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Why AVL Infrastructure Needs to Come First in Sanctuary Design

Why AVL Infrastructure Needs to Come First in Sanctuary Design

An explanation of why value engineering infrastructure from a design can result in tragic technical limitations.

Let me lay the groundwork for what infrastructure refers to in the AVL arena. First, all technical systems require an infrastructure to work properly and to be accessible.

Imagine talking to your architect and designing the layout of your new facility. The facility you've planned out, however, is getting more than you can afford. What do you do? Here's a thought. You really need the rooms, so to cut costs, let's just remove all the hallways, corridors, closets and the foyer. People will just walk outside to get between the rooms.

It could work, right? Unless it's raining. Then you need to buy umbrellas and provide to all the people at your services to get their children to their classroom and visit while waiting for the previous service to end. And you'd need to recruit a volunteer team to hand out the umbrellas, collect the umbrellas, dry the umbrellas and store the umbrellasin the closets you no longer have.

And when you do your ministry fair, you can just set your tables that you store in the closets you don't have up outside between the rooms.

The hallways in your building are like electrical conduit and catwalks in your auditorium. Conduit lets you run new electrical, audio, video and lighting cabling to and from different locations in your room and enable you to easily expand in the future. And it's really easy to put in when you build or renovate your building; it's almost impossible, or very expensive, to add in later, because it runs within the concrete floors or within the finished walls and ceilings of your facility.

Catwalks are the hallways that let your tech team easily access the technical systems that need to be out over the heads of the people attending your service, and over the heads of those on stage. This is where your lighting equipment that requires regular maintenance is. It's often where your video projectors are. And it's where your tech team need to be able to get to when a house light is no longer working because the lamp (not bulbs) burn out.

At the church where I was technical director for two years, the church did install catwalks over the house seating area. If a house light burned out, I could have it changed between services in about 5 minutes, by grabbing a spare lamp, walking up the ladder into the catwalks, over to the fixture, and simply stand next to the fixture 20' off the floor and replace it.

When I moved to North Carolina, when a lamp burned out that the church we started attending, it was left burned out for months. There were no catwalks. We had to borrow a one-man lift, clear out the chairs, take out best guess as positioning the lift, install the outriggers that keep the lift from falling over when extended, ride up to the ceilingoops, I can't quite reach the fixture! Go back down to the floor, loosen the outriggers, move the lift, tighter the outriggers, go back up to the ceiling, change the lamp, come back down, remove the outriggers, and return the lift. Elapsed time: 4-6 hours. That's a LOT of volunteer time to change one lamp. 7,200 percent more. We waited until several were burned out and people had a hard time reading their bibles before we took the effort.

Want to move the piano to a different part of the stage? Your lighting may need to be re-aimed as well, with the same effort comparison.

Catwalks and conduit are some of the first things that are cut when "value engineering" a design. And they can typically never be added in later.

Conduit isn't that expensive, but yet, catwalks are. But so is your volunteer's time. Remember that 7,200 percent? What else could those volunteers be doing with that time that would make a significant impact on your services if they could easily get at the equipment needed to run your services?

Before you cut conduit and catwalks, cut back on other things in that room. Drop all the moving lights out. Cut back to the bare minimum on lighting fixtures. Go with a more basic lighting controller. Because all of those things can be easily added in later. Infrastructure cannot.

And before you cut catwalks, go find a one-man vertical lift (not a scissor lift), and ride it up 20 feet. It's like standing in a basket at the end of a long, wobbly pole. It's scary. Would you want to do that every weekend as a volunteer? Many won't do it. And you may end up limiting your volunteer base.

TAGS: Lighting Audio
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