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Commercial Opportunities : Making Amenity Space Design Pay Off

How Electronics Design Group tweaked the gear-loaded two-story amenity space in a NYC luxury high-rise to be tech-friendly for all its residents

February 2012 By Nancy Klosek

Word of mouth in custom is, naturally, the best advertisement for an integrator's work. So what could speak of the excellence of a well-executed project better than when an installation in a common space is regularly accessed by dozens of residential homeowners?

That is one of the best arguments for getting into the design of amenity areas—common spaces in condominiums and co-ops that both draw buyers to the building and can lead to multiple project contracts from existing owners within.

Electronics Design Group, the award-winning New Jersey-based custom house, recently used its considerable expertise in both commercial and residential installation to create what senior project manager John Montgomery describes as a state-of-the-art amenity space—the activity anchor of The Laurel, a ritzy condominium complex on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

"The best descriptive word for the project is 'crossover,'" explains Montgomery. "It uses the best elements of both commercial and residential installations.

"To have a space like this in an apartment complex is almost a necessity," adds Montgomery. And with consumers' technology-access needs multiplying exponentially by the minute these days, EDG's mandate at The Laurel was to make the space easy to use, but also as fully loaded as it needed to be.

The challenge, he says, was to craft an efficient layout within the allotted square footage and still fully meet the divergent recreational, entertainment and conferencing needs of the building's residents.

The lower level includes an atrium lounge, a screening room complete with theater seating and a high-resolution front projection system, a dining/teleconferencing room and a catering kitchen. Upstairs, there is a children's play area/game room, access to arcade-style video games, a craft area for young children, and a multimedia computer room.

Blending all of this into a harmonious whole that works well for everyone sounds like a daunting, nearly impossible task.

"Having prior experience at several amenity spaces was a big plus in helping develop the scope and scale of the project," explains Montgomery. "It was a lot more labor-intensive than a standard residential job," he observes, pointing out that a deep degree of coordination with other disciplines involved in the construction and design was an imperative.

"With multiple trades impacting the space, it was important to have very regular communications and follow-up on the site," he says—and his team's attention to detail was key in what was ultimately achieved.

The top priority for EDG, says Montgomery, was to make the usability of all the built-in systems a no-brainer for residents of any age—and any technology skill set. "All the touchpanels are intuitive enough so that where multiple functions need to happen, they happen with one button. It's not at all intimidating. If someone wants audio, they touch a button and—boom!—it's on," he explains.

Another important consideration when EDG selected the gear it ultimately installed was the pedigree of the electronics, and their reputation for being bullet-proof. While ease of use was a paramount consideration, said Montgomery, so was low maintenance. He says the latter was "a key trait of this system. Since downtime would adversely affect all residents, the equipment had to be top quality and resilient for day-to-day use," because the area is accessed by many people.

EDG's ability to discern the caliber of the electronics component and control systems it selects is based in the firm's experience of having worked on hundreds of projects—a fact not lost on the building's owners and management. "We have an excellent rapport with the facilities we work on," says Montgomery.

The overall goal was to "create a synergistic balance between complex electronics and a system that is easy to use," says Montgomery. While the project took one year to complete, end to end, it takes a Laurel resident all of five minutes to be "wowed," in this extraordinary space. CR


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