The 26-Stage(!) A/V Design Process

During Design Development

  • Detailed Structural criteria
  • Detailed Electrical criteria
  • Detailed HVAC criteria
  • Projection calculations
  • Camera locations
  • Detail of equipment rooms
  • Millwork requirements
  • Detail of presentation spaces

During Construction Documents Stage

  • Conduit riser drawings
  • Floorplans and RCP drawings
  • Section drawings
  • Arch elevations & details
  • Panel elevations
  • Device and wiring schedules
  • Oneline schematic diagrams
  • Rack equipment elevations
  • Project specifications

Facility Programming

At the beginning of this article I mentioned the importance of programming, particularly with respect to video. Let’s come back to that topic to wrap up our overview of the AV Design Process. In essence, I want to end at the beginning, since that’s the most important part.

The relationship between viewer distance, the type of content and the screen size are all closely related. Building geometry will have a direct impact on sightlines. I have worked on several projects where the ceiling height restricted the size of the projected image. In some cases, it was too late and the budget couldn’t survive the U-Turn. They had to live with it. In other instances, it required redesign at a late stage. In one case, the client had to go back and reboot their capital campaign. Better to get this stuff right on the first attempt than risk injuring the client relationship.

Room to Improve

The other reason that you can get so much more accomplished during programming is that the technology criteria are not yet set. I’ve been involved in several projects where I entered after the technology criteria had already been set and it was just a matter of figuring out “how to make it happen.” In these cases, you don’t want to try to create huge waves, but it’s a difficult situation.

Often, there is not an established process in place to determine technology requirements, based on actual needs and requirements. The questions of, “What experience are you trying to create?” “What brand impact are you trying to achieve?” and “What objectives are you trying to accomplish?” have never been asked or answered. Making the gadgets work together is really only half of the job description. A true design consultant (an increasingly rare breed) employs an established process to define goals and objectives and establish desired communication strategies before moving into all the gizmos and toys. If this stage doesn’t occur, then all the work that comes afterward is built on a foundation of sand.


The fact is that with or without a strategy in place, you will end up with a design deliverable that will look the same. It may include the same types of drawings, and the same level of engineering. It can be hard to justify the intangible of a proper programming study. Doesn’t matter. Without it, you are building on sand. Following this analogy, I can say from personal experience that there is a lot of oceanfront property out there. I think it’s one of the main reasons that so many people have an adverse response to technology in large facilities. Their iPhone works—why doesn’t this other stuff? Well, their phone was designed starting with their needs and pain points. Their facility wasn’t.  

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Brad Gallagher leads the Base4 Technology team. Brad is an evangelist for creating architecture and technology in harmony, based on specific project goals. He is a strong advocate for eliminating marketing hype and explaining technology in a way that people can clearly understand. For more insight, you should follow me on twitter.