Designing for Climate Change

climate change

As we enter 2024, managing the effects of our changing climate continues to become a hot topic among leading architects and engineers worldwide. These experts have to grapple with our new reality of worrying extremes in temperature in climate zones around the world, from snow in Texas to flooding in India.

So, what does this have to do with AV? Or technology as a whole? Well, a lot!

The increasingly extreme effects of climate change have come up in project meetings across all disciplines all across the world, — including the ProAV industry — as projects move from concept into design and coordination. The central question of these meetings is this: How are we going to mitigate the realities of climate change?

In the past, we in the AV industry could reliably specify hardware based on the regional zone of the project. We used products’ IP (Ingress Protection) ratings to ensure the equipment could meet the environmental demands of the built environment we’re working in. Ingress Protection ratings, and related IP codes, refer to an international standard to define levels of sealing effectiveness of equipment enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies — dirt, moisture, salt, wind, air, etc.

IP ratings and codes vary depending on different environmental issues that can affect the lifespan and quality of the hardware we use. A great example of using AV/IP ratings for design in residential and commercial AV applications is exterior speakers. When designing exterior speakers for a patio or large landscaping project, a lot of things need to be considered that are region-specific. Some good initial questions to consider are: Are there salt spray and rust concerns? Are your speakers placed oceanside or inland? What is the highest heat temperature? What is the lowest temperature in that region? Are you in a dust storm region? Maybe snow? Frost? Direct sunlight and rain? And so on.

Based on the answers to the questions above, you can start to decipher which speaker and which IP rating code will work best for your application. Once you find the correct IP rating, you can move into the visual aesthetic of the speaker: its location, placement, etc. Because IP ratings dictate lifespan and quality, it’s important to relay that detail to the client and client teams. In some cases, the client or client teams may have to make concessions with speaker design aesthetics to meet the realities of the natural environment and the available options that meet the IP code specification. Luckily, in AV, we have many manufacturers that make amazing products to meet almost all aesthetic and environmental qualifications.

So, back to climate change? What’s the deal?

In my position, what’s been happening in early design discussions — notably this year compared to the past — is that we are discussing new environmental concerns in every region internationally. It’s not an isolated issue; it’s a global issue. For example, for a recent project we are working on in California, the design and engineering specifications had to be revised to address stressed water shedding abilities, downspout sizing, exterior heating and cooling enhancements for patron comfort, wind ratings of dividing walls and exterior glazing, awnings and more. This has also had an impact on the AV and technologically engineered systems we may be automating. All this re-engineering and updated specification requirements are based on the realities of climate change.

Basically, my example teaches us that we have to seek out products with uncommon IP ratings for the region in which we are designing. We can no longer rely on previous weather data for the natural environment, or local codes for that matter — the codes are not keeping up with the reality of climate change. So, we need to ensure we are designing for today and the future of these extremes. Areas that may have only experienced extreme heat once every decade or two may now see those extreme heat temperatures exceeded multiple times in one summer. Similarly, regions that typically never see snow may now experience freezing temperatures (and snow) throughout winter months.

Moving forward, I recommend you know your AV equipment IP ratings, be conscious of climate change and include clients in this conversation about design limitations. We always need to design and engineer in reality when working with the built environment, especially when design cycles can start 1-4 years before the project even breaks ground. Moreover, our unfortunate reality going forward is that we cannot depend on data from the past when we look to the future and when we are discussing the impact of natural environments on the built environment. Addressing these issues will ensure our products perform, meet the required lifespan and keep clients loving what we do as much as we do! Because let’s face it — we bring the fun!