Creatively Refurbishing A Warehouse
Warehouses can be excellent subjects for commercial integration overhauls. They are often minimalist by default, and subsequently ripe for the sort of creative refurbishment that will require a custom integrator to make the most of what is essentially a clean-slate space. And because of their openness, they offer opportunities to present a myriad of additional system options that can make a business more money.
A great example of all the add-ons possible in a warehouse installation is the waterfront project designed by Matthew Ahlberg, design director of The Audiocom Group in South Norwalk, Conn., along with his team. The project was brought to fruition last December within an eight-month timeframe.
“Before, we were about 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial, and now, that’s down to 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial,” says Ahlberg. “Commercial opportunities are growing immensely.”
That change in the company’s business, coupled with the desire to showcase its commercial acumen in an ideal setting, dovetailed with The Audiocom Group’s need to find a single space where it could converge its combination showroom/experience center and warehouse—which were in separate towns—under one roof.
That was when, serendipitously, the 50-year-old “shoebox-style” single-floor facility, a 6,500-square-foot former warehouse for a home design/lighting company that lies between an old factory and a seafood supply company, became available.
“The process was unique because we were, in a sense, our own clients,” Ahlberg explains. “And [we] were able to make updates to the design as the project progressed.”
This space, he says, allows The Audiocom Group to present to clients the depth and breadth of all that the firm can do. “Here, we could incorporate all those things together, and make the experience center not only a place to show clients how everything works, but also to make our whole design and implementation process transparent, start to finish.”
At its control heart is Savant’s iOS-compatible home automation solutions—selected because of most clients’ familiarity and comfort with iPhones and iPads as interfaces. “With people getting to understand iOS devices and iPads, they can now get into understanding those as an intuitive point of control for building management systems. So we’re now doing a lot of Savant-based systems for commercial clients.”
In the building’s lounge area, where first impressions are made, Ahlberg and his team have placed display panels that show clients the various options for keypads, as well as those for touch-panel interfaces such as in-wall iPad and iPod Touch models. It was also reasoned that this area would be an optimal place to highlight a great-sounding audio system: Meridian’s DSP7200 tower speakers. There’s also something of a conversation-starter in this space: a large Séura mirror TV. Everything in this sector of the warehouse, including 14-foot-high automated shades, is controlled by the Savant system.
A bar, used for hosting designer events and for sporting-event viewing, is anchored in the back-bar area by a stylish, single Gorilla Glass sheet-fronted Sony “monolithic design” TV on an automated lift, while the video’s sound is produced by a distributed audio system; all is controlled by Savant. A recent demo event based around new Lutron LED lighting fixtures was held there, and Audiocom was able to show how those systems perform, and how they fit into the design/build process.
While the space has a backroom design lab where all systems built for clients are pre-staged, pre-tested and pre-built before they ever leave the premises, there is a separate equipment room that is shown to clients to illustrate how a proper setup is achieved. “It gives them a good idea of the spatial requirements that create ideal conditions for us to install and vent all equipment properly,” says Ahlberg. “It’s an invaluable resource. Every walkthrough and discussion ends here. It’s also great for showing other subcontractors we coordinate with how and where all connections are made and wires terminate.”
The chance to work on the interior from scratch meant that Ahlberg and his team were able to tweak and adapt as they progressed through the integration process. They were also able to easily add products and systems that were a natural for a warehouse, but that might not ordinarily come into play in a residential job, or even in another type of commercial installation.
“The overall audio system is a little different,” Ahlberg offers. Beyond the Meridian towers, pendant speakers have been placed around the facility. “With residential, we typically do in-ceiling, but here our ceiling is basically an exposed truss roof.”
Security system demos are a big part of the commercial presentation as well. “What’s great is that we give demos off-site, and we can show people how it all works on the iOS devices by literally clicking on a security camera that’s attached to it, and show them we can turn off a light from anywhere in the world. There’s a little more opportunity to do things like that with this type of project.”
HVAC control integration presented another chance for Audiocom to show off its capabilities. “I know sometimes homeowners see that as the last piece of the puzzle,” Ahlberg says. “But we certainly wanted to incorporate that here. We have four zones of HVAC controlling systems—instead of just one—for this large, open space. It’s nice to be able to control that, not just from an environmental standpoint, but also from the standpoint of being able to manage energy usage. In this kind of building, when it gets hot, it gets hot, and when it gets cold, it gets cold really fast.”