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Author Topic: Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build  (Read 646 times)

Matt LeRoy

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Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build
« on: July 19, 2018, 12:27:17 pm »

Hi PSW!

(I'm posting in this forum because it seems to be more active, but if this would be more appropriate in the HOW AV forum, by all means let me know.)

I'm on the technology team of a small church in central PA and am looking for recommendations for an AVL design firm to assist us in the construction of a new ~350-seat church building, to begin construction early this fall.

First, a little background on me and our church. I have been doing "church tech" as a volunteer for around 9 years, and have experience in sound, video, IT/networking, but not much in the way of lighting. The church is small and relatively new (~100-150 weekly attendance, 3 years old this fall) and is currently portable -- we meet in the cafe-gym-atorium of an elementary school, loading a trailer full of gear in and out every Sunday. The building project is being led by a congregation member who is a partner in a local building company with decades of experience, and I'm sure it comes as no surprise that we are intending to make this a "collaborative effort" (i.e. as much volunteer involvement as possible to keep cost down). I, and the one other "experienced" tech volunteer, have been asked to lead the technology aspects of this project.

Before this church came to be I was at a larger multi-site church in the same town and was heavily involved in the AVL aspects of a 2014-15 building project there with a total AVL budget of around $400k (to give a sense of scope), so I am familiar with the amount of planning and work that goes into such a project. I am also very conscious of the fact that between myself and the other tech volunteer at my current church we do not have the expertise to handle many aspects of this project ourselves. We are both smart guys with engineering backgrounds and can handle things like choosing a mixer, connecting and "running" a sound system, choosing and installing projectors and screens, etc... but we do not have the expertise to design, install and properly tune a loudspeaker system, design proper technical power systems, etc. I am also familiar with Jim Brown's "Three Sound Systems" article and wish to skip as close to "Sound System #3" as possible.

All of that to say, we are looking for a design firm to work with us on this project. Ideally, we are looking for a firm that is willing to meet us where we are in terms of budget and expertise, and is open to the idea of quite a bit of volunteer involvement/contribution. That is, we are *not* looking for a full design/build contract, though we do intend to hire out some of the installation work (mainly rigging/speaker installation, system tuning, etc). On the building project at my previous church, we spent $24k in design fees, $80k on installation and $8k on commissioning -- obviously we are not looking to spend anywhere near that much. The total budget for this project is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.7M, though I understand that is significantly less than would be typical as a result of donated time/talents; the comparative figure for a "normal" project I've been told is closer to $2.0-2.2M.

Off the top of my head, a list of things that I know we need expert help with:
  • Loudspeaker system, to include acoustic modeling, system design, installation and tuning
  • Room acoustic modeling and treatment
  • Technical power systems design
  • Video distribution system design, with minimal immediate needs but ability for future expansion
  • Basic theatrical lighting design
  • Whatever amount of control/automation/integration we can get -- I'm aware that this is often where big $$$ can be spent

As I said we are planning to break ground early this fall, and I realize we probably should have hired a firm and had them involved months ago, but now is better than later (or not at all).

So, any firm recommendations for us? Any major areas where we should consider professional assistance that I didn't already mention? Any other input, words of wisdom, sage advice, pointers to other relevant resources, etc?

Thanks in advance!
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Erik Jerde

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Re: Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2018, 11:03:06 pm »

Youíre at least a year late on hiring an AVL contractor.  At least.  Should have brought one in before the architect started drawing so that they could help the architect get the room right.  Now youíll be lucky if proper conduit and power can be put in.

But here you are, shoulda woulda coulda, canít go back in time. :)

I just finished an 1100 seat build, in the middle of a 500 seat remodel, and starting down the path of building a couple more campuses.  I brought in Amplio Systems out of Chicago for the project and have been quite happy with their work.  So much so that weíre keeping them on for our next two builds.  Call them, do it today, they may be able to help save your project.  That said, your timeline may push you to a company thatís less busy.  Doesnít necessarily mean bad things but Amplio is busy for good reasons.

Also, they are out of Chicago but are very much national.  Central PA would be no big deal for them.
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Erik Jerde

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Re: Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2018, 11:14:54 pm »

Also, regarding not looking for a full design/build firm because you can do XYZ.  Maybe you can.  Probably youíre not as good as you think.  Highly unlikely youíre going to get the build quality and reliability out of voulunteers that youíll get from pros.  AVL is significantly more complicated than framing walls, hanging drywall, finishing drywall, and painting.  Anyone whoís been around building projects will tell you those arenít easy either if you want something that looks good.  AVL is harder still.  Mostly though youíre a few short months from digging and without a plan.  Maybe you just got thrown in this, maybe not.  If not then you really donít get whatís involved.  If you did then you should push back hard on leadership to do things the right way.

At the end of the day this is money that people have gifted for the work of the church.  If you spend it poorly thatís bad stewardship.  It also results in a poor product which will inhibit the real work youíre trying to do.  It will cost more to be better stewards of the money entrusted to you and itís worth it.
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Philip Roberts

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Re: Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2018, 01:58:18 am »

I donít have an recommendation for firms for you to work with.

However I will say that is possible to do a good AV install in house for a church as my church has done that including the design and engineering of our broadcast video system. We contracted speaker design and installation and have an contracted acoustical redesign in the planning stages. Not to say itís easy to get things designed or installed right.
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Caleb Dueck

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Re: Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2018, 10:04:07 pm »

I donít have an recommendation for firms for you to work with.

However I will say that is possible to do a good AV install in house for a church as my church has done that including the design and engineering of our broadcast video system. We contracted speaker design and installation and have an contracted acoustical redesign in the planning stages. Not to say itís easy to get things designed or installed right.
Having worked with house of worship projects for over a decade - the number of churches that can do a good job in-house is woefully low.  It's an exception, and a rare one at that.  Read through all the posts on the HoW forums - most questions can be answered by "call a good AV company". 

As someone that has worked for multiple churches and para-church ministries - I can't ever recommend the in-house or DIY approach on a forum.  Regardless of how sharp the techs are, and there are many great ones - system design is a specific skill set separate from operating a system.

Sent from my VS980 4G using Tapatalk

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Jonathan Hiemberg

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Re: Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2018, 02:59:45 pm »

Hi PSW!

(I'm posting in this forum because it seems to be more active, but if this would be more appropriate in the HOW AV forum, by all means let me know.)



« Last Edit: December 18, 2018, 04:59:30 pm by Jonathan Hiemberg »
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Nathan Riddle

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Re: Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2018, 04:03:13 pm »

+1 for Amplio; I spent a few days with Caleb & Amplio great guys, really genuine and they focus on Churches while other companies don't.

I've learned a lot through Caleb & conversely Amplio about best practices and ways to do things. There really are hundreds of tiny details that even great operators just don't know or get. And quite frankly they don't need to or should. Because they should invest their time wisely and learning a new trade probably isn't one of them.

Besides Amplio being my #1, my other two companies would be Moyers Group and Clark Integrations

Oh and of course myself, I do installs too ;)

Resources:
https://firstinlastout.us/product/filo-2018-breakout-how-not-to-waste-your-churchs-money/
https://firstinlastout.us/product/filo-2018-breakout-new-facility-planning/
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Jeffrey Knorr - CobraSound.com

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Re: Recommendations for AVL design firm for new build
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2018, 01:29:20 pm »

Hi Matt,

We're based in Berwick, PA and have been helping churches in the area with their worship technology for over 16 years.  I'd be happy to discuss your project with you and help steer you in the right direction.

Thank you,

Jeff
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