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Stage Electrics bring the ICCW to life with a direct approach
UK – The spectacular International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) is a joint venture partnership between the Welsh Government and Celtic Manor Resort. In total the centre provides 26,000 sqm of floor space for up to 5,000 delegates, which includes an auditorium with tiered seating for 1,500, a 4,000sqm pillar-free space that can be divided into six sections creating up to 25 different configurations, and an additional 15 flexible meeting rooms. Architecturally, it is a refreshing departure from standard conference centre fare, with a triple height atrium at its entrance and a light and airy feel throughout. It has been designed to engender a feeling of well-being, and many of its spaces have impressive views out across the adjoining woodland.
This open, progressive approach has also been applied to the centre’s AV design integration, and installation processes, which gave technical contractor Stage Electrics a level of freedom and collaborative input that has paid dividends for the resulting infrastructure and has made best use of an exacting budget.
Stage Electrics was responsible for installing integrated lighting control throughout the venue, plus PA, voice alarm, production lighting and associated infrastructure including a Dante AoIP network for all meeting rooms and public spaces. The company also worked with the client to manage stage engineering and equipment suppliers, technical budgets, and eventually helping to hire technical staff for the venue. The Stage Electrics team included chief engineer Simon Cooper, who held principal responsibility for the technical solution architecture and significant input into the equipment selection, commercial director Dan Aldridge, who worked alongside business development manager Saul Eagles, Cooper the client to create the cost management structure, project manager Chris Brant, site supervisor Aaron Godsmark, who was on site throughout the construction period. The major suppliers were RCF, ETC, Panasonic, Prolyte, Symetrix and Yamaha.
Stage Electrics came onto the project three and a half years ago at the initial planning and pricing stage and, rather than working under a middle project-management layer, it was decided early on that they should work directly with project consultants, Right Solutions, and the client, ICC Wales.
Eagles explains that this unusual client-direct arrangement helped both with budget, and the final outcome: "Normally we would be employed by the main contractor, but it was agreed early on that certain aspects would be managed directly with ICC Wales, including the stage engineering, lighting, and sound. This meant we were connected to the client at a personal level and could put its needs and its budget first. That worked really well, and I think the client got a far better result."
"The whole process became really collaborative," adds Cooper. "We ran round table sessions where we could talk candidly and openly about pricing and options; design features and equipment that were ring-fenced, as well as areas that could be adapted, and where innovation could bring more value. We were able to offer advice on purchasing items that would be widely and regularly used, versus items that could be hired in, or that production companies frequently carry. We also assisted in the appointment of electrical contractors. The client has got far more than they would have any other way."
One example of the collaborative process was Stage Electrics’ work with loudspeaker manufacturer RCF to develop a combined sound reinforcement and voice evacuation system. This meant that the audio quality would complement the main FOH system, while the client made a saving compared to installing and running two separate systems.
The company also worked directly with the in-house IT team to integrate lighting and sound control with the facility's corporate network, rather than installing a separate closed system.
Dan Aldridge said: "Importantly, we've also been able to help the client manage inflationary pressures over the long development time for this project. We've come up with clever technical solutions and innovative commercial options to insulate the client from cost increases."
The Stage Electrics team is clear that the wide collaborative and trusting nature of the whole project has been instrumental to its ultimate success. However, Chris Brant also makes the point that the long-term continuity of the Stage Electrics team itself and the way it was deployed had a massive impact: “The Stage Electrics team has been instrumental in ensuring that we have been able to monitor, plan, re-sequence and control our works in a professional and clearly communicated manner,” he explains. “On site the engineers, installers and commissioning teams were fantastic at identifying potential issues, co-ordinating around other trades, sometimes in challenging circumstances, and maintaining the high standards of work we are committed to.”
Since opening in September, the conference centre has already successfully hosted many major events including the UK Space Conference and is looking forward to a busy schedule next year. Eagles: "The client is thrilled that they’ve got a far better result by engaging a specialist early in the design process, we haven’t had to work with someone else’s spec, and no one has got between us and what's best for the project. Commercial awareness is key. You work out what the client needs to get out of the building and budget and then make the best use of your expert resources to make that happen."
Eric Rymer from project consultants Right Solutions has worked with Stage Electrics Group and its subsidiary company Northern Light before, on the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, and is very complimentary about their approach: "First they have a good can-do attitude," he comments. "So, if a problem arises, they fix it. They're also nice people to deal with, often suggesting ways of getting a better deal and bringing value for money to the project. It’s a very client-centred approach."
Brant: “It has been an incredible project to have been the delivery project manager for, to have worked with such a strong team of people in transforming what was an empty plot of land in March 2017 into the completed ICC Wales. It’s had the ups and downs that you come to expect in delivering projects of this size and scale, but the end result is brilliant. It delivers technically, it has given our clients what they were seeking and more, and it makes me immensely proud.”
ICC Wales head of technical services Simon Denman-Ellis concludes: “We believe that ICCW is an outstanding venue in every way and it was designed to integrate cutting-edge technology throughout the centre to complement the exceptional meeting and event spaces. Stage Electrics have certainly delivered on this brief in the lighting and AV installation throughout the venue and the excellent service they have provided. This has given us the best end result, within budget.”
24th January 2020
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