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The Weber Academic Center at Judson University is the only passively heated and cooled structure of its kind in the United States. Click for photos.
A kaleidoscope of color is invading the riverfront campus of Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. Autumn hues mix with the school's signature blue and gold, but the color that's really turning heads these days is green.

The newly opened Harm A. Weber Academic Center is the only building of its kind in the United States. It is a "green" building, designed to use the natural warmth of the sun and coolness of the earth to ventilate and light all four floors. The result of an international competition sponsored by Judson's architectural department, the building houses the school's new library, art galleries, offices and eight classrooms fully equipped with AV technology in keeping with the building's mission.

Designed by British architect Alan Short, the Weber Center is largely heated and cooled from an enormous interior well that runs up the center of the building. On warm days, cool air from underground is drawn up the well and released into the building through surrounding windows and vents operated by computer. When the building needs heat, the computer opens a shade at the top, allowing the sun to warm the air in the well. Tory Gum, Judson's Vice President of External Relations, explains that there is a traditional HVAC system for the severest weather, because after all, this is Chicago. "On milder days, though, the building heats and cools itself. It uses only 43% of the fossil fuels of a building of similar size."

Green AV

"Helping this building stay green was an important priority for us, too," says Tom Allison, CTS-S, of Sound Vision in Elgin. "There are a lot of things AV companies can do to improve the green aspects of any building, such as putting in motorized shades to deflect solar light or use energy efficient AV technology."

In the Weber Center, Sound Vision was careful to use only EnergyStar-rated projectors and audio gear, to help minimize the power consumption of key components. "We also programmed the AMX system to make sure that those projectors are not left on by accident during off hours or when the building is closed down," says Allison. "In addition, each equipment rack goes into standby mode when not used, then shuts down, ensuring that the amplifier and other equipment consumes very little energy."

Sound Vision installed AV systems in eight classrooms Click for more photos of the AV systems.
One challenge of the green design of the building was the massive concrete walls and floors it required. "Ideally we should have been involved very early in the design process, to ensure that the conduits needed for cabling to our racks and equipment were embedded in the concrete," says Allison. "That didn't happen, so we had to get creative and think about how to use the infrastructure they already had in place."

For example, instead of running bulky co-axial cables, as would be traditional, Sound Vision engineers took advantage of new technology to send all of the video and audio signals over network cable using Cat5 transmitters and receivers. "This new cabling and Cat5 transmission allowed us to rely on smaller diameter cabling that fit within the available ¾" conduits."

Networked controls minimize hardware problems and security issues. Click for more photos or read more about AMX Asset Manager.

Custom built podiums keep AV and computer components at the instructors' fingertips. Click for more photos or read more about the Marshall Furniture design process.
Innovative systems

The Weber Center is the first building on the 44 year old campus to have built-in AV systems. Sound Vision designed fairly basic systems for five of the eight new classrooms, each set up as a computer lab or art or photo studio. These rooms have ceiling-mounted Panasonic DLP projectors and motorized or manual wall screens.

The only video source in these rooms is a dedicated iMac computer or a laptop. Should an instructor want to show a video, he or she can do so using the computer's DVD player. The instructor's location includes a 4" AMX color touchpanel, which offers local control of the AV system and allows the schools IT staff to take over should an instructor have a problem. A small equipment rack sits nearby for the AMX processor and the networking equipment. Sound Vision also installed an audio amplifier at the projector to provide power to left and right program speakers.

The biggest challenge in these rooms was reverb from the concrete walls and floors. "The architect was concerned the sound was going to leave the room and disrupt other classes," says Allison. "But I was worried about intelligibility. It's like being in a church where the reverb is eight milliseconds and you can't understand a word that's said." The thickness of the concrete took care of any disruption problems and careful placement of the speakers solved the reverb issue.

Sound Vision installed more sophisticated audio systems in the three larger classrooms. "These rooms are set up stadium style," says Judson IT Director Steve Dutcher. "Each side looks like a bow tie. That puts the focus up front so when the instructor is speaking the sound naturally carries and pushes to the back of the room." To insure coverage, however, Sound Vision technicians installed speakers in the ceilings or on the walls, added a gooseneck microphone to the classroom lectern and included a lavaliere mic for mobility. Two of these rooms use ceiling-mounted Panasonic projectors, with multiple source options, and one room uses side-by-side Projection Design projectors with a slide projection setup as an option.

The growing list of technology installed in these three classrooms created the need for a teaching station that would put equipment and control at the instructors' fingertips. To this end, Sound Vision brought in Marshall Furniture of Antioch, Illinois to design a custom lectern. (See adjoining article.) They also upgraded the control screen for each of these rooms to a 7" AMX Modero touchpanel.

Double vision

Dual-screen system in Room 420 at the Weber Center. Click for more photos of Room 420.
The most impressive of the Weber Center classrooms is Room 420, the primary architectural classroom. Visual detail is a major concern here, so Sound Vision chose to mount not one, but two Projection Design DLP projectors with 1400 x 1050 resolution. "They wanted to have a larger and higher resolution image because of the type of graphics they use," explains Allison. "These include design drawings, AutoCAD drawings, and renderings of architectural projects." The projection system gives instructors the ability to show two images side by side on an enormous motorized projection screen. At times they'll compare images from two computers or show computer graphics on one screen and DVD video on the other. "Of course, both the Panasonic and Projection Design projectors are warranted 24/7," says Allison, "since the university has them on at least eight hours most days."

Bringing all these classrooms together was a final touch for Sound Vision. They installed AMX Asset Manager to give the university's technology support people an upper hand when it comes to maintenance. SVI installers ran a network connection to either the lectern or the small equipment rack, which ties each room's Netlinx processor to the Asset Manager software installed on a server in the IT office. "Through Asset Manager, the university can monitor the status of these rooms and help any instructor with a problem," says Allison. "They can tell what the lamp life is, notify security if a projector has been stolen, and anticipate equipment failures." The software also tracks data on how often each room is being used and what equipment gets used the most –all important information the college can use to plan for the future.

As the only Christian University in the country with an architectural degree program, including a Masters, Judson University takes great pride in what they've accomplished. Students who want to study green architecture can do so in a green building. "We know it will make our students extremely marketable," says Gum. "They can go to firms all over the world and be something more than just another architect.

"It certainly sets us apart from a higher education standpoint," adds Gum, "and I love the idea that this building takes no more from the earth than it gives back."

Read more about the Judson lectern design and how it was created

Learn more about AMX Asset Manager for networked AV control and support



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