A proactive approach makes a world of difference

by Brent Mullett

Audio, video, lighting and acoustics within the church have been a nightmare for many pastors. One of my pastor friends jokes that when Satan fell from heaven, he landed directly in the sound booth … and still resides there today. Although we chuckle at this comment, there may be an element of truth to it. As we try to get God’s message out, technology is an area – especially when not planned well – that can be used by the enemy to create distractions within worship services. He doesn’t care how minor the distraction is – only that it is effective enough to get minds off the message being delivered.

Audio, video, lighting and acoustics are often overlooked in the planning of worship spaces within a worship facility. Great lengths are taken to design the aesthetics, HVAC, carpet color and seating options, but many times, there is not enough emphasis and planning put on other important factors. After all, in most cases, the delivery of the Word is the reason the building is being built. Therefore, there must be clear and detailed planning to make the delivery successful.

To eliminate the headaches often associated with the topic of technology, there are a few relatively simple steps the building committee can take to ensure these issues are covered well in advance.

Ask Questions

One of the first questions that should be asked, in the early interviews with architects and design-build firms, is how they handle acoustics and AVL. Is it included in their scope or do they have someone that they recommend that can be part of the design team? Don’t just take their word for it. Check references and visit completed projects to see how they turned out.

Hire Someone to Help

After you have hired the firm to design your facility, the next step should be to hire an AVL firm to be a part of the building design team. The AVL consultant will make sure that the intent of your programming is followed within the acoustical nature of the space’s worship area. Once again, check references carefully. Make sure you’re comfortable with the people you hire and that they have a successful track record on similar projects.

Get Documented Details

Your consultant will create a set of progress/construction drawings that will document all of the details associated with AVL. These drawings will be included in the master set and delivered to all relevant trades, including the general contractor and electrical contractor. The drawings will contain information pertaining to division of labor, equipment placement, conduit needed and electrical requirements. These specifications should be included in the master set before it goes out for bid, or else you may face costly (and possibly inflated) change orders later from various trades who did not include the provisions in their bids.

Get a Guaranteed Price

Your consultant will also give you a detailed equipment list that should include a guaranteed price. One advantage of selecting an AVL design-build firm is that they have the ability to keep track of costs throughout the design process – not just from specified equipment but also from labor and other expenses. Once you have an equipment list, you should be able to lock in a specific cost on a contract for 12 to 18 months.

One of the most discouraging things that can happen to a congregation is to spend years of planning, go through a capital campaign, and build a beautiful and useful worship space, only to move into it and immediately have issues with poor acoustics, audio, sight lines and lighting. Unfortunately, by the time some of these AVL design flaws are revealed, there is typically no budget left to address them. Even if there were a budget to fix it, the cost of the corrective measures would be multiplied from what it would have been during the original building construction.

AVL and acoustics goals can be accomplished in a variety of different methods depending on the programming of a church. The key is to find an AVL firm with a consultant that has a long track record of successful church designs. Satan may still find ways to cause distractions in our worship times. But why not take steps to reduce the tools he has to use by starting with a well-planned technical design?

Brent Mullett serves as a project manager for Custom Sound Designs Inc. He has served on the design team for AVL projects in several different states. Reach him at 888.448.7890 or [email protected]