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POLARaudio designs systems for listed building refurbishment at Nottingham Trent University

POLARaudio designs systems for listed building refurbishment at Nottingham Trent University
POLARaudio designs systems for listed building refurbishment at Nottingham Trent University

50, Shakespeare Street is a Grade II listed building in the centre of Nottingham. Formerly the Nottingham City Council Registry Office, this beautiful gothic-style building dates back to the 1880s and was purchased in 2012 by Nottingham Trent University. Since then it has undergone works to restore many key listed features as well as enjoying a complete internal refurbishment. The building is to be used primarily for the administrative functions of the university, including a multi-use ‘Courtroom’, Board room, meeting rooms, offices and associated facilities for corporate events. Whilst many original features have been restored, the project also demanded the installation of cutting-edge technologies that would enhance function and sustainability without compromising in any way the visual integrity of this superb site.

In recent times POLARaudio has established a strong connection with NTU. A recent installation at its Brackenhurst Library site prompted the university to contact the company with a view to tackling issues of sound-reinforcement and supplying conferencing solutions at its recently acquired site. The restoration of a listed building under the watchful gaze of English Heritage is a process that demands great care and sensitivity and a proven track record in designing systems for such sites further enhanced POLARaudio’s credentials. Roche AV, with whom POLARaudio already had a productive working relationship, was engaged to install the systems that POLARaudio had designed and NTU had enthusiastically approved. At the heart of 50, Shakespeare Street is the Courtroom with its domed, vaulted ceiling. This room was to perform a number of roles, from high level meetings and conferencing to evening presentations, with a view to eventually staging various social functions. In what is a very reverberant space, the brief demanded high-quality conferencing and sound-reinforcement provision which in no way compromised the visual integrity of the room. The nearby boardroom required a similarly high-grade conferencing system to address the need for video and tele-conferencing.

To cater for the obvious difficulties of providing sound-reinforcement in a room devoid of soft

furnishings, rich in hard surfaces and topped off with a domed ceiling, POLARaudio turned to the beam-steering technology offered by the Renkus Heinz ICONYX range. These line array loudspeakers are controlled via software to create directable beams of audio that can evenly focus intelligible sound into a desired space, at the same time as steering audio away from problematic hard, reflective surfaces. Thus, even in the most challenging of acoustic environ¬ments, unwanted reflected sound and reverberance is minimised. The purpose of the speakers in the courtroom was twofold. On the one hand they were to provide additional coverage to that provided by tabletop conferencing speaker units and on the other, as stand-alone reinforcement for presentations, speeches and background music.

Two ICONYX IC-8 speakers were installed in the Courtroom adjacent to columns, their discreet aesthetic enabling them to blend in as required by the heritage brief. Audio provision in the Courtroom was also supported by the addition of a portable Cornered Audio C12 PNC Subwoofer powered by MC2 T-500 amplifier, should the need arise to further enhance for example, music playback. A wireless beyerdynamic Quinta system was chosen for the Courtroom’s conferencing requirements. Offering three frequency bands, Quinta can silently, seamlessly and automatically switch to an interference-free frequency range should the need arise. It’s high level of wireless encryption provides protection against unauthorised listening and its operation is straightforward. The numerous functions with which a conference may be controlled include simple operation and configuration via Smartphone or tablet PC. Should the system need to be moved or stored for any reason, set up and take-down time is very short and the storage/transport cases (which also act as charging units) are appropriately rugged. In this case the system comprised a Quinta CU Central Control Unit and 19 Quinta MU31 microphone units, each of which could be shared by two delegates. This is made possible by beyerdynamic’s ground-breaking Revoluto microphone line array technology which creates a more extended pick-up pattern than traditional goose-neck microphones. Supported here, in a challenging space, by the ICONYX IC 8s, the advantages of Quinta’s quality and portability in the context of a multi-function, multi-layout space such as this are plain to see. In the smaller Boardroom, which constituted a more traditional set-up directed towards video and tele-conferencing, more Revoluto technology was employed in the shape of ten MPR 210 Revoluto Microphone units controlled by Biamp’s Audia FLEX digital audio platform. The 50, Shakespeare Street project sees POLARaudio continuing to thrive in the design and installation market. With an emphasis on sharp technical expertise and the forging of close relationships with installers and clients alike, it is no surprise that NTU has commissioned POLARaudio to assist on a series of future projects.

Stuart Loughran AV Team Leader at NTU praised POLARaudio’s expertise: "POLARaudio was involved from the very beginning of the 50, Shakespeare Street project. We engaged early enough in the project to be able to consider and be part of product demonstrations (particularly the ICONYX IC8) so that we could start forming design output for the stakeholders of the project. We were also made aware of the various conferencing microphone solutions at ISE 2014 on the POLARaudio stand, where we received a varied product overview for different applications. Using POLARaudio took a lot of the headache out of designing the solutions in-house, so much so that we are using their expertise to help design systems for other venues both old and new within the University"

Head of Installation at POLARaudio, Stuart Leader: "In recent times we have found ourselves more and more in demand as regards sensitive heritage sites like Shakespeare Street. Whilst the general principles attached to providing solutions in what are frequently highly reverberant spaces are pretty consistent, no two jobs are ever the same. More often than not, the fabric of the building cannot be compromised in any way and the functional requirements can vary considerably within a particular installation and certainly from job to job. At NTU, we demonstrated a range of product possibilities to the stakeholders and forged close relationships with all concerned. At POLARaudio we are pleased to see that, on a regular basis, where our expertise has been sought, it is the beginning of long-standing partnerships. NTU is no exception and we look forward to working with them on a number of projects planned for the near future."

Martin Clay, technical director at Roche echoed the theme of establishing relationships: "Working with POLARaudio invariably means that installations run as smoothly as they possibly can. These are highly sophisticated products but POLARaudio’s technical intelligence combined with a stress on close communication means that any unforeseen issues are quickly resolved. We’ve worked with them many times and at 50, Shakespeare Street the outcome, once again, was characterised by a great solution and satisfied customers."

18th December 2014

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