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6 Questions to Ask BEFORE You Hire an A/V Consultant

What level of drafting expertise does the company have?  

Increasing 3D and BIM are standard project requirements. While standard fare for architects and engineers, many AV professionals come into the field via a different route and only learn these skills along the way. As a result, drafting can increasingly be a workflow bottleneck for AV.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the drafting capabilities of the firms you are considering. If the project is being done in BIM, make sure that you have an experienced designer and be sure that this scope is clearly laid out and understood by both parties. There are a multitude of ways that a BIM project can be delivered, particularly with regard to the AV consultant.

You should also confirm the version of software that the firm has available. While AutoCAD allows files to easily be down-saved to an earlier version, many people don’t realize that RevIt does not work this way. In order to maintain a synchronized model, all design team members must be working in the same version of RevIt.

How well does the firm understand architecture and building systems to leverage maximum value?  

There are many designers, both on the integrator side and the consultant side, who entered the industry from an operator perspective. These people will be very comfortable with the flow of signal through the equipment, but less comfortable with the integration of that technology into the building. Remember that the name on the door is not necessarily the name of the person you will be working with on the project. Ask how much construction experience that person has in their background. For more detail, see our Consultant Interview Checklist.


The timeline, budget, complexity and scope will generally dictate the right solution for a project. For instance, on a very small project, you may be able to utilize the electrical engineer on the design team. This option is best for systems of low complexity, like distributed background music systems and the like.

The option to use your internal staff will vary widely from one organization to another. These people should be well-versed in the type of system being installed. For many corporations this is probably a challenge. On the other hand, universities and large houses of worship often have extremely knowledgeable staff. In these cases, it often still makes sense to bring in an outsider (though with a more limited scope).

While internal staff often have the best possible understanding of the organizational needs and operations, it’s usually not an everyday occurrence that they design these systems. The problem typically isn’t on the technology side as much as the construction design side. In these cases, a partnership between staff and a designer can bring the best of both worlds: someone who understands the needs to the organization in great detail and someone who understands the architectural and construction design process in equal detail.  

Original article appeared here.

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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.