside world.
In an effort to manage the system in a much more efficient way, the BYOD initiative should not include “any” device. Employees shouldn’t assume they can bring whatever device they have and expect it to work with the system. There are a slew of mobile devices available and one cannot expect every single one to be able to be included. The business has quite a large task on their hands as it has to oversee what is going on with everyone’s device, the narrower the spectrum of devices, the easier it will be to manage and create policies and security measures.
Security is the big picture when managing a BYOD program, obviously. Decision makers need to also create loss, theft and exit policies. How many times has one of your friends or family members told you that they lost their phone again? When an employee brings their device to work and has access to company information, these devices indirectly become an asset to that company without the company actually owning them. A prime example is contact information. If an employee leaves a company for whatever reason, they no longer just take away the experience from that job; they have information in their device such as important contacts among other things that they can more than likely utilize elsewhere. These policies will need to balance features and risks to protect the personal information of the user as well as the reputation of the business.
If employees are to use their own personal devices for work purposes, policies and security measures must be in place. However, the employees using their personal mobile devices most likely won’t want their phone or tablet on total lockdown. It’s at this point BYOD creates a risk for both the employer and employee. There needs to be a medium. In terms of what a company can have access to, there needs to be a fine line between a user’s company data and a user’s personal data. This is where managing a BYOD becomes critical for the initiative’s overall success and prosperity. The BYOD system has proven to be ultimately successful if this balance can be achieved.
When designing an office or school, or any type of building or structure for that matter, there are many factors that contribute to the final design. Every building serves a purpose. It houses people and provides them with a space to fulfill some sort of task whether it is to work or live in. Some of these factors that determine the ultimate design of any type of structure include space available to build, zoning and various regulations, expected number of occupants and placement of utilities. For example, when building a restaurant architects and planners’ first order of business is to designate where the kitchen will be to cook the food for the customers. When designing a typical industrial space, architects and planners need to assign specific areas for office and warehouse space. Areas for conference rooms and huddle rooms are designated when planning out typical office spaces. Decisions like these are most often the first step in the building process. However, more often than not, the occupants in these buildings often face major dilemmas when trying to introduce technology into their newly built space. Technology has become such a critical part of everyday life, it’s unavoidable. When planning out a new building or space, technology should be the first factor to be considered.
In the modern workspace, technology is a must-have and the term “technology” covers so much ground since it has been integrated into almost every aspect of everyday life. Businesses rely on their technology to keep their operations going. Above all else, every workspace needs internet connection capabilities, a data infrastructure, a security system and telecommunication capabilities. In order for these systems to work sufficiently, the planning for these systems is critical. Space must be designated early in the building process to accommodate the necessary technology that comes with these systems. If a data infrastructure is needed, ample space is needed to accommodate the servers, routers and switches that will allow the inter-connectivity of the work place. In addition to this equipment, cabling is also an integral piece of the puzzle. The last thing occupants of a newly built facility want are random wires and cables from their data, security or telecommunication systems running up and down walls or laying on the floor being a visual blemish and/or potential safety hazard.
Some types of structures depend more on technology than others. When talking about arenas, stadiums, lecture halls and theaters as well as houses of worship, the most important component is the sound. Audio is the main attraction to these types of facilities, enhancing the unique atmosphere. Hearing your favorite band close out a festival, listening to the pastor give a sermon at your local church or hearing the referee announce a crucial penalty call with seconds to go in the fourth quarter, all these examples need to be heard by everyone within the facility. When designing a space, the type of equipment and the placing of said equipment can make or break the experience. When designing these structures, architects and planners need to keep in mind of how the sound is going to get from a stage, altar or field to the ears of the audience. In addition to the space and cabling needed for the appropriate equipment, the actual space of these structures must be evaluated based solely on the traveling of the sound. For example, an indoor stadium’s sound system will differ greatly from that of an outdoor stadium. If not planned accordingly, there might be many distraught faces in the crowd who are unaware of what is going on due to the sound system that was installed into a structure not properly designed for the space or the application. Speakers and microphones vary in terms of projection and sound and many facilities need equipment that is appropriate for its designated space. Video screens and projectors compliment the audio system in many of these facilities. The video elements are in many ways just as important as the sound. Depending on your seats for an event, you might actually find yourself watching the video walls or nearby large format displays to catch the action on the field or the performance on the stage. When planning a facility such as these mentioned, the placement of the equipment such as video screens needs to be able to be seen by everyone watching which could definitely affect building plans if not taken into consideration early on.
One of the most significant issues when introducing new technologies into your space is the integration. All of the systems mentioned above have the ability to be integrated together and the potential of all these technologies can be maximized when integrated together. Taking technology into account in the planning process will ensure seamless integration of multiple technologies, deliver the technology that today’s users want and need, reduce overall infrastructure costs and substantially reduce unwanted “surprises” in the end. In today’s world when designing a building or space, the design process needs begin with the technology.
No matter what system you are incorporating into your new space, planning for your technology needs should be a top priority from the beginning. At Pentegra Systems, we work closely with our clients to provide them the right audio, video, data, security and telecommunication technologies that support their business goals. Serving customers throughout Chicagoland, Pentegra aspires to be the first company you call for your system integration needs. Ready to learn more? Visit us at www.pentegrasystems.com. We are happy to help!
Pentegra Systems was honored to be a part of the new Writers Theatre facility in Glencoe, IL providing all of the audiovisual integration systems. Below is an article posted by SEGD highlighting this revolutionary new space that officially opened this past March.
Since it started in the back room of a bookstore in 1992, the hallmark of Chicago’s Writers Theatre has always been intimacy. When it needed more space to grow and survive financially, WT didn’t want to lose that original small-theater feel. Its new 36,000-sq.-ft facility in Glencoe, Ill., designed by Studio Gang Architects, offers an open, welcoming space that invites the public in and galvanizes the potential of theater to unite people through shared experience. Signage and environmental graphics by Thirst (Chicago) support the flexible, transparent architecture and celebrate Writers’ unique history and spirit.
Innovative partnership, unique space
The theater’s most recent home, a 108-seat space in the Woman’s Library Club of Glencoe, wasn’t large enough to support WT’s growth. Meanwhile, the suburb 20 miles north of Chicago was implementing an ambitious master plan to integrate more cultural and commercial spaces in its downtown. Ultimately, Writers partnered with the Woman’s Library Club and the Village of Glencoe to build a one-of-a-kind theater center that would also energize downtown as a vibrant public gathering space.
Studio Gang’s solution is anchored by a public lobby/gathering area, two performance venues and an open second-floor gallery walk surrounded by supporting timber Vierendeel trusses and a lighter wood lattice hung in tension from the primary structure. In warm weather, it opens to an adjacent public park and downtown. At night, it glows like a lantern. A rooftop pavilion and green roof provide additional event space.
Graphics: Lighten up
Thirst was tasked with creating signage and environmental graphics that would support and complement the architecture while integrating WT’s existing brand into the space. Thirst’s job started from the outside in, with the building identity.
“We wanted to find a way to lighten the visual impact of all signage, in order to bring maximum respect to both the architecture and the neighborhood,” says Thirst’s John Pobojewski.
To reduce the visual density of the logo on the outside of the building, Thirst came up with the concept of outlining it in LED light instead of reproducing it in its solid form. To fabricate the unique sculptural piece, they brought in artisans Forms + Surfaces (the company responsible for most of the exterior furnishings for Apple stores around the world). Forms + Surfaces engineered the thinnest profile possible that would allow the sculpture to be structurally sound, and built the entire piece out of non-directional stainless steel in a proprietary finish called “Ice.”
To continue to lighten the visual load, Thirst separated the existing WT logo and word mark—designed by Chicago’s Lowercase Inc—placing the full name away from the sculpture, on the southwestern edge of the building. The façade-mounted sign is also rendered in stainless steel, this time as a halo-lit expression. Poblocki Sign Company fabricated the identity sign as well as the remainder of the signage package.
Performing arts = changing arts
Thirst was also responsible for interior signage, donor recognition and a unique history installation in the space. In addition, Thirst had to accommodate messaging for upcoming productions, information that inherently changes, and often. Integrating all of these elements into the architecture presented challenges, particularly given that Studio Gang’s interior spaces are very open, with little wall space.
Information on upcoming productions is essential to a performing arts center, so Thirst had to get creative about how best to integrate this messaging into the architecture. The best solution, Thirst concluded, was a digital one. So the team designed and conceived a digital signage concept that takes cues from the architectural forms.
“Most existing digital signage systems are too static and not very sophisticated, so we knew we needed to create something custom that was visually connected to the architecture,” explains Pobojewski.
Thirst worked with media production powerhouse Leviathan to help bring the concept to life. Thirst designed the typography, layout and motion design (which mimics the building’s architectural forms) for all messages, while Leviathan engineered and developed the system in TouchDesigner, including a custom content management system that allows WT to sustain the system into the future.
The digital system uses components from Planar’s Clarity Matrix video wall—combining three LCD screens into a tall, slim wall-mounted tower. In addition, three stand-alone 16- by 9-in. screens, also by Planar, are located throughout the theatre. All are networked as one system, which was installed and configured by Pentegra.
In additional to traditional room identification and regulatory signage throughout the center, Thirst also designed unique graphic elements including an interior marquee wall, a donor recognition wall and an “About WT” history installation.
Letting patrons know about the upcoming season’s performances is critical for theaters like WT, so Thirst wanted to create a unique and memorable version of the traditional exterior theater marquee. Studio Gang clad much of the interior wall surfaces in a custom “woven wall” of alternating wood wedges that create an elegant horizontal rhythm throughout the space. Poblocki integrated a traditional slat wall application together with Cain, the millworker, and created a collection of stand-alone letters that can be used to create the titles of upcoming productions.
“The season marquee is made of individual acrylic letters that Writers can arrange on a slat wall to display the different productions from each season, and even custom messages for special events,” explains Pobojewski.
Thirst also designed the “bookshelf wall,” which tells the story of Writers Theater and its history and past productions. Studio Gang wanted to honor the theatre’s humble beginnings in one of the primary corridors. Thirst’s solution was bookshelves filled with images, artifacts and bound scripts from their history. Together with Poblocki, the Thirst team conceived a series of gridded sizes, shadowboxes and display formats that would allow the theater to create and manage the display in a cost-effective way. Each panel is a mounted digital print, attached to the shelves with metal pegs on a grid of pre-drilled holes. Custom shadowboxes hold props and other artifacts from their history. Writers curated their own display, which shows both the flexibility and the elegance of the system.
The theatre expects to increase its number of people attending performances from 35,000 to 45,000 annually, and the space is quickly becoming a popular gathering spot in Glencoe. For the Thirst team, the project’s success is in how the graphics and signage complement Studio Gang’s reinterpretation of the 21st century theater experience.
Says Pobojewski, “Our goal was to create a design that was tightly integrated with the architecture… Along the way, we discovered where our work could contribute to a strong sense of place, adding to the memorable experience of being at Writers.”
WRITERS THEATRE SIGNAGE AND ENVIROMENTAL GRAPHICS
Client: Writers Theatre
Location: Glencoe, Ill.
Open Date: March 2016
Project Area: 36,000 sq. ft.
Architect: Studio Gang Architects
Environmental Graphic Design: Thirst
Collaborators: Poblocki Sign Company (static signage and exhibits); Forms + Surfaces (exterior WT sculpture); Leviathan (digital signage media engineer, CMS); Pentegra Systems (A/V integration) Lowercase, Inc. (original identity and branding for Writers Theatre)
Photos: Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing (exterior) and Thirst
Find more content in your areas of interest by exploring SEGD’s Xplore Experiential Graphic Design index!
What began as Unity Church in 1871, Unity Temple always called Oak Park, IL home. The original Unity Temple building was struck by lightning and destroyed in 1905. A young architect named Frank Lloyd Wright was then brought in to design the new Unity Temple building. Frank Lloyd Wright’s design ...